Category Archives: Vegetarianism

Reflections on Turkey D-Day

I appreciated the diversity of comments on my Turkey D-Day post. I didn’t expect such a response and wrote the post in a more light-hearted manner than some received it. After a day of butchering I thought it would be worth some reflections.

The first time I participated in the butchering process was with chickens that had gone through their productive cycle and were not going to be sold. I primarily eviscerated the birds after they had been scalded and plucked. This alone was an intense experience, but I did not participate in the actually killing of the birds.

Today I did participate in killing two of the turkeys. This is something I and everyone at the farm takes very seriously. It is an intense emotional experience to be with any living thing that passes from life to death much less being responsible for that passage. It is a holy moment and one that can be soul wrenching and difficult. I think if it were not difficult for someone, that person should also refrain from eating meat because of their lack of respect for the life of the animal.

I will say, I respect people who refuse to eat meat for a lot of different reasons. I also respect people who choose to eat meat, but are thoughtful about where it comes from, how it is raised and how much they eat. What I (and most of the people commenting) affirm is that there are a lot of problems with the majority of meat produced in this country and responding to these issues is important for a lot of reasons.

What I don’t affirm is that people hold their opinions and convictions with a self-righteousness that condemns anyone who disagrees. There is one volunteer on the farm who was very emotional. Seeing the process affirmed her conviction to remain vegetarian. I can affirm and respect her conviction. I also think if everyone who ate meat were more involved in the process of killing and butchering we would 1) consume a lot less meat and 2) have a lot more respect for the animals that we eat.

Regardless of your convictions about eating meat, I believe seeing and being part of the process is important. It will either strengthen the convictions you have or make you rethink the way you relate to your food. Either way, that’s a good thing. The problem is more about being detached from the source of our food than whether or not we eat meat.

Thanks again for all the comments and thoughts. Enjoy your Thanksgiving with or without meat!

Turkey D-Day

Today is turkey D-Day. About 40 birds will be prepared for the Thanksgiving Day table… in other words butchered. Tomorrow about 40 more will meet their maker and become someone’s dinner. I recently “talked” on facebook with a friend of mine from Fort Hood and shared about my transition to farmatarianism, eating only meat that you know personally. I was a vegetarian for eight years. I wasn’t a really good vegetarian, whatever that means. I was more concerned about the way meat was produced and what was in it. I was also concerned about the effects of excessive meat consumption on our bodies and the planet. I wasn’t concerned that animals should never be killed for food.

Anyway… it was probably strange for my friend to hear that I would be helping slaughter some 80 birds and what’s more I would happily eat them given the chance. I still don’t eat a lot of meat. It’s not often an option at the farm, but when it is I appreciate the life of the animals that we eat. Our turkeys are free range in every sense of that word. They roam free all day, foraging for food and stretching their legs. Our goats and cows also spend the majority of their time in pastures eating their meals straight from the soil. That is worlds apart from how your Big Mac or even grocery store meat is produced.

So, every year Cargill (God bless ‘em!) donates about 100 turkeys to the farm along with their bedding and feed. We raise them and sell them for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We could ruminate on why Cargill would donate these birds to a farm that teaches methods of agriculture directly opposed to large industrial-scale production. Perhaps it’s a form of penance, an attempt at reaching some sort of redemption. Perhaps someone in the company has a subversive ironic streak. Regardless, it is a good things for these birds and the people that buy them.

Clearly, these turkeys have been bred for one thing and one thing only… meat. These are dumb animals. These birds see a large predator (aka me or Edwina, the wayfaring farm dog) and think to themselves, “Hey let’s all go check that out! Guys come over here! Look a predator! Let’s all go say hi!” Needless to say they would not last long in the wild. Unfortunately they also don’t last that long on the farm. One turkey randomly had a heart attack one day and became dinner. It seems they are looking for ways to die. Apparently it is not really true that turkeys can drown from looking up at the rain, but they’re so dumb it seem plausible.

Barbara Kingsolver’s account of trying to get her turkeys to reproduce and hatch eggs is a riot. The reason industrial turkey sex is so funny is because it simply does not happen. Imagine a couple of full grown adults who are supposed to be well versed in the birds and the bees, stumbling over what’s what and what goes where like a couple of pimply teenagers. Add to the lack of knowledge the fact that these guys are bread to be a tub o’ meat on toothpicks. They are no longer physiologically shaped for reproduction. In case this hasn’t been made abundantly clear let me say it. The turkeys you buy in the store do not have sex. They all have to be artificially inseminated in order to reproduce. That in itself is not humane.

There are heritage breed wild turkeys out there that you can buy. Those guys are smart and they know how to have sex. So, think about the life of turkeys this holiday season when you’re sticking that Butterball in the oven or deep fryer. Support turkey sex and happy turkeys this year and buy your bird from a farmer.

Should I Eat Flesh?

It’s official! We’re moving to Elm Mott, TX to intern at the World Hunger Farm. Lisa Simpson’s been a vegetarian for longer than I have, but here’s the conundrum. I haven’t eaten any animals (except the occasional fish) for about eight years. I’ve talked about some of my reasons before on this blog. My main conviction concerning my diet is about economics and justice.

