Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Why Don't We Eat Dogs?

I haven't eaten animals for 1 year today, and it feels fucking amazing. I have to note here that I was the world's biggest carnivore until June 1st, 2010 so it was no easy feat. An egg wasn't breakfast without bacon and salad without chicken was for tree huggers. I literally felt a meal without meat in it wasn't a meal. My, how things have changed. Read on if you'd like to know why I question why we don't eat dogs. Most of you won't read on from here because it's uncomfortable to talk about, but for those who do - good on you.
Most people don't want to know how their food gets on their plate and I understand why. I used to be just like that too. (I have to point out here that I currently still eat seafood, which I am slowly diminishing from my diet. I feared cutting it out at the same time as meat was so extreme that it would cause me to abandon my mission. Please note I am fully aware of my own hypocrisies and contradictions and I'm working on them).

I have loved animals all my life, but I've also loved eating them. I didn't start to seriously think about the torture that goes into making a burger until I got my first dog, Fang, 5 years ago. Anyone who has ever had a pet knows that they feel pain, fear, shame, and real emotions akin to our own. One little whimper tells you that. Did you know that in Chinese culture there is a belief that the more pain an animal feels the better their meat tastes, so many dogs are beaten relentlessly throughout their life? But then I tend to shock people when I say it doesn't bother me that the Chinese eat dogs and cats. Of course it bothers me, but I see no difference between the eating of dogs and cats or any other animal. You wouldn't eat a horse, right? Perhaps you aren't aware that 40,000 Australian horses a year are bred & shipped to France for consumption at the finest restaurants. Young horses too, because their meat is tastier. Try and stomach that for a moment. The fact that we (meaning Australian society) choose to eat chickens, pigs and sheep but not dogs, cats or horses is a blatant form of racism...or should that be specisim?

All animals are, and should be, equal. If you think we don't eat dogs, cats or horses because of their intellect and capacity for human interaction, consider the proven fact that a pig has the same intellectual and emotional capacity of a 3 year old child. And thanks to the film Babe and George Clooney, everyone knows they make fabulous pets. But what pigs go through to get to your plate would make you very upset...so I'm going to spare you the details in this blog. Most of you would be somewhat aware of what chickens experience, but perhaps not that all of them are seriously mentally & physically ill because of their horrific living conditions. Noone in the world is permitted to film inside battery hen houses for a reason.

It makes me really angry when people are charged with cruelty towards dogs and cats, which is often covered in the papers and on the news, but not cruelty towards so many other animals. Of course these people would be charged, but as Animals Australia says, 'Our treatment of animals is a moral failure. Animal welfare laws in Australia don't extend to most of the 500 million production animals in this country. As a result, the level of pain experienced by these animals daily would land people in jail if it was inflicted on pet dogs or cats." Not really very fair, huh?

Funnily enough, I'm actually not completely convinced that we aren't meant to eat animals. But I am utterly convinced we are not meant to torture them, and apart from buying your meat from a Mum & Dad-style farm (which are sadly dwindling in numbers in favour of factory farms) it's virtually impossible to say the animal you're eating hasn't suffered, usually beyond our comprehension. So technically it's not as much their death that bothers me (if done humanely), but their life of suffering leading up to it.

It's actually a fortuitous week to be celebrating my meat-free anniversary because Mark Zuckerberg just announced he will no longer eat any meat he hasn't killed himself, in an effort to recognise that an animal has given up its life to be his meal. I salute him. Most of us would not eat any animals at all if we had to kill them ourselves. Would you?

Also in the news this week was a heart-wrenching story aired by Four Corners about the live export of cattle to Indonesia and the horrific brutality, violence and torture these cows undergo. I defy you to watch this without feeling anything. My eyes stung with tears and I was utterly speechless but I forced myself to do it. If I ever feel like a cheeseburger (usually when I'm hungover) all I need to do is remember these images.

So back to my decision to stop eating animals. I found myself going to more and more doggie charity events, and feeling uncomfortable that I was flying the flag for animal welfare, but only for a certain species. It seemed...wrong. Kind of like how Paris Hilton bangs on about how much she loves animals then does an ad for the Carl's JR burger chain. I just grew tired of my own hypocrisy. I started slowly by doing Meat Free Mondays and undergoing a lot of very tough personal research. Then the final clincher was going to see Food, Inc (there's only 2 or 3 slaughter scenes but I bawled the whole way through) and reading 'Eating Animals' by Jonathan Saffran. This book is not for the faint-hearted and I feel sorry for the guy sitting next to me on the plane when I was reading it. I literally had tears streaming down my face for hours...he must have thought I was a freak. I forced myself to get through it, and it is truly horrific in parts, as I felt it was a moral obligation to stop pretending the horrors of factory farming don't exist.

