Tag Archive: Meat


i saw this picture of a giant stack of bacon on Facebook the other day:

bacon

And fortunately someone hadn’t yet shared this particular piece on my wall [although give it time] but it still made me a little angry. It had the message “Tag someone you know who would eat this” and fortunately no one had yet, because you know what? i would not eat that much bacon.

Gasp! Shock! Horror! WHAT? Surely you jest? No, no i don’t jest.

You see, i do enjoy the taste of bacon, but i am not as obsessed with it as you think i am. When it comes to raiSINs, yes then i am as obsessed as you think i am – KEEP THEM AWAY FROM ME, evil little creatures [why do you think they have the word ‘SIN’ firmly entrenched in the name, and don’t get me on to the ICK of Pickles!] but even then, every single time someone finds a meme, a joke or a picture with raiSINs in and posts it on my wall, it loses it’s funny after about three. i started the ‘I Hate raiSINs’ group on Facebook for a reason, people. Stick your pics there.

But back to bacon. i have allowed the impression to be had that i am this absolute bacon fiend, but i never intentionally set out to do so, and it’s getting a little bit old. So politely please quit it! Thank you.

THE INFLUENCE OF VEGETARIANS

i have a fairly large group of friends who are vegetarians and i have come to understand what a dick i was when i met someone who was vegetarian years ago and then thought how funny it might be if i tried to convince them to eat meat or why their reasons for vegetarianism didn’t measure up to how good meat is or something. The answer is not very much at all and now i cringe when i see other people do it for fun or even sometimes for realsies cos of not being able to comprehend a world where people choose not to eat meat.

i was hugely inspired and challenged by the number of stories that were shared in my Taboo Topic series piece on Vegetarianism and if you haven’t read them yet, then seriously go do so now. i have been well humbled by how gracious and patient and polite vegetarians seem to be, especially when meat eaters can be a bit of a rude unthinking bunch at times. But for the most part, the vegetarians i have encountered and know are people who have made a choice or a series of choices for a number of reasons, but generally don’t feel the need to make everyone make the same choices they have [which i’m not sure i fully understand even, but i am grateful for it].

But that series made me think [and at least one other person it seems as i received a message from a friend of mine saying the series led to her doing some research and moving to a journey towards vegetarianism and even veganism] and tbV and i chatted a bit about it on our recent Americaland trip and came up with some ideas to work some change into our lives.

THE TINY LITTLE BIT WE’RE LOOKING TO DO

veg

Two of the main reasons people tend towards vegetarianism seem to be the cruelty committed to the animals that we eat and the effect cattle have on the environment. In terms of the cruelty side of things, tbV are doing our best to source meat and eggs from places far more likely to treat their animals well [a former Improv buddy of mine lives on a farm and makes regular treks into Cape Town to sell some of the meat from the animals he is raising and i know they will be being well treated].

In terms of the environmental effect, tbV and i are trying something new with our eating. We don’t think we particularly eat a huge amount of meat as it is, tending to create a lot of meals with just vegetables, but starting last week we did a whole week of veg meals at our place and then the idea for this week is to eat the same amount of meat we would normally eat in a week so maybe two to three times. Then next week will be purely veg again. And so on. Theoretically, this should reduce our meat-eating by 50%, which, while it may not lead to huge changes in the bigger picture, feels like a great start, and if we can encourage others to give it [or something like it] a try, then pretty soon we will be starting to have an effect.

We looked back at the end of this week and both realised we hadn’t particularly felt like we had missed meat at any time during the week. Because there are so many good veg option meals out there. And maybe this is a great opportunity to ask our various vegetarian friends to put together some good recipes for us and help us to make more fun and exciting dishes. How about it, vegetarian friends?

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

So what does this all have to do with you, you ask, and i’m so glad you did. Do i want you to become a vegetarian? Absolutely not. Well, you can if you want to, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

ASK THE QUESTIONS. If you do nothing else, then at least ask the questions. Take a look at what you eat. Do some research on what effect it has on the planet or be lazy and ask one of your vegetarian friends to tell you [cos chances are they know!] Experiment with some vegetarian meals. Try a no-meat Monday as we did a couple of years ago or join us on one week of no meat, one week with meat, just for a month and then report back as to how it was and if it didn’t feel any worse then let it become a regular rhythm. 

