I have been a big meat eater all my life. I love meat. I love the things made from the animals we get meat from, like cheese and butter. I like cooking things in butter and then putting cheese and eggs on top of them. That bumper sticker, “If we’re not supposed to eat animals, why are they made out of meat?” made me laugh out loud. Not only do I like meat, meat likes me. Meat gives me robust energy, brings a high color to my cheek and lubricates my joints.
Or maybe it is giving me cancer. I know there’s that book "The China Project" about how eating meat is supposed to be terrible for you. But then there’s that book "Nourishing Traditions," about how all you should eat is, like, butter, meat and sauerkraut.
Guess which one I read and own.
Then I worked at this environmental website. I got freaked out about The Planet. I saw that cows are not good for it to the tune of they use up tons of land and produce a lot of greenhouse gasses. Also, I wanted something to write about other than how some company is now making strollers out of recycled denim. So I decided to take six weeks and become a vegetarian.
I stopped eating meat and I started reading about not eating meat. I read more about how bad meat is for the world and then I read about how bad meat is for animals, mostly in the book "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer. I was horrified to hear about how pigs are abused, how cows panic before their deaths, and I was especially and, weirdly, mostly upset to know that fish take several minutes to suffocate to death on the deck of a boat before they die. I learned that other fish get squished to death in nets.
It became very easy to not eat meat. Thinking about animals dying or being in pain made me cry.
I started telling people about what I learned. I wasn’t trying to be obnoxious. I sincerely was just fascinated by how cruel I felt it was to kill animals and how terrible the cultivation and culling of living beings was for the planet — and not just in an abstract way, but in a real, the clock is ticking and not eating meat would ACTUALLY MAKE IT CLICK MORE SLOWLY WAY. I was positive I’d never eat it again. I truly believed what I was saying when I said that I didn’t think eating meat was humane. I felt that if people understood what I did about meat, they would just stop eating it. It was so simple.
When my six weeks were up, I said I was going to do another six weeks. Only I didn’t. I went two more weeks, for a total of two meat-free months, and then I went on a date, and the place didn’t really have anything to eat but meat. I was hungry and I ate meat. And it wasn’t even organic or anything. It was just a cow that had probably grown up with four million other cows on a feedlot. Nothing special, but it sure tasted special. And I ate the whole steak and probably some of my date’s and it was delicious, and that, my friends, was the end of that.
So, clearly, I am a completely full-of-shit person. Not just about this, but about everything. Because I really get it. All that crap we tell ourselves about how it’s really OK, I don’t buy. Folks, eating meat is so fucking evil. Animals die in horrible pain so we can have meat. Yes, I know animals aren’t people, but they do have nerve endings, and while I suppose there was a time when eating meat was just sort of uh, natural, it is a form of sickness that we have created a massive, heartless, violent industry around slaughtering things so we can put them in our mouths. Believe it.
And seriously, if you wanted to do one good thing for the planet, other than get rid of your car, which you can’t, because, how would you go buy meat, it would be to become a vegetarian. It doesn’t matter if you believe this or not, because the point is, I believe it, totally, and I still eat meat. Yeah, after the restaurant experience I did the whole, oh, that was just a fluke, I’m only going to eat sustainable, local, blah blah blah. But that doesn’t work. If you eat meat, you eat meat. And that means that yes, maybe you give yourself the good stuff, but if you ever leave the house, eventually, you are going to eat any kind of meat someone shoves in your little meat-eating face.
In the end, I had to confront the knowledge that I cared more about how meat tasted to me and the ease of not having dietary restrictions than what I believed about how selfish it was to eat it. I feel like only a very twisted person thinks eating meat is a form of violence and then eats it anyway, and then, an even more twisted person makes jokes about it. I am ashamed. But not ashamed enough, apparently, to not eat meat.