The most interesting thing about my decision a year ago was the reaction I received from my friends. It was downright bizarre, and I will forever remain fascinated about the first few weeks of my veg-aquarianism and the emotions it seemingly stirred in the people closest to me. Some of them baulked and laughed saying I would fail, some became uncomfortable and changed the subject immediately, and some even fought me on it. Like, literally attacked me and tried to pick holes in what, to this day, has been the most significant decision and personal sacrifice I have ever made. I was stunned. Literally the only people who applauded my decision whole-heartedly were my mother and my best friend - Mum & Juliet, if you're reading this, thankyou! Because of the freaky reactions I got, after the first month I learnt to keep my mouth shut. Until the writing on this blog, I haven't discussed it at all, unless someone asks me straight out.

And do I miss eating meat? Yeah, I do sometimes. But nowhere near as much as I thought I would. Once I made the decision it was actually so easy that my only regret is I waited until I was 34. A secondary benefit is my health has improved - my diet is so much better now that I have to think about what I'm going to eat (and let's face it, cutting Maccas, meat pies and animal fats etc out of one's diet can only be a good thing!) I had a blood test recently and my iron levels are perfect even though I'm not taking any supplements - my doctor actually said it was difficult for her to believe I hadn't eaten meat for a year. And thirdly, being meat-free is significantly better for the environment. Smiles all 'round.

I have no intention of ever suggesting, cajoling, convincing or forcing anyone I know into quitting meat, my decision was a purely personal one. All I would ever like is for people to open their eyes, become more educated, and think about the moral and ethical consequences of our collective treatment of the beautiful creatures who co-exist with us. ALL of them, not just the ones we invite into our homes.

If you don't want to stop eating meat, what can you do?
-Buy ethically farmed meat from farmer's markets (but ASK them how their animals are raised)
-Buy grass-fed NOT grain-fed beef, feedlots are a living hell for cows
-Buy open-range (not free range or 'cage-free') eggs, easiest from farmer's markets
-Have at least 1 meat-free day per week, try Mondays!
-Eat less pigs and chickens, they suffer more acutely than cows & sheep (who still suffer terribly)
-If you're going to eat it, don't ever waste it
-Think about what you're eating and remember where it came from

Thankyou for reading my non-PR related, slightly political, somewhat uncomfortable yet very personal thoughts on this matter. It means a lot to me that you made it to the very end.

xxx Tiff

14 comments:

  1. Tiff, you're an inspiration. I've been struggling with this for a long time and with those same feelings of hypocrisy. Now it's time to commit fully to a vegie diet instead of an 'occasional meat treat' one.
    I agree - we are designed to eat some meat, but we were never, ever intended to farm and subjugate other species, especially on the scale we now do. Humans are hunter-gatherers. If everyone was handed a spear and told to catch and kill dinner, we'd all think differently. It's made very easy for us not to consider pork and bacon as pig or steak as cow, not to link the meal in front of us with the living creature who perished so we could enjoy it, and not to wonder how that animal lived or died. The meat industry does its best to distract us from the unpalatable truths about how our food is killed. And so it is easy to turn away from the suffering in abattoirs and factory farms, sadly not just in developing countries but also here.
    Another great book to read on the subject of farmed animals and their emotions and intelligence is Jeffrey Masson's The Pig Who Sang to The Moon. http://www.jeffreymasson.com/books/the-pig-who-sang-to-the-moon.html Another one to make you bawl, but necessary reading for anyone requiring that extra resolve to turn - and stay - vego.
    Keep up the great work!
    Amy C

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  2. Inspirational. Well done x

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  3. Annalise Brown2/6/11 12:21 pm

    Inspirational Tiff and very thought provoking...well done! I am happy to have shared your anniversary with you and it certainly wasn't difficult to eat veg-aquarian at all.

