why i now eat mary's little lamb
Last year I did not eat meat. I cannot say for sure that the greasy cartilage of a dead creature never passed my lips during that time, but without notable exceptions I lived the vegetarian life. My reasons for abstaining from meat are both ethical and environmental. While I do not think it is wrong to kills animals for food--they are able to turn plant material that we cannot eat into a substance that we can--I think that humans do have a moral obligation to treat life with care. In the case of animals, that means raising, slaughtering and consuming some of them in a wholesome, moderate and thankful manner. In the environmental camp, I object to the ground water and runoff pollution that results from confined feeding operations where thousands of animals are kept in close quarters to await mass slaughter. I also question the amount of energy, particularlly fossil fuels, that go into raising, slaughtering, packing, and shipping an animal in its short life span within the corporate livestock cycle. There is also the rub that so little of the profit from this three-ring circus go to the primary producers and laborers. Someone is getting rich off of corporate livestock, but it is not the Wyoming family ranchers or the immigrant laborers working in the packing houses of Greeley, Colorado. There are almost as many issues with the corporate fruit and vegetable industry, but in this case I am choosing what I perceive to be the lesser of the two evils, and besides, local organic tomatoes are a lot more affordable than local organic steak. These being my basic beliefs on the topic, I was pretty much set to go as a lifelong meat mostly-abstainer/local eater/free range junkie. Imagine my surprise at moving to a tiny island in the North Atlantic where the most environmentally responsible thing I can eat is meat. The only food stuffs that grow in any volume on the islands are rhubarb and sheep. Potatoes will grow, but they are labor intensive and you have to be pretty buddy-buddy with someone before you can get your hands on them. Fish also comes in by the boatload, and whale can be had if you are willing to brave the mercury. It has been humbling and curious to find that my formerly modest meal preferences like beans and salad involve a worldwide network of growing and shipping before my tomatoes from Sicily, lettuce from Argentina and carrots from Denmark arrive. So I adapt. My fish is undercooked, my whale overcooked, and the lamb leg is still sitting in the freezer because I have no clue what to do with it, but I am embracing the carnivorous life. Of course I have not given up all of my pleasures--on a rare night you will still find me enjoying a luxurious meal of lentil beans and rice. -a p.s. For those of you who feel like I am being ungrateful to the the five generations of ranchers who have labored faithfully on the land to provide a privileged life for me, touché. While our place in the corporate structure is perhaps not what I would have it, I believe passionately that my family's animals are raised in a wholesome, moderate and thankful manner, and whatever I know about respect for life I learned from them.