Wednesday, 22 May 2013
Why I Don't Eat Meat
I've wanted to write about this subject for a while, and seeing as its currently National Vegetarian Week, I've decided this is probably appropriate timing. Vegetarians seem to get a bad rep for being quite 'preachy' about this issue, and whilst this stereotype annoys me, I do think it's hard to talk about this without feeling like you're preaching - in the same way a bible basher screams at a passing crowd, there are people out there that just do not care about eating meat; they just don't want to know.
I think this is wrong. I don't think eating meat is wrong, although I'm not sure I ever will again, but I think it's wrong to turn a blind eye to where your food comes from. One can pass off the act of eating animals as no big deal, and something that most people on the planet do, but it's actually something that implements huge global issues - most notably environmental ones such as deforestation and global warming.
But I'm not going to talk about these issues. I want to talk about my personal reasons for avoiding meat, because actually, when I think about it, I feel more passionately about these decisions than I do about most things in life. After all, it's something I reevaluate on a regular basis - when making decisions on what to cook, at restaurants, and when eating with meat eaters. Every time I come up against an opportunity to eat meat, I think about my decision, and that decision is strengthened.
I became vegetarian about two years ago. It was my sister that got me thinking about it; she's been vegetarian for much longer than me, but I was a big meat eater at the time and never really contemplated giving it up. Here is a myth about vegetarians: we are all repulsed by meat. For me at least, this just isn't true. Quite often it's the opposite; in the summertime there is nothing quite like the smell of bbqing meat - and I will agree that nothing, no nothing, is more effective a hangover cure than a bacon sandwich.
And yet I resist.
I remember my trigger. I stumbling across a really horrific PETA video featuring undercover filming in farms and abattoirs. It was so horrific I don't think I even watched it to the end. I watched chickens being kicked across a factory floor, being pushed into crates so violently that wings, legs, necks were broken, and saw a cow dangling upside down, it's throat sliced open, blinking his last moments, in pain, in a blood stained concrete room. Men watched and did nothing to quicken its death.
I still get chills when I think about those images. I remember having such a strong physical reaction to it - my hands shook, I broke out in a sweat, my throat closed.
This video served a very important purpose. It made me ask "do I want to contribute to this?" I knew that if I continued to eat meat I would, in whatever tiny way, be responsible for this sort of cruelty. I had never properly considered the notion before, the notion of billions and billions of animals across the world being pushed into our meat-making machine. We, as meat eaters and just as human beings with a conscience, are responsible for these lives. We've created them to take them away, and yet most of us (past-me included) never think about these lives, and how horrific they really are.
This is the part where I take a breather, and try to reel in my vegetarian "preacher" tenancies. Breathe in. And out. Ok.
The main reason for writing this post is to encourage a more conscious decision. I'm not asking anyone to give up meat, because I don't believe the act of eating meat is necessarily wrong. But if you're going to eat animals, you need to be aware that your decisions determine whether you're a part of the cruelty - the cruelty incurred from farming animals so cheaply that drastic corners need to be cut.
Those corners come in the form of animal life and the quality of it. Cheap labour cuts costs, but it also cuts the throats of animals - in barbaric, unskilled, uneducated ways. Cheap shelter cuts costs, but it also cuts the beaks of chickens so cramped, bored and miserable they would otherwise peck the chickens around them. Cheap transportation cuts costs, but it also cuts the frayed nerves of animals riding to their deaths, who have already lived out a dark and harrowing existence.
Next time you're in the supermarket, and you see those neat, pink packages proclaiming "2 for £5", look beyond the bargain and think what that means for the animals that lost their lives to sit in these fridges. You have the opportunity to opt out of being a cog in the cheap meat machine. For a couple more coins you can take yourself out of the equation, you can increase the demand for quality meat, and you can improve the quality of life for animals that deserve our respect.
More information here:
The best charity: www.ciwf.org.uk
The best book: www.eatinganimals.com
The footage you can't ignore.