As a follower of Jesus, i know that collectively we can get caught up in the life-after-death scenario and totally live for it at the expense of anything that happens before death. We can also get caught up in the focus-on-people focus as if the environment was not our concern. Yet, i believe that we serve a holistic God who entrusted the whole of creation to us and asked us to look after it. We have not done that one so well. And so giving time and attention to what and how we eat as well as how pro we are for all types of life feels like part of what we have been mandated to do.

What are your thoughts on this topic? If you are a meat eater, have you ever given it any kind of thought? 

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mary

10 things vegetarians are sick of hearing / your vegetarian friends want you to know

I became a vegetarian on my ninth birthday. This usually elicits shock and the assumption that I am vegetarian because of my family / culture / religious beliefs. But, no – I was just a child who was interested in where my food came from and when I knew the facts eating meat (read meat, fish, poultry) didn’t make sense to me, even at nine.

Having been a vegetarian for so long the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that you cannot convince someone to change what they eat. It is a personal journey and people will either get there or they won’t. So I will not be doing that. Instead, I’d like to use this opportunity to appeal to my meat-eating friend to think before they say any of the following things to the next vegetarian they meat…I mean meet.

1. Why are you vegetarian?

Firstly, you probably know the answer before you even ask. But I’m not saying don’t ask – I love sharing my beliefs about food with people who are genuinely interested and like many others who have written his week I strongly encourage people to educate themselves about all the food they are eating (meat and otherwise). What I am saying is please don’t ask if your plan is just to argue with me about the answer I give you.

This happens to me all the time…so much so that my first response to this question is usually “do you really want to know or are you just making polite conversation?” Most people think they really want to know. So I explain. And then the “debate” starts, or I get accused of trying to make someone feel guilty, or told that the conversation is “not cool” while people are eating meat. But, um, you asked??

I’m going to start ranting soon so enough said on that point.

2. But how do you get your protein / isn’t that really unhealthy / don’t you have a poor immune system?

Again, do your own research. But I can honestly say I don’t know any vegans or vegetarians who struggle to get enough protein in my diet. We have been brain washed into thinking that protein only comes from meat, when in actual fact it is one of the least healthy sources of protein. I heard a dietician describe it like this once – I have spent my career (of over 20 years) treating patients with cholesterol, gout, kidney problems, etc, conditions that we know are associated with a high-meat diet. But I have never treated a vegetarian or vegan for protein deficiency. Pretty interesting if you ask me.

3. Do you eat fish? And chicken? No meat at all??

Fish = still an animal (and that would make me a Pescetarian)

Chicken = also an animal

Yes, I really meant no meat at all.

4. But BACON

I have a pet-hate of the recent bacon craze that appears to have spread throughout the world. Firstly, pigs are really intelligent, affectionate animals (just youtube search “clever pig” if you don’t believe me) who know when they are being taken to slaughter. They literally scream when they are being killed. Secondly, even if that doesn’t bother you and you make the decision to continue eating pig products, what you are doing by supporting the “bacon-with-everything craze” is celebrating and glorifying the fact that an animal has died so that you can eat it. It is excessive, insensitive and barbaric.

5. Ja, but you eat eggs and cheese – what about the poor chickens and dairy cows

Don’t make your guilt my guilt. By being vegetarian I am not proclaiming that I am perfect and superior to all others. I have a real conflict with the fact that I still eat eggs and cheese and going vegan is something I think about daily. It is something I am trying to rearrange my life towards. But at least I’m doing something.

6. But our bodies are designed to eat meat, and paleo, and banting and stuff

No, they aren’t. Watch this TED talk for some pretty convincing arguments from an Archeological Scientist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMOjVYgYaG8

7. Vegetarian food is boring

Again, not true and a pretty strange comment coming from a non-vegetarian. Have a look at the wide range of veggie cookbooks out there. I will happily share recipes with anyone who is interested.

8. You don’t know what you’re missing out on

Yes, I do. I get this from my dad all the time – even all these years later he still seems to think I’m a vegetarian because I don’t like the taste of meat. (Although after all these years I probably don’t). I don’t miss or crave meat at all anymore but some vegetarians do and this kind of statement is not very encouraging to them. (For any new struggling vegetarians reading this – it gets easier, I promise!)

9. Sorry for eating this meat in front of you

I think different vegetarians have differing opinions on this, but I personally am not bothered by the sight of someone eating meat. My philosophy is very much – it’s a personal decision – so as long as I don’t have to pay for it or eat it myself you are not offending me. I love enjoying meals with my friends and take pride in the fact that I can braai better than many of the men I know.

