A modern heritage foodstead
Have you heard? The New York Times is calling all carnivores to tell them why we believe it is ethical to eat meat.
Since this is a topic front and center in my mind nearly every day and I planned to discuss it with you anyway, how about right now?
The stingy 600 word limit was a real hardship for a chatty girl like myself; hopefully Word’s word count tool is accurate! I sent my blood, sweat and tears off into the electronic sunset, and from there, who knows?
Weigh in with your opinions in the comments below, but do play nice. I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on the matter.
So, here it is; my big New York Times minute:
This question of whether it is ethical to eat meat cannot be deeply understood by anyone with clean hands.
My point? A formal decree from above is not coming. Fancy panel of judges or no, there isn’t a single right answer to this dilemma. Like death itself, we each have to wrestle this contradiction alone. The real ethical question?
Will we humble ourselves by taking a ruthlessly honest look at the toll our lives extract from others? My guess is we’d rather shield ourselves from introspection with dueling data, finger-pointing and clever bumper-sticker retorts.
Nature has an uncomplicated relationship with death. Nobody, two-legged or four is spared. We try hard to find a loophole, and Nature humors us. But she never lets us hide from her truth for long.
To Nature, death is just part of life. Creatures are born, creatures die. The dead feed the living and the living eventually become the dead. Nature builds in harsh but perfect circles, not the logjams and cul-de-sacs we construct to avoid uncomfortable truths.
Remember the scene in the movie Cold Mountain where the old lady kills the goat? The loving kindness the Goat-lady gave that trusting goat as she pierced its heart is a stunning moment. Is it cruel betrayal or the heartfelt kindness of a true shepherd? That goat didn’t suffer one bit, but sweetly laid down its head in eternal sleep, feeling safe in the trusted shelter of the Goat-lady’s lap.
Somehow, the intentionality of the Goat-Lady’s act really jams our brains. The abrupt killing contradicts the peaceful mercy of that death. The dichotomy rocks our certainty. We’d rather cover our eyes.
I raise cattle with love and tenderness, and I admit I cry every time I deliver one to slaughter. I don’t like slick words like “harvested” or “processed”. I prefer the unvarnished facts. A cow was killed because I decided it would be so. I won’t shirk my sadness or culpability with a perky elevator speech selling the rightness of my decision.
My beautiful, one-and-a-half-inch thick piece of well-raised beef is carefully cooked: rare with a perfectly browned crust. I eat my steak mindfully with gratitude and pleasure. That steak is meaningful to me. I appreciate its full, bittersweet cost and I don’t waste a single scrap. It’s delicious.
Recently, I plowed a field so I could plant some Monsanto-free organic vegetables. A commendable act most Vegans would agree. In doing so, I disturbed nests of bunnies and a home some peace-loving groundhogs have enjoyed for some time. It was traumatic for those little creatures, and the hawks that trawl my pastures were elated. Thanks to my vegetables, there was a new all you can eat buffet in town. I didn’t kill anything myself, but I knew creatures would be living there. They live everywhere. Ethical?
We need to step away from our computers, books and chattering brains and deepen our understanding of Nature’s ways. Only by maintaining a distant, academic understanding of Nature can you believe in the moral superiority of tofu.
When someone comes up with a real, actionable plan to free the animals, not rely on industrial foods and feed the soil in a sustainable way, my mind is open. Today, the most ethical thing I can do is provide a joyful, carefree life for my meat.
In this way, and only this way, I say yes. It is ethical to eat meat. Life is grand, messy, confusing business. I accept my assignment of hands-on, eyes-open, deliberate participation.
That’s as ethical as it gets.
This post is part of Fresh Foods Wednesday and Simple Lives Thursday. What’s that you ask? It’s an ambitious and enlightening collection of posts from bloggers all over about issues near and dear to my heart: real food and natural living. Check it out!