I am guilty of murder…

CowsFor the first 17 years of my life I was a willing participant in the death of hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocents. I may not have been the one wielding the knife or the gun, but I was directly responsible for taking lives. Interestingly, the police would not be concerned with my confession, and the courts would not be bothered with trying my case, for my murders are not considered a crime.

Murder…surely that is always a crime? Well like any action in our society that is condoned by the majority, certain behaviours are classed as acceptable, giving people permission to turn a blind eye to things that they would rather not see. This approach has meant that some of our most gruesome activities are accepted as a normal part of life. Ironic really, that the death of so many is the backbone of so many of our lives.

While I have since stopped indulging in these heinous crimes, I am bothered by societies which continue to sanction certain behaviours as acceptable, therefore allowing people to neglect their personal responsibility to be aware of the full repercussions of their actions. I made a choice some time ago to stop making a personal contribution to unnecessary death. With wars, famines, disasters and plagues, death already surrounds us enough. I could not add more bodies to the pile.

I stopped eating animals. No more chicken, beef, lamb, veal, pork, turkey, ham, fish, prawns, and the list goes on. But you’ve got to be careful, as anyone who has become vegetarian or vegan knows, animals feature in a lot of unexpected foods, so you have to be vigilant when selecting things like cheese, fries, yoghurt, cream, sauce, chips, lollies and again the list goes on.

People say to me, ‘surely human life is more important than animal life’, but for me this is not a consideration. I believe that life, any life, equals life. What does it say about a species that kills indiscriminately, for pleasure and in such a wasteful manner? If we were anything other than what we are we would say that such practices were inhumane. Humans should consider themselves part of the global ecosystem, but for some reason we hold ourselves apart from everything else in nature. It has truly become a case of Us vs. Them. We seem to have no qualms with disturbing, destroying and disrespecting the earth and all it contains.

The trouble with becoming a vegetarian or a vegan is that people reduce you to a label or you become nothing more than an interesting point of discussion. People are supposed to be non judgemental and accepting and yet I constantly have to defend my views, actions and beliefs. I naively used to believe that if I treated people with respect, the same consideration would be reciprocated. Some people seem to have forgotten that personal eating choices are just that…personal.

I have lost track of the number of conversations that have run something like the following…

‘You’re vegetarian? Really? But you still eat seafood don’t you?’
‘No, I don’t eat any meat at all.’
‘Why’s that? I couldn’t imagine not eating meat.’
‘It was a personal choice really. I love animals and I started to feel like a hypocrite going around and eating them as well.’
‘Mmmm, my son has gone through that phase as well.’
‘Well it’s not a phase…’
‘That seems stupid, it’s not like it makes any difference anyway.’

Why do people insist on me justifying my behaviour to them? I don’t insist that they justify their actions to me. I chose not to condone death and bloodshed at every meal. For me eating is about giving and maintaining life, not about fulfilling the endless equation of death equalling life. Perhaps these people are worried that they haven’t made a choice of their own. In just eating what they’ve always eaten and not thinking about what is involved with getting that product to their plate, perhaps they have missed out on an important process of self-discovery. In talking to me perhaps they are reminded of things that they would rather not be reminded of. I’m really not too sure of their internal thought processes during these conversations, but I certainly hope they find their own path soon and stop trying to walk all over mine.

LambRecent years have seen a huge commercial push in Australia to encourage people to eat more meat. At first these ads made me extremely angry as they were generally crossing the line of bad taste and were more often than not downright offensive to anyone who chooses not to eat meat. These commercials presented ideas such as ‘how Australian lamb could have prevented many recent incidences of un-Australianism, and to be Australian all you need to do is whack some nice juicy lamb chops on the barbie’, that our evolutionary history demonstrates that ‘we were meant to eat red meat’, that ‘if our ancestors hadn’t eaten red meat, our brains wouldn’t be the size they are today’, and ‘that craving red meat is instinctive behaviour’.

