Perhaps a discussion group already exists for topics such as this.  If so, I'd welcome guidance to it.  For here & now, this is part of the story of one omnivore:

I grew up on a nascent family farm, though we were more hunter-gatherers for the first few years. My job at the age of 10-12 was to go out with my rifle almost every day and bring back meat. I had some moral qualms but accepted it as necessary at the time since we weren't yet producing enough on the farm to adequately, or at least optimally, sustain ourselves. I remember, early on, crying and petting a rabbit that I had shot until it died, and then sitting for a long time and feeling it cool in my hands. Among the best things I’ve done in my life was to help feed my family at that crucial time. One of the worst things, in that same timeframe, was killing a bear just to see if I could. I had crossed over from hunter to killer, and didn’t see the difference at the time.

I don’t remember feeling much when we raised and slaughtered chickens, but when we started raising pigs, their slaughter nearly broke me. By the time that they were big enough for slaughter I knew them and they knew me. Pigs are smart and personable -- more so than most dogs. When I took them feed each morning and the slop bucket each evening they'd excitedly run to greet me. We'd look one another in the eye and share a little moment of friendship. There was no one else my age to play with on the farm, and so I’d spend time with the pigs. They didn’t speak English or Cherokee, but I was pretty sure that I could speak some pig. One that I called Lizzie (of course they all had names) because her expression reminded me of my Grandmother, seemed to think that she could speak squirrel. She’d look up and squeal at a particular squirrel that chattered in the branches over the pen. We liked, and I'd say mutually respected and trusted one another.

My uncles schooled me on the first slaughter. We led Clarence eagerly following to a pen on the other side of the barn where we hit him in the head with a hammer, hoisted him by a hind leg, cut his throat and let him bleed out. Then we split him open and fed his entrails to eager dogs that had slept with him the night before. Though I probably didn't realize it at the time, I began pulling back on my friendship with the pigs. Even, perhaps especially, at that intimate scale I became more callous and began inventing justifications for what I felt that I had to do.

By the third slaughter season the pigs no longer had names. They had become like chickens. All I noticed about new piglets was how many there were and whether they seemed healthy enough. I didn’t know if any had the talent of speaking squirrel because I no longer hung out with them. I could have still befriended them but I didn’t. It might have helped them but would have cost me what I didn’t know how to pay. I hunted less often because we had pork and poultry and penned rabbits and more produce from the fields. I had crossed over from hunter to killer to farmer – a few embryonic years for one little human describing the arc of humanity over the past ten millennia. Each of those plateaus represented a distancing from my, from our, acknowledged place in the food chain.

That was a half century ago and I haven’t hunted or raised livestock since. I’ve taken a few fish, some insects and mice when times were desperate, and have eaten quite a lot of meat that wasn’t alive when I knew it. Just today I had supermarket beef hotdogs with friends. I didn’t offer any prayer to the industrially farmed cow that gave its all (or at least its otherwise unsellable parts) to make the hotdog – I just ate the damn thing and it was good. So, from hunter to killer to farmer to consumer; each plateau a distancing.

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Powerful words that evoke strong emotion in me. I grew up in a slaughter house and meat market of my father. He learned the trade from his father. We were all desensitized to killing and eating meat. When I lived in Kenai, Alaska, (1959-1961) I joined Athabascan Indians fishing and hunting. When an animal was killed, they always took out the eyes so the creature wouldn't have to watch its own slaughter and they gave an expression of appreciation of their sacrifice for our benefit. We were in touch with life and death and knew it. The grocery store yields no such knowledge. 

Thank you for sharing. 

Nice discussion.

Often on Nexus, when the topic of omnivory vs. vegetarianism vs. veganism comes up it can be divisive.  Folks have strong feelings about this topic.  We'll see what happens.

Here is a discussion I listened to recently on the Minnesota Atheists podcast.  Minnesota Atheists often has thoughtful discussions. The video gets off to a bit of a slow start.  The guest discusses his philosophical approach.  The guest promotes veganism, from a standpoint of ethics as an atheist.

 

I happen to be vegetarian, but I do eat some dairy products and honey. I think each person has a place where they draw a line. I like to think people are conscious of what they are doing, and have put some thought into it, even if they draw a far different line from me, and even if they disapprove of my choices.

For example, what if we know we are eating products that result from child abuse, even slavery?  Not of nonhuman animals, but of people.  If we know that chocolate may come from hundreds of thousands of child laborers, many of whom are in slavery, should we eat chocolate?  What about the more than 100 products made from forced labor(slavery)?  If you go to the link, the list of products starts on page 25.  Take a while to load.

Some omnivores would not eat primates, and some have a sense of revulsion regarding certain animal products.  I have the same feeling about eating killed animals, but I know the vast majority of people disagree with me, so I am not always open about that.

Like I say, everyone draws the line somewhere. 

Thanks again for posting

Veganism is indeed a generally nonreligious ethics that people are passionate about.  It provides an ethical direction for our current situation, since veganism reduces your contribution to global warming.  The large livestock that are energetically expensive, so milk, cheese etc. are also energetically costly.  If you wish to eat animal food, eating small creatures like chickens or (probably) fish is better.

Many vegans are unpleasantly moralistic.  I read on a vegan site once about the ex-vegan phenomenon - people who were unhealthy on a vegan diet and/or craved animal food, started eating meat etc. again and make a big noise online about how much better they feel.  I thought "well, if you want to eat meat, go ahead and eat some meat.  A little meat-eating isn't going to cause much harm, and drawing a line in the sand may cause you psychological harm", and I said as much in a comment.  Predictably, there were intensely moralistic replies "a little meat is like a little rape", etc.  People seem to take on veganism whole, like a religion.  I don't do this - although I call myself vegan, I do eat honey, use leather when it's hard to avoid, and I don't draw a line in the sand against meat.  I avoided eating animal flesh for months at a time because of ethical feelings against it, even before I became almost-entirely vegan. 

Being quasi-vegan may become more popular.  If you are eating 1/10 of the animal food that's in a standard omnivore diet, your global warming contribution from not being totally vegan, is insignificant besides what the standard omnivores are doing. 

People's worries about bad health on a vegan diet can be avoided by good vegan health practices.

The organic produce that many vegans favor, may be more energy-intensive than non-organically raised produce.  I don't bother with organic produce, there is little evidence that it's any better for you. 

Thanks for sharing your story Ted.  It made me sad, but it was very interesting.  I feel guilty eating meat.  I really don't like it that much, and it does bother me to eat it.  If I were to quit eating it, it would be more because I can't stand the thought of an animal being hurt, than because it would help the Earth, to be honest.  That would be a benefit though.

Good story .. enjoyed reading

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