10. Yes this dish is vegetarian.

It might seem shocking but I have been told a number of times by friends and family that a dish is meat-free, only to take a bite and taste immediately that there is definitely meat inside. The explanation is usually “Oh well I just used some for flavor”. Please don’t. Just be honest – I’ll be happy bringing my own dish or eating the side dishes.

[For a number of other great stories relating to people choosing to go vegetarian, click here]

abi

Why I’m [kind of, mostly] a vegetarian.

Let me start off by saying that I like eating animals. In my early university days, I probably ate a bacon sandwich at least four times a week. This was on top of my regular meat-with-every-meal intake. I come from an Italian family. Growing up in South Africa, these two cultural combinations meant that meat was always very high on the meal priority list. But it has been a while since I last had a bacon sandwich.

Now, I still like eating animals. Yet, I am [kind of, mostly] a vegetarian. I’ll get to [that part] in a bit. Firstly, let me try explain why I, a meat-enthusiast, choose to abstain from this age-old human practice. No, it’s not because I think we shouldn’t eat animals at all, which I’m sure you’ve gathered by now (although there are many who do believe this, for valuable reasons, and I have immense respect for such an ideal). Initially, it was also not because of how our fast-paced, profit and efficiency-driven society tends to treats animals (although, this naturally became a strong cornerstone to my continued no-meat commitment, as I have found it cannot actually be separated from my first reason).

My initial, and foremost reason for quitting meat was this:

* Curbing the world’s huge and increasing appetite for meat is essential to avoid devastating climate change… The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined, but a worldwide survey by Ipsos MORI in the report finds twice as many people think transport is the bigger contributor to global warming. The Guardian

* Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. Fao.org

* Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. Richard Oppenlander

I could go on, but I know that it is likely you skimmed over those and rolled your eyes a little. Just like we did when we were first told about global warming, or that the earth was round, or that smoking causes cancer. Its uncomfortable. And it’s certainly not the easiest conversation to have at dinner parties. It’s long-winded and almost always sounds just that little bit pretentious. But, for me especially, it’s undeniable.

It started when I watched Graham Hill’s TED talk, Why I’m a Weekday Vegetarian, back at university. I was deeply compelled by his argument, and, aghast at the very idea of giving up meat altogether, I began with the ever popular ‘Meat-free Mondays’ and ‘Vegan Wednesdays’. However, the more I researched, read, watched, listened and discussed, the more I knew that simply eating less meat was insufficient. Before I start to sound like one of those “annoying environmental hippies” (although I am tempted to break out into an entirely separate argument about everything that is wrong with that statement), I do not lead the perfect ‘green life’. I smoke (ugh). I probably still use way too much plastic. My job requires that I do a lot of traveling. My carbon footprint is, sadly, still very much existent and a work in progress, which often feels quite overwhelming.

Especially when I read about 21 year olds in New York who haven’t made any garbage for two years. But, although not disregarding other ‘green actions’, which are still vitally important, I determined that the biggest impact I could have on reducing my environmental heaviness was through monitoring the food I bought and ate. In fact, quitting meat altogether has a greater impact on reducing one’s carbon footprint over and above anything else. I have seen that this is an action that is becoming increasingly undeniable to many the layman, not just those ‘annoying environmentalists’.

In a lot of my conversations, many people have asked me why my commitment has to extend to chicken or fish. The problem lies with those big lumbering cow things that fart all the time, doesn’t it? If only. Fish are a no-brainer. The depletion of our oceans and the very nature of the fishing industry today are having dramatic consequences for our future planet. And, no, not our far-off future planet, but our immediate one. And chickens? It’s a much larger web of interacting factors. Most chickens are mass-produced in disgusting conditions – whether this offends you or not, this kind of care is not environmentally friendly. Mass production means mass transportation, excessive consumption and waste, and much more. This sadly means curbing my desire for a cheeky Nando’s (which, if I’m honest, has been a stumbling block for me). The hard fact is, if you cut out red meat for environmental or moral reasons – well, chickens and fish pretty much have to follow.