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  4. Each word out of your mouth echoes the thoughts in my brain. I supported you too!!! And I am very proud that you have made it one year. I am celebrating 10 years this month. Someone asked me recently what I was most proud of in my life. Without a doubt making the decision to stop eating meat is one of those things. It is a big step to take, a lifelong commitment, and certainly not the easy route. People go psycho in the beginning because they feel that somehow, by your choice, you are judging them. But meh - YOU ROCK

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  5. very powerful Tiff! x

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  6. Thanks for this article Tiff! I have been a veg-aquarian for 4 mths, but not without falling off the bandwagon occasionally. This is a re-motivator for me. And yes I too recognise the hypocrisy in still eating fish when there is also cruelty in fish farming, and so many issues around sustainability of ocean life as a whole. I also make every effort not to eat or drink dairy due to the cruelty of the dairy farming industry in breeding calves simply to be slaughtered while their mothers continue to give milk. Enjoying the food has not been an issue for me - I just love eating a plateful of veg. So thanks again for this boost and I will keep it up!! - Yvonne

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  7. I have been a vegetarian for nearly 3 years now and I could never go back to eating meat. I am so proud that you have opened your eyes to the cuelty that goes on in this world. Thank you for writing this article and I pray that more and more people start to realise where their food comes from.

    Billie-Rose

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  8. Kim Gelbart2/6/11 4:23 pm

    BRAVO Tiffany,
    Thankyou for your thought provoking and thoughtfully written article ,I to wrestle with myself ALL the time about how can I eat meat being the Insane lover of all animals that I am, I have 3 dogs and sponser 2 elephants, 2 Orang-u-tans and a Moon Bear and have just sent money and joined ANIMALS AUSTRALIA. I have not been able to eat meat since the 4 corners progame the other night, but why have I waited so long ?? I have been living in this hypocritical bubble not wanting to think where our meat is coming from, so I to have decieded, I cannot possibly Talk the Talk and not WALK THE WALK any longer !! I have deceided to live meat free from now on ,the images from the other night are haunting my days and nights I cant bear the thought of what the poor animals are going thru and will do what ever I can to help spread the word that LIVE Animal Export must be stopped COMPLETELY.......... But Tiff , my final decision wasnt made till I just read your AMAZING article ,Thankyou so much for saying, what I have been struggling with for so long into such an eloquent and powerful article ,lets all keep up the fight untill this terrible Live Export of our AUSSIE ANIMALS is banned forever !! Well done Tiffany xx

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  9. Love this post Tiff, so inspirational and definitely makes me rethink how I eat.

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  10. Food for thought, I am living in the land of pleny, I've actually gone on hunting trips with crazy Canadian mountain men who hunt, kill and butcher their animals. There are rules and licences that make it fair if adheerd to. They freeze their kill to last the year. I went along out of cultural intrest.... When in Rome.... I couldn't watch the butchering but was impressed but by the rules they followed. U can't kill anywhere even close to a road/ trail and not a mother or protected species. U need licences and there are quota/ catch limits and only in designated hunting areas...... And there are real dangers, not the kind of ones experinced with shopping trolleys wheel allignment. Bears with cubs is not where u want to be. This is not sport like the old days. It is an expensive privlage to have the time, knowledge and guts to hunt in the wild. Fishing trips in the wilderness are only for the wealthy. Sea planes and accomodation at the lodges with proffesional licenced guides/ killers costing is in the of thousands of dollars. Hence poaching by scumbags is profitable. Mass production of farmed animals for slaughter is so far removed from our ancestors way of life.
    Tiff thankyou for your informative blog, I am downloading the four corners programme now... PS wild Chonook salmon is a pure thrill to reel in with bald eagles circling to catch your release if it's under size. While u are still eating seafood come to Canada for a guilt free hunting holiday. I'm proud of your lifestyle choices and the manner u have shared your enlightenment. xox Amber Layton in Whistler

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  11. I'm convinced - time to try dog

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  12. Awesome post Tiff, as I was reading it I was mentally picking off the sources as it looks like you and I have paved similar paths in our research!

    Earthlings was the movie that changed my life forever, I was fish-only before that as well, but that film was the hardest 90 minutes of my life (and I've had a baby, so that's saying something!), but I'm glad I watched it.

    Congrats for making it through your first year, and actually educating yourself about it too. I still get grief from some friends, believe it or not - but my proudest day was the day my 8 year old (whom I had been cooking separate 'happy meat' meals for) turned to me and told me he didn't want to eat meat anymore. It was completely, 100% his own decision and also based on education about factory farming, not just a desire to 'be like mum'.

    Next time you're in Melbourne, let me know, I'll take you to the best vegetarian places ever! xx

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  13. Good on you Tiff, very proud of you :)
    I made the decision to become vegetarian for similar reasons - I wasn't sure why I had become comfortable spending a lot of time rescuing homeless dogs and cats but going home to eat farmed animals.
    It's funny how we become desensitised to the source of our food, an unfortunate by-product of our consumable/disposable culture where all the hard work is done for us and we see only the harmless-looking end product, not the process involved to get it to that point.
    Much love xo

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  14. I am truly inspired and just wanted to say well done! This is an amazing story.

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