Some time at the end of 2018, I ate my last piece of bacon. Never again in my life would a piece of delicious fried flesh pass between my lips…and do I have any regrets? Only that I didn’t do it sooner.
Vegetarianism came to me quite late (I was 28 when I finally made the decision to quit meat) but once I did, I immediately acquired a glowing halo above my head. I was finally free from the complex feelings of guilt and hypocrasy I’d once harboured. For once I could look grazing sheep and cows in the eye without feeling like a blood-lusting, double-crossing monster.
Meat isn’t even tasty to me
As a child I always struggled with meat…I remember being quite shocked by the idea. I didn’t like that the slice of brown stuff on my plate had once been part of a creature with eyes and thoughts and friends. I didn’t even like the flavour or texture of meat. The merest hint of red on a steak or bone on a chicken would swipe my appetite away because I’d be reminded of the truth of the matter: that I was eating a dead body. Yes, I was the classic privileged first world child who had the luxury of being a fussy eater. I’m sure if I ever found myself in a survival situation, I would get over my sensitive disposition pretty quickly. But luckily that hasn’t happened yet, and if it does I’m making a beeline for the Linda McCartney veggie sausage factory.
When I moved away to uni and had to fend for myself for the first time, I didn’t buy meat because I didn’t like seeing or handling it. Later on I moved in with my then-boyfriend, a protein-guzzling weight lifter who turned our freezer into a chicken morgue, and I found myself once again eating meat. It was the cheapest meat too. The kind that comes in bulk from miserable factory farms in Poland. During those years I ate this sad, factory farmed meat because he would cook it for me, and we didn’t have the money to buy ethically farmed meat in the same ridiculous quantities.
Deep down I knew I wasn’t being true to myself or my core values. I was being a hypocrite by supporting intensive farming simply for convenience.
How could I bond with animals like my pet guinea pigs, random sheep in fields, other people’s dogs and wildlife/insects…and yet also eat the flesh of sentient animals slaughtered on a production line? These animals endure a short, miserable life confined to overcrowded stalls, injected with antibiotics, denied sunlight, space, stimulation and their natural behaviours. The industry itself destroys environments, threatens wildlife, generates huge amounts of pollution, accelerates climate change and makes it harder for small scale, ethical farms to operate.
Factory animals are treated as commodities. The average egg-laying hen spends her entire life in a cage the size of an A4 piece of paper. Pregnant sows are locked in pens they can’t even turn around in. They are living milk machines for their piglets, which only exist to be taken away and slaughtered. That is their life. All for a cheap hotdog/burger/family bucket wolfed down in a cholestroly second.
And yet we know now how intelligent these animals are, and how complex their social bonding is. They feel pain and suffering, and we still allow it.
I hope one day we’ll look back at this era as the dark age, the most abhorant evil humanity ever orchestrated. Despite our apparent progress as a civilization, we are disgustingly unenlightened. Our global economic system encourages cruelty to animals on a massive scale. It encourages consumers to stick their heads in the sand for convenience and instant gratification.
That’s the important thing to remember…that we as consumers have the power to change EVERYTHING by being careful about what we buy.
It seems like we are seeing a wave of positive change though. There are more ethical brands to choose from, more vegetarian and vegan options, more transparency from manufacturers. Factory farming is being reported and talked about by the media; we are starting to accept that our sense of entitlement when it comes to eating animals is manufactured by capitalist greed and destroying the planet. By avoiding cheap, factory farmed meat, eggs and milk, you are helping to end these cruel, unsustainable practices.
The other thing you can do is support the World Compassion in Farming charity with a one-off or monthly donation, or just read and share the articles they publish about what goes on in the factory farming industry.
Let’s aim to live in a world where animals are loved and taken care of – even if their ultimate destiny is to become a roast dinner. Farms don’t have to be factories. If we eat less and waste less, we’ll need less. Embrace the joys of beans, nuts, lentils and soya products…vegetarian food can be nutrient-rich and delicious, and it’s environmental impact is minimal compared to meat production. The whole culture of ‘meat is manly’ needs to end too.
So that’s my Sunday morning vegetarian rant for you. I want to end animal suffering in any way I can and I know a lot of you feel the same as me.
Tell me in the comments if you care about factory farming. Not bothered about it? I’d be really interested to know why.
Anyway, I’m going to resume my lazy do-nothing Sunday now and get some (plant-based) food. Enjoy the second half of your weekend everyone 🙂