This I Believe

jackie - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Entered on February 9, 2008

Not only do I believe that refraining from eating and buying traditionally marketed meat is the right thing to do, I think it, feel it, know it and live by it. No, it’s not because I’m an animal activist who chains myself to the door of cosmetic testing sites or spray paints fur ads in blood red – it’s more about gluttony, money hungry corporate meat slaughterers and a lack of respect for that which was put on the earth for man’s survival.

Unfortunately, my going meatless all began by an innocent trip to the local supermarket in the mid 90’s –unfortunate, as I’ve always enjoyed the taste of warm, savory meat upon my palate. Nevertheless, this trip was like any other: a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, cereal and some meat. Then it struck me. It was a sight not uncommon in American grocery stores, and certainly not one aberrant from all my other visits: a middle-aged woman of average American obesity chucking yellow Styrofoam family-sized meat pack, after meat pack into her overflowing cart. How much meat does one need, I thought? Innocently, my eyes quickly shifted upon the meat section, which strangely I was seeing for the first time. This is just one wall, in one store; imagine all the sprawling walls of meat from every store, in every state across the country in one place? That is one hell of a lot of cows; my dissent into a life free from meat-eating bliss began.

From there I found myself reading such things as “Mad Cowboy,” a text about one man’s experience working in a Texas slaughterhouse. His account was horrifying: five hundred pound animals hanging upside down, thrashing wildly, as the tazer did not effectively knock them unconscious; or, the slaughterhouse bosses screaming to move them through to not hault production; and, of course, the filthy conditions in which meat was being packed. In short, it was enough to turn this former steak-lovin cowboy into a tree-hugging vegetarian.

We all hear the stories, but how often do we really think about the role we play? Who is that boss really yelling for? Is it the almighty dollar, his job, or the people’s gluttony creating such maddening demand?

I also read about Native Americans and their endearing respect for the land and its animals. What they took from the earth, they gave back. Not only did they pay respects for their kill, through ceremonial tributes, they used every part of the animal for their survival –the bones, the hide, the fur, and of course, all the meat. I’m sure they weren’t pitching hunks of left over jerked buffalo steak into the fire pit because little Hiawatha didn’t like the taste or because it went bad from having excessive leftovers.

Where have we as Americans come in terms of our living, our thinking, our respect for life? Do we examine alternatives and educate ourselves about those options, such as unadulterated meat raised by local, holistic farmers? Do we care? Would the expense of buying such quality product make us think twice about wasting it? Certainly we’ve advanced in civilization, and no longer need to live as crudely, some might say, as the natives…or, do we?