But, why the [kind of, mostly] bit? Well, because I do still like meat. I just have a problem with how it is produced and consumed. And so, when I am able to access meat that is a) entirely organic (I mean really, really organic), b) locally produced, c) has come from an animal well taken care of, and d) as a result of a, b and c, has limited environmental impact, I will happily (if not ecstatically) eat it. But, believe it or not, this is actually a rare opportunity. Woolworths ‘organic’ simply does not cut it. Also, the problem has gotten so bad that in order to make an environmental difference, we need to go back to eating meat like we did many years ago – where it is something special, a treat rather than a regular part of our meals.

I could go on and on about the facts and figures, but I am a firm believer that “bible bashing”, if I may borrow the term, gets you nowhere. People have the right to choose. That being said, there is nothing I struggle with more than people who make uninformed choices. I will respect almost any decision, if it has been backed it up with thought, research and accountability. Mine led me to a certain path. But I also know many amazing individuals who have responded to these findings differently. The point is to respond. How you chose to do so lies with you. But not responding, well that’s a choice too.

Recommendations:

The arguments…

* Graham Hill – Why I’m a weekday vegetarian

* Oppenlander, Richard A. Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. Minneapolis, MN : Langdon Street, 2013. Print.

Red meat…

* Cowspiracy

* Guardian: Eating less meat essential to curb climate change

Food (in general)…

* Food, Inc (full online documentary here).

Fish…

* The End of the Line (full online documentary here).

* TED ideas, Interview with Sylvia Earle, Should you stop eating fish?

[For the story of Amy Benn who was a vegetarian and then wasn’t and may be again, click here]

bryan

I was always taught to show love to animals, dogs, cats, cows, pigs, horses, etc. But never was I really challenged to think about the meat that was lying in front of me to eat. Meat was different than those cute animals we would see in someone’s yard or pasture. Or at least I thought.

I made the decision to switch to being a vegetarian 12 years ago. Being born and raised in Texas it was a shocker to my parents and everyone else. They thought I had gone crazy, which was probably true. After being posed with the question “how can we love animals but eat them too?” by the punk rock community, I made the decision.

Fast forward a few years, I began to take the Christian faith more seriously. And when it came to what I ate it made more sense to not only be a vegetarian but to remain a vegetarian because I was a Christian.

Lots of people are not all that familiar with how factory farms operate. Not only the miserable conditions for chickens, cows and pigs, but the enormous toll it takes on the environment and the human body. There are up to 400 types of gasses released in the air, water near factories contaminated with antibiotics from animal waste, amongst other issues. Odors from gasses released by factories are known to cause respiratory problems, nausea, and allergies in residents nearby. These are just a few of the issues with factory farms. Please, research more of the issues.

There was a time when I first made the change that I was arrogant about it, tried to make people feel bad for eating meat (I am really sorry to those people!). Now when I am presented with the question of why I am a vegetarian I bring up the issues above but they are usually ignored with jokes, or just plain shot down by the comment “but God gave us animals to eat”. After so many years of living this way, it is just exhausting when people try to debate me or convert me. I have come to the point to where I don’t want to bring it up because I want to avoid the criticism that comes along with most conversations.

In Genesis 1:26 (NRSV) God is quoted saying, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth”. God has given humanity the responsibility to rule the world with compassion, and we are accountable with how we treat God’s creation.

So I believe it is our duty as Christians to learn where our food comes from and be guided in the prayer Jesus taught us “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”, to decide whether a diet containing animals, a diet that is supported by cruelty not compassion, is in line with making way for the Kingdom of God to enter the world.

[For more stories shared by people about their vegetarian choices, click here]

PearlsbeforeKilling

As you all know by now, Pearls Before Swine is my favourite comic strip and if you ever have some time to enrich, you can take a look at a whole bunch of the cartoons i have shared over here. And usually he is just random or clever or biting cynically silly fun, but every now and then he draws a strip which makes you stop and go, “Wo!” and maybe even think for a minute.

i had saved this first strip to comment on some time and then he came up with the second one and i thought they worked quite well together so here they are. Appreciate them. Stop for a second and go, “Wo!” But also take a moment to think about your relationship to meat/killing. Because it is probably something that, unless you’re a vegetarian or more, is something you don’t think all that much about.

i have thought about it a lot more over the last couple of years and think our Americaland experience and some of the people we came into contact there definitely impacted my thinking in a number of ways. But here are three that come to mind:

[1] When it comes to people i am pro life, but perhaps not in the traditional way that that phrase is used. i believe that if you’re pro life you have to be pro all of life, so from babies that are still being formed to old people, from those suffering from disease to those who are going to be born with some kind of disability we have to be pro it all.

