Recently, a friend of mine posted on Facebook how she and her daughter were eating chicken tenders. Her daughter then asked, "Is this a chicken?" and mimicked the movements and sounds of chicken.
My friend answered, "Yes. It came from a chicken."
Her daughter then asked, "What did they do with the feathers and the heart."
My friend was then unable to finish eating.. because she actually had to think about what her food really was, and where it really came from.
That example is profound to me.
Paul McCartney has said, "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian." There's probably some truth to that. If you can't keep eating meat, even while thinking or talking about where it came from.. perhaps you shouldn't be eating it at all. But factory farming has made our society so detached from the whole process; oblivious to the brutality and dirty conditions in which most of our food supply are kept.
As a side note, I want to include a little something for the hunters here. While I don't think I could ever do it, or eat meat that was produced from it, I have a dramatically higher respect for those that will put in the time and effort to gain meat from its natural habitat. In recent human history, that is how it was done. Meat was a rare indulgence, and it was hunted, as the animals got to enjoy a life of freedom, in their natural habitat, and then nothing was wasted. Though still not an ideal outcome for the animal, it is far better than the cruelty suffered in most "farmed" animals. And I also give hunters credit for knowing exactly where their meals come from. It doesn't get more "local" or transparent than that.
My beef (pun intended), is moreso with the factory farms that raise animals for the sole purpose of consumption. Kept in small crates or pens for their entire lives. Pumped full of antibiotics and unnatural foods. And then slaughtered in very inhumane ways.
If you want to learn more about factory farming, I would suggest you watch Food Inc. and visit sites such as Meat.org (be aware that the video at Meat.org is graphic, I've actually been unable to make it through without crying).
But here's the deal. I'm a realist. I know that I will never convince everyone to give up meat. My husband, for example, has no intention of becoming a vegetarian; but I have at least convinced him to only eat local (preferrably organic) meats.. to lower the environmental impact, and so that he can actual see how the animals are raised; if he chooses to. Not to mention the improvement to his health.
In meeting me halfway, he's actually changed from eating meat several times a day, to eating meat maybe once or twice per week. Of course, he occassionally slips up, but the impact it has made for him to consume 1/6th the meat he used to, isn't lost on me.
Again, though, I know it's not realistic for most people to make such a leap. Others are also aware of this fact. That's how the Meatless Monday movement was born. I first came across the movement as I noticed Tweets with the hashtag #MeatlessMonday. I then discovered there was a group and website dedicated to the movement.
The idea behind Meatless Mondays is to convince meat-eaters to give up meat.. for just ONE day. Doing so will improve their health, help the environment, and show them how easy it is to eat without cruelty. It also is a simple way to bring awareness to factory farming.
Here's a few factoids for you:
- United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are increasing climate change worldwide.. way more than our transportation systems are creating.
- The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains.
- Giving up meat, even if just for one day, will likely improve your health by reducing risk factors for obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
There really is no downside.
I understand that some people love meat, and would eat steak for every meal if they could. I will likely never convince such a person to go vegetarian. My hope, and the hope of everyone behind this movement, though.. is to get them to put down the meat for just one day per week.
Please help spread the word about this movement, and take a pledge to do it yourself at http://www.meatlessmonday.com/join-the-movement/
Then, arm yourself with some vegetarian/vegan cookbooks, such as The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
or look to the plethora of vegetarian recipes online.
And please remember, when eating out, that ordering something and then "picking off the meat" does no good; except perhaps for your health. But the idea here is to reduce the demand for meat. So it must not be bought or ordered. I had to remind my husband of this once, when he ordered potato skins with bacon, and informed me he would just pick the bacon off. I had to explain that it still created the demand for more bacon, and in fact, wasted the meat an animal gave its life for.
So, I implore you. Don't WASTE meat. Just don't order it, or cook it, for 24 hours. An animal, somewhere in the word, thanks you. I thank you.