Wednesday, 1 June 2011
Why Don't We Eat Dogs?
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.