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Life's Odometer

So it is a new year, and that can only mean... that I have some crazy new resolutions!

My resolution from last year, to only eat one sweet thing per day was going pretty well, until around March, when I kind of let it go and let myself eat all the comfort food I liked. Which was fine anyway, since my wife was not a fan of it.

I was tempted to try it again this year, but with the year only a dozen days gone I have been continually blundering into minefields of delectable sweets that are seemingly tiled to the walls about our house after the holidays. They are swiftly eaten by someone who doesn't seem to care what I think on the matter.

A similar resolution in similar shambles is the idea of not eating after 8pm, a concept that I am gleefully defying even while writing this. It also encountered wife opposition, presumably because a startling percentage of our 10 year relationship involves snacking on the couch next to each other.

So that leaves but one contender oath left that seems to bear any chance of long term cohabitation in my brain and with my wife.

I recently watched Food Inc, and afterwards what stuck with me was not the treatment of the animals, which, Spoiler Alert: wasn't very good. That part didn't bother me as much, since, as a whole, my wife purchases meat from our co-op that by and large, do not support those practices.

However, at the end of the day, happy free-range chickens still have their head's cut off, and it seems a thin layer of logic to stand on between the concept of "I want the animal to be happy" and "I want the animal dead and to chew it up in my mouth". In the end, neither the factory farm chicken or the free-range chicken is going to grow-up to head their own multinational meat-packing company, they both have the same deterministic destination.

So, what am I to do? It has taken me thirty years to finally "get around to" gazing into the mechanized abyss that my food comes from, what now?

What ended up sticking with me, was the thought experiment "What if you had to personally end the life of each animal worth of food you ate?" It need not even been up close and personal with a cleaver, simply a button, that somewhere, beheads a chicken in a queue, I'm not bemoaning my lack of butchering skills.

I found that it depended on the animal. Mollusks? Sure, many of them are nothing more than one big cell anyway, if I chew on my cuticles can certainly chew on a mollusk.

Fish? Absolutely, I've caught, killed and eaten fish. They're delicious and I lost no sleep.

Birds? Again, it matters what type. I love the taste of duck, but don't think i could actually slice the neck of a mallard. I've always had a soft spot for ducks, I raised some as a kid, and in general they seem like peaceful creatures.

Geese on the hand, fuck those things, they are mean and smelly, and I wouldn't lose sleep even if I had to wrestle oneto the ground myself and stare in the faces of its five soon to be orphaned goslings as I choked the life out of the one who laid them.

Chickens. Hrm. I'm pretty neutral towards them. I'd feel sorta bad about it, but the things don't seem that smart. In the end, I think I could do it. They just don't seem to have enough going upstairs for me to feel bad about. Also, the fact that they can't fly kind of limits the possibly happy endings. It isn't like ducks where if you let it live it goes and finds a pond in Canada to live happily ever after. No, as I said before, chickens are born to die, either by fox, human, or mechanical grinder to be fed to other chickens.

Pigs. I mean, pigs, right? Who cares? I thought I'd be golden here, and still get to ingest many of my favorite meats. Then my wife pointed out that studies say there were as smart as dogs. Which pretty much sealed the deal. Not sure I could hold a bolt gun to head of anything at the dog threshold. And clearly if I can't do a pig, cows are right out.

So there you have it, a list of animals that I'm pretty sure I could kill myself. Which, funny enough, pretty much matches exactly with the faux vegetarian checklist my wife has. =)

However, my friend Jason, after I detailed my convoluted dietary murder list , he raised an interesting point, "What about Venison?".

This hit me in several ways, first his Venison steaks are simply the finest culinary products I know of, the thought of never eating that again was upsetting.

I quickly offered "Deer are pretty dumb, right? Tiny brains?" I suggested? "Not really", he said, "they're pretty smart".

Hrm, so definitely above pig, so seemingly off-limits.

But then I got to thinking. The real problem here, was that I was tired of the consequences of my daily choices being hidden from me, and wanted to stop having things done on my behalf that I wouldn't ethically do myself.

( I realize, in a modern society I could very well go mad tracking down all the ways my daily lifestyle is compacting the vertebrae of countless people, plants and animals across the globe. )

However, this case was slightly different. My eating or not eating of deer has no effect on how many deer my friend is going to shoot, cut up, and place in a delicious marinade for days. In fact, a key point of this entire philosophy (if it even counts), is the idea that "if you're fine with killing that particular animal, go ahead and eat it".

So I certainly am not going to cluck my teeth and judge any of my friends who enjoy hunting. Quite the opposite. Viewed through the above framework, Jason's venison becomes imbued with an additional value. Not only do they present delicious meat, they also have done the gift of doing something I don't think I could do, and doing so freely, really takes that burden upon themselves, allowing me to eat delicious meat without worrying about what wheels of economic horror I am turning by participating.

My meat was killed by a person freely and as an act of joy. Which is pretty much the exact opposite of all the animals who are slaughtered by low paid immigrants in dangerous working conditions, who have very few other choices.

So there you have it my resolution to only eat meat from seafood, chicken, geese, and anything my friends are willing to kill for me. Which I think might ethically break down if we ever do experience a supply shortage so severe that people resort to cannibalism. But in that case, it is still good to know people who own guns. =)

1 comment:

I enjoyed your post. I went through a similar experience after reading the Omnivorous Dilemma (I don't think you ever made it to the good part of that book :).

An interesting point raised in that book which struck me was that most farm raised animals have coevolved with humans. That is, a farm pig is not a wild boar. Just as a deer would not be so fleet of foot or have such beautiful spots were it not for the wolf, the species of pigs, cows, chickens, turkey, etc that live on farms are as they are because of that species "decision" to evolve along side humans. I believe he poses the mental experiment of imagining the fate of the liberated farm animals, set free of their human chains. Its not a pretty picture :) (Though, dieing of exposure could easily be argued to be better than the life most factory farm animals live).

Also, let me take your blog as an opportunity to plug a book I plan to write one day in the future: Its the "No Label Diet". You don't eat anything that comes with a label. Alternatively, it could be called the No UPC Diet. Eat nothing with a UPC. Can't you hear the NPR story now: Man goes an entire year trying to eat food that has no label...Read his book to find out what it takes!
by: Mike (contact) - 12 Jan '10 - 07:46


Meta Information:

Title: Life's Odometer
Date posted: 12 Jan '10 - 00:35
Filed under: General
Word Count: 1,177 words
Good Karma: 92 (vote)
Bad Karma: 79 (vote)
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