Rarely does the occasional local newspaper column or online blog post decrying our modern society’s meat-eating preferences provoke much in the way of contemplation.
Such essays can almost always be slotted into one of three predictable modes:
· I stopped eating disgusting meat products and now I’m so much healthier and happier, and if you would follow suit, you, too, could become enlightened—just like me.
· I no longer need to indulge in nasty, fat- and drug-laden meat or poultry because there are so many wonderful alternatives—and by the way, I care about our animal friends; how about you?
· I’m proud to be a vocal veggie-vegan true believer because I now recognize how horrible it is that animals are used to provide food—or for any other activity I find objectionable.
You’ve seen and skimmed plenty of these holier-than-thou essays if you spend even a few minutes a week reviewing news topics related to animal agriculture (for me it’s more like entire days).
The writers spend their allotted space gushing about their personal epiphanies, gloating over their moral superiority and displaying their oh-so serious conviction that the ills of the world could all be solved if we would all just cruise right past that awful meat case next time we’re saving the planet by loading up our carts with anything but animal protein.
So it was with some surprise that I came across a commentary in the Milford (Massachusetts) Daily News titled, “Connecting to the meat we eat.”
In it, syndicated columnist John Crisp poses an intriguing idea: The positive aspects characteristic of modern livestock production, meat processing and food retailing are, in fact, the explanation why other practices regarding animals that ought to be considered objectionable are tolerated by the majority of people.
Crisp is no high-and-mighty apostle for vegetarianism.
Indeed, he launches his column with a vignette about digging into a “fine plate of rabo de toro in a restaurant in the city of Cordoba in southern Spain.”
We should all be so lucky to be sitting down to a plate of anything in southern Spain.
Crisp then goes on to explain that rabo de toro is “Nothing fancy—just a segment of the tail of a bull that has been stewed in spices and served with potatoes and bread.”
It’s one of any number of organ meats and other delicacies derived from cows and pigs that Europeans routinely consume, and which most Americans find either fascinating or revolting.
Which leads him to his main point: Modern Americans are so distanced from the actual process of killing and butchering our beef, pork and chicken that we don’t encounter and engage with other animal exploitation issues that ought to be on our plates, so to speak.
“Our reluctance to acknowledge the direct connection between meat eating and killing encourages other ethical shortcomings when it comes to animals,” he wrote.
“Of course we kill in order to eat, but our blindness to the bloodletting and the economics of meat eating encourage the wretched conditions under which many of our meat-producing animals are raised and slaughtered. Killing animals on an enormous scale makes it easy to ignore the brutalities of horse and dog racing, the cruelty of marine mammal confinement, the miseries of animal experimentation, or the mass exploitations of the American pet industry.”
There’s a lot there to chew on, but the main argument is one not easily dismissed.
I doubt that too many people would experience anything other than revulsion if they were forced to personally chop off the heads of chickens they’d raised themselves, or skin, dress and butcher a pig hanging from a hook in their suburban garage.
But when we demand that our animal foods come hygienically sealed, pre-portioned, bones and skin and fat removed before we stick it in the oven or slap it on the grill, we do sever the elemental connection between raising an animal and butchering it to provide sustenance for ourselves and our families.
We don’t want even the slightest reminder that animal food comes from animals.
We prefer to encounter farm animals in Disneyesque settings on mythical farmsteads where the barnyard creatures are intelligent, talkative and so very perceptive.
We relate to wildlife not by spending time in the often harsh outdoor environments where they struggle to survive, but in the air-conditioned comfort of our home theaters watching movies and TV shows that highlight only their beauty, strength and nobility of character.
Perhaps if more of us spent summer vacations not at the beach but on a farm, doing the hard work of trying to profit from raising crops and livestock, we’d be better equipped to contemplate the business of meat production and the tradition of meat-eating from a more realistic perspective...
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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