The World Hunger Farm raises chickens, turkeys, goats and some cattle for meat. They raise them grass fed and free range. So, the conundrum for me is whether to start eating meat. I don’t have a lot of ethical objections to eating meat in these circumstances.

On the other hand, I’m only going to be there for a year and then may be who knows where. I’m also concerned about how to reintroduce meat into my diet.

What do you think dear reader? Should I take up eating the flesh of animals again?

Ethical Eating Part 2: Looking for Answers

20080505-001-askn-20080504-0203Before we get into some of the nitty gritty about how to make better choices with your food I wanted to spend a moment thinking about the way we look for solutions. (I’m sometimes more obsessed with the questions than the answers, the journey than the destination)

We, in the USA, live in an instant gratification culture. Life moves at the speed of broadband and we like it that way. So, when we realize something isn’t right with our lifestyle we want a quick easy solution to the problem. What we miss is that sometimes the culture that wants a fast fix is part of the problem. The answers might look more like dial-up, or to some morse code. One movement to address or growing national eating disorder is called “slow food.” It’s an apt name for a movement to counter what fast food and fast culture has done to us.

On the other hand, there may be ways we can harness the tendency toward the easy answer to be part of the solution. Although I would caution that we won’t ever get there if we don’t address the more fundamental problem. One example would be hungersite.com. With the simple click of a button once a day you can donate a cup of rice to someone in need. This was a brilliant idea that I remember spreading like wildfire. It takes advantage of our attention span problem and says “Hey! All you have to do is click!” Email petitions and other online activism are good examples of ways we can make change with as little effort as possible. Like I said though… real change is going to take some hard work.

The other tendency we have when looking for solutions is the “magic bullet.” A faculty of the engineering department at Baylor has done some incredible research into ways that coconuts can be used to solve all kinds of problems for people in areas where coconuts are an abundant resource (which also happens to be where most of the world’s poor live). It’s a brilliant idea, but our temptation is to say, “Aha! Here’s the idea that will make poverty history!” Unfortunately, it’s never that simple. A wise man once told his followers that the poor would always be with them (Mt 26:11) and it turned out he was right. Poverty is a symptom of our broken world and something we are not very good at addressing.

When it comes to our food part of the problem is that the industrial food system is a monoculture. For acres and acres there is only corn. In another place there is soy as far as the eye can see. This is not the picture of diversity painted in Genesis. But when we try to come up with a “magic bullet” to solve the problem we end up with monoculture.

You hear this argument a lot. “If everybody in the US became vegetarian we could solve hunger and all the problems of the world.” Really? Let’s use our imaginations a little. Our food system would definitely change. We wouldn’t be drowning in animal waste from CAFOs and getting E Coli. But we would still be shipping vegetables from Argentina in the middle of winter. Well, then local food is the answer, right? What happens when the entire USA no longer imports food from other countries? Is that going to improve the plight of the farmers worldwide?

Moving towards a more just and sustainable future is complicated, messy and difficult. So, let’s all drop our prideful smirks because we shop at whole foods or farmer’s markets. Instead let’s keep asking questions and keep pressing towards something better. Because it’s not about easing my conscience. For me it’s about doing what God calls us to do, live out his kingdom in this world by participating in reconciling and redeeming all of creation, society and culture to God.

Whew…I almost started preaching there…Sorry.

World Vegetarian Week

They have a week for everything right? Well, this one is better than Return Shopping Cart to the Supermarket Month in my opinion. I’ve posted some pieces of my journey to vegetarianism. Alternet has their Top Ten Reasons To Go Vegetarian. I was interested in some people’s arguments for vegetarianism so I checked out PETA’s site jesusveg.com and found some links to other Christian Vegetarian sites that were intriguing. I haven’t read through all their materials yet, but feel free to check it out and let me know what you think.

My reasons tend to be more pragmatic than philosophical. I think we should respect animals as part of creation, but the Bible definitely doesn’t explicitly advocate vegetarianism or prohibit eating meat. For me it has more to do with issues of economics and justice. CAFOs are not just bad for animals, but for the people that consume what comes out of them. Our national obsession with meat is extremely wasteful in a purely economic sense (It takes so many pounds of grain to feed a cow to get a single pound of beef). Our obsession with corn leads to problems in our meat including E Coli which leads to the overuse of antibiotics which leads to the ineffectiveness of antibiotics to treat sick people. And round and round it goes.

When someone finds out I’m vegetarian they will sometimes joke, “You don’t think plants have feelings? What about them?” I used to say it’s because I like doing violence to plants that I’m vegetarian, not that I care about animals. Whether or not plants have feelings is beyond this post, but the reasons for being vegetarian run the gamut.

When I checked out PETA’s site I ordered their free vegetarian starter kit. What I got in the mail was a smallish magazine with pictures of Pamela Anderson and various and sundry celebrity endorsements for vegetarianism. I’m all for celebrating World Vegetarian Week, but can we all agree that celebrity endorsements are not a good reason to go veggie!

That is all.