I went through several stages of emotion in response to these advertisements, first came anger then came grief, then came pity and finally a lot more anger. Recently though I’ve had a change of heart. It seems to me that all these advertisements expose is how worried the Australian meat industry must be, so that the only way they feel they can ‘win the fight’ is to launch such a horrifyingly simplistic, one-dimensional and scientifically dubious campaign.

And just what is it that they are fighting? Well they are fighting for our money and our tastebuds, but most of all they are fighting to ensure the continued survival of an industry that is environmentally unsound and ultimately unsustainable.

They are scared and more than a little threatened…
Nothing has made me feel that happy in a long time.

4 Comments

  1. Lee

    People complained recently when English chef Jamie Oliver killed a lamb on television. Of course I would never do such a thing and certainly don’t support it however Jamie made some excellent points about how you should know where this food comes from and you should be aware that it comes from a living breathing animal.

    Gennaro Contaldo, the Italian chef who taught Oliver for more than ten years, said: “Children grow up and see this sort of thing – how can you have a lamb without killing the lamb?

    “People who go into supermarkets don’t believe that this happens. It’s not something where you press a button and you get a lamb. I respect and support Jamie in full.”

    It’s this aspect that I agree with – people blindly eat meat without thinking where it comes from and I think that when speaking to a vegetarian it often makes them uncomfortable or even angry.

    This of course doesn’t mean everyone and I hope (without expecting it) that meat eaters don’t take offence when they read this but rather think about what they eat. Even if you take the time to think at the very least about the living conditions that some of these animals must endure before they are killed and make better choices in the future.

  2. Alex

    I have no problem with your choice here. Good for you, however there’s a bit a flaw in your justifying logic.

    I too, value all life, but in valuing I realize that death is part of life. I also realize it is natural for there to be carnivores and omnivores. You can easily make the distinction that we’ve turned our (human) meat eating into an industry, and it isn’t necessary for our survival. It has been necessary for our survival in the past, but with today’s technologies and wealth, we do not absolutely have to rely on meat to feed ourselves. It is of course more expensive, and time consuming to get the proper nutrients on a no meat diet, but if your values are there, it’s a small price to pay.

    If you value all living things, you must also value plant life. Plants and algae are the only form of life that can survive without subsiting on other forms of life, and that’s not even all plants.

    We can minimize our impact now through our knowledges, but it is absolutely not natures way to do so. It is artificial, and can be very difficult. Neither way is right or wrong, it just depends on your personal values.

  3. Tisha

    “I couldn’t imagine not eating meat” LMAO

    We don’t have to justify our convictions and choices to anyone sweetheart! People tend to have a problem with anyone that is not like them and who cares, let them deal.

  4. Tracey

    Hey Lee – Jamie’s show certainly touched a raw nerve with many people. It can be difficult for people to be confronted with such ‘real’ vision. However I think it raises a valid point about understanding the source and lifecycle of our food. While ignorance is bliss, I think most people would rather know the truth and then make a choice from there.

    Hi Alex – I believe that food choices are personal and they don’t necessarily need to fit with a neat picture of logic. There is so much more at work, spirituality, ethics and values also strongly come into play. It is the endless cycle of justification which becomes increasingly tiresome.

    Part of life is most definitely about recognising the reality of death. I believe that such life lessons can be learnt in other ways and do not necessarily need to be demonstrated on the dinner plate.

    Of course it is natural to have omnivores and carnivores in the world. Humans though are uniquely capable of making a choice about what they eat, and this is a choice that can take in a whole range of factors like cruelty vs necessity, organic vs commercial, local vs import, and sustainable vs non-sustainable…it is this choice that is critical and something for which I feel grateful to be able to make.

    Being a trained environmental scientist / biologist I have a wide practical and theoretical appreciation for the value of life – both animal and plant. I am also keenly aware of the impact which the human species has had (and continues to have) on ecosystems of the world, an impact which the earth could have never prepared for. Informed choices about what we eat, how we farm and how we feed the world start with the individual, and from there we can but hope to learn and make a difference.

    Hi Tisha – Hey that’s cool, whatever makes you happy…that’s what life is all about. I am with you 100% on believing that people should not have to justify their values or choices to anyone…I only wish other people got this message!! 8)

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