Friday, 15 June 2012

Vegetarianism anyone?

Pinky and Browny the two sows left the block a couple of days ago. It was quite a turbulent  time for Trev and I. We'd both got to enjoy having pigs, they have the average intelligence of a three year old, and while this is geared mostly around how to incorporate more of the world around them in them, they are an engaging animal. They love a scratch and are always curious to see what you are up to. I've got a kick out of opening the back door and doing the 'Soo-ee!' and watching them run from all over the paddock (especially when there were piglets) for whatever treat I was brandishing at the time.

But the pigs have been a failed experiment on a number of levels. They did get rid of the bracken fern, but continued to over hoe the paddocks, they cost a lot to feed and we're not satisfied that in the end we raised ethical meat.  It could well be a tautology. While we both agree that raising our own animals is preferable over purchasing supermarket meat sourced from intensive feedlots or sow stalls etc,  in the long run we can't, in all conscience, say it gets the green light.
Trev gets enormously peeved when I use this analogy. But I always say, 'What say tomorrow a mob of aliens came down to earth and went, 'Whoaaa! Look at all this livestock fellows! The planet has a plague of these two legged fleshy beasts, and all the fleshiest bits are conveniently naked, that'll make it cheap and easy to process. Their offspring look tender too. They'd be great snapfrozen at about six months of age. We could even work out a way to get them to smile just before we do, they'd be sure to sell better. We'd make sure to give them good lives, make their end nice and quick. It'd be an environment win/win too. They've overpopulated to the max and are destroying the planet. So let's stop off here on our way to planet bla bla and cull them back to manageable levels.'
All sounds fairly reasonable from the viewpoint of an alien.  Yet we'd see it as a horrendous concept, but we use the same kind of justifications when applying it to other animals. Trev says I'm anthropomorphising but I don't see it as being any different. Animals form relationships with one another, they can feel fear, no one can see a mob of piglets or lambs gambolling around not to know that they can play and feel pleasure. And in the end we are, in the developed world, affluent enough to be able to choose to source our protein from plants. Eating another animal might only be justifiable if it came down to a 'well if I don't I'm dead' scenario.
It's vexed.
Then of course we sold off all these cute piglets knowing that for most of them it will be a short stay on earth in their current form (longer as fat on human thighs). And Pinky and Browny were enticed (oh so grudgingly) but so trustingly onto the back of a truck several days ago and will be making an appearance again soon as sausages in our freezer.
I never had any intentions of eating them. But I did agree it was a better way of acquiring meat. Well. I've decided differently and Trevor, though nowhere near as adamant as I am, is also unsettled by the experience and agrees we won't keep pigs again. Apart from being 'tractable tractors' that have hoed up half of our block, eaten an enormous and unsustainable amount of food while doing so, and woken us every morning grunting impatiently at our bedroom window, they've been a great personal insight into our ethics.
And Caleb – he was quite happy to lip his licks when he saw them walking around in the paddock, he'd refer to them by their composite meaty parts and would grew so excited by the prospect of eating them he talked about needing a bacon inhaler. 

What are your thoughts on the ethics of eating meat?


Barb. said...

We grow our own meat, mainly cow and chook but sometimes pork. Son hunts feral pigs and we sometimes get pork that way. I don't buy much meat and sometimes son brings us some from his work that is near it's use by date...If I had to do the killing I would be vegetarian. Hypercritical? Yes. But... I like meat and look after the animals we have so I feel a bit better about it all. I understand your feelings.


Dyani - Little Deer Creations said...

I know how you feel Linda. I became vegetarian 3 years ago because I didn't want to have any part in supporting the cruel practices that are so commonplace in the meat industry. I would love to become vegan, but haven't made it that far yet.
I always used to say that I would still happily eat meat if I knew the animal had been given a happy, well-cared for life, and was killed humanely. But the truth is now, after 3 years, I realise that I wouldn't even eat meat in that situation now. I don't miss it at all, and in fact, I eat much better now than I ever did, and have a much more varied, healthy diet. My iron and B12 levels are fine, and I don't take any supplements. I have learned that I don't need meat at all, it is completely unnecessary, and so I wouldn't choose to eat meat again, even if the animal had been treated with respect. It still has to give its life, and I can no longer justify that.
There are loads of veg recipes around. And Trevor might come around - hey, my Mum became vegetarian after I did, and so therefore, reluctantly did my Dad! He used to be such a meat and potatoes man, and he now champions the vegetarian cause wherever he goes, so if he can switch, there's hope for everyone! LOL!

Beznarf27 said...

I am vegetarian but help hubby to kill the roosters when they start to crow. We both HATE it, but know that if we are going to keep free range chooks along with a rooster we are going to have to deal with them. I love how people who don't live like this make country living seem so ethical and delightful... "I will skip with my basket over my arm and collect the eggs, take them back into the house and pour a delicious cup of coffee prepared on the aga and head back to bed to spend the morning planning tonights degustation with my darling husband" the reality is that you are up before dawn feeding and cleaning your animals, they spend their days covering your delightful vista with nitrogen and when you are standing there up to your armpits in hard work and nitrogenous deposits and exponentially increasing poultry etc. and faced with the terrifying thought that you are totally responsible for making all of this work its more like a war than a delightful country moment! I read your book and really enjoyed it. I loved your honesty and your ability to let Trev have his say. It gave me the impetus to start my Tassie blog and tell it like it is. Its not easy being green (as a great green sage once said) and he wasn't kidding! Ethics are so much harder to bandy about when you are up to your armpits in rooster guts its really REALLY hard to negate your actions! We thought about pigs but wisely said "NO" because we are sooks about killing roosters and there is no WAY that we could kill anything else whatsoever. We are actually saving our rooster wishbones as a kind of homage to their lives... sorry to all of you blunt meat eaters, its not for me!

sharon said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. I have been vego for about 20 years. Although I made my choices about what I eat, I had kind of thought, ethically raised meat was ok for those that want to eat it. But reading your analogy of the aliens eating people, its true. A pig doesn't want to be eaten any more than we do! It funny though, as now our vegetarian family is faced with dealing with last spring's roosters. I know its not sustainable to keep them (and feed them), so it looks like some will end up as dog food... Ethics are hard, and despite it all, we are often faced with decisions we don't want to face.

Linda Cockburn said...

Yep Beznarf27, it's one of my big raves at the moment. I spoke at two sustainability fests about this trend to romanticise sustainability. I still have one fellows comments sitting in moderation about how it ruined his day that I didn't perpetuate the fallacy that being green is easy. I worry that too many people get into it thinking about the basket of eggs scenario and get spat out the other side covered in animal excrement and that if we hope to see long term changes it has to be a well informed, not an emotional response. Bravo to you. Now I'm going to go away and try cut my 5000 word speech down to manageable levels and post it :-)