i do realise this is a tricky, sticky and potentially controversial opinion to hold. And that sometimes there might be an individual case by case scenario where some tough decisions need to be made. There might be a situation where a doctor has to choose between saving the mother and saving the unborn baby and i think probably the doctor in that scenario is going to be the best person to make that decision after consultation with the husband/father. While i disagree with the terminology [at the very least] of ‘assisted death’ i do think there are situations where we perhaps artificially help people ‘to live’ where it is not really living at all and so i do think we probably could rethink some of our artificial life preserving methods and be okay with allowing people to die when it’s their time to do so, although again i imagine these are really difficult decisions and should be taken situation by situation.

But we should hold life preciously, and the idea that someone would consider killing a child [because that is what it is!] because tests show it might be born blind or disabled or down syndrome actually sickens me. i cannot get my mind around that.

i absolutely believe the death penalty is wrong and don’t understand how so many christians are okay with their thinking that it is right. To kill someone to prove to people that killing is wrong just seems like the most ridiculous thing ever. Much more needs to be said about this.

[2] i came home from our time in Americaland with a greater appreciation of life. Now i have no doubt that i have vegetarian and vegan friends and possibly others who think i am way too far away from where i need to be. But i am definitely better than i was and i really like the change in myself. i have no idea what specifically caused it and again it might be simply from being around a lot more people who thought and lived a certain way.

The way i have seen it manifest is particularly with insects or bugs. Not that i think i would have gone out of my way to kill them before we went to Americaland. But i now have a mindset that says, ‘If i can avoid killing a bug or insect, then i will do that.’ i realised the extent of the change in me the other day when i carefully [this is going to blow too many peoples’ minds] removed a cockroach from my house and set it outside in the road as opposed to killing it. Before i wouldn’t have thought twice about killing a spider and now i will do my best – if it needs to be moved – to get it on a piece of newspaper or in a bag or on my hand and move it to a safer place. i will avoid stepping on ants if i see them – again, a really small mindset shift and a massive one as well.

Mosquitoes? Sorry, the change has not extended there. So maybe there is still some work to do. Or maybe that’s just ok.

The change can probably best be described as don’t go out of your way to hurt or kill a living creature. And if you are able to save/protect/rescue one then go for it. In some situations i probably will still kill ants and cockroaches and possibly even spiders, but i am now leaning more strongly towards avoiding it if possible. So that might not seem particularly significant to anyone, but it feels good to me. Small steps.

[3] Bacon. i imagine this one will seem silly to people on all sides of the spectrum, but i’m okay with that. i enjoy bacon as much as the next person and yet somehow i have gotten this reputation of being the number 1 bacon appreciator of the world. i am aware to some extent how i have helped create this impression and so it’s not completely surprising, but i don’t think it’s true. i mean i really do like bacon, just not THAT much. And one way it has been propogated is that any time anyone sees a t-shirt or a meme or a bacon-salad picture they immediately think of me and post it on my Facebook wall and so it helps build up the picture.

But it’s not particularly true. To be absolutely honest i think i could never eat another piece of bacon again for the rest of my life and be totally okay with that. i wouldn’t particularly choose to, cos like i said i do enjoy it. But it doesn’t feel like a need for me.

The weird point i wanted to make about bacon though is this. i’m not sure when or where it started and don’t even know why. And i don’t particularly do it with any other kind of meat although i do try to be grateful and appreciate all the food we have an eat. But particularly with bacon i started in the last couple of years, taking a moment to stop and be grateful and in a sense thank the pig. To some this will be ridiculous, to others maybe hypocritical and maybe it’s just me cashing in my senility chips earlier or something. But i think it might in some ways be linked to tradition of first nation people of celebrating the life of the animal they kill before they eat it. A real sense of gratitude and appreciation. A moment of stopping to give thanks and thank the pig for its sacrifice that was made, giving me an opportunity to eat. Maybe this means absolutely nothing and makes no difference at all, but for me it is an extra moment of gratitude and appreciation and i think that’s a good step in the right direction.

i imagine most meat eaters don’t take any time whatsoever to think much about their eating of meat. Perhaps if we did there would be more vegetarians among us. So maybe take a moment to think about your meat-eating-ness or not. If you’re happy with it, then by all means keep on. But maybe even within that we can find better ways to do it…

pearlsbeforekill

[For a range of other Pearls before Swine strips, click here]

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