May 18, 2006

To Be a Vegetarian

I am becoming less and less comfortable in my relationship with meat. My week is beef and pork-less for the most part, with perhaps two or three turkey/chicken main dishes thrown in, both of which are cheap and generally healthier on the whole.

My unconcious decided that it was time to ponder the situation, so I had this dream:

Long, endless conversation. So boring I cannot remember a smidge. I'm in a normal space, some anonymous room in someone's very normal, nondescript house.

A wild boar passes by, in the middle of our conversation.

Without realizing what I am doing, I pounce at once on the large, prickly animal. I beat on it with bare fists, feeling it crumple under me. With each blow it becomes smaller, less formidable, until I am man-handling a mere baby.

I wake up, feeling monstrous. It is definitely in my top ten list of worst (and weirdest) dreams.

It's not the killing of animals that bothers me. It's the way they are processed, like products instead of living, breathing animals.

Herds of cattle are prodded into curved tunnels, throats slit just around the corner, carcasses treated and pushed further down the line. Endless droves of chicks are dumped on conveyer belts, beaks burned, claws removed, doomed to spend years feeding on genetically and chemically treated grain. They are stuffed in cages, unable to move, to breed or to sleep. Functions that, like humans, they are entitled to perform as living creatures - as heirs of evolutionary history.

I understand that there are alternatives to the conventional meat industry. Companies like Whole Foods and Trader Joes provide the meat of "free range" and organically grown animals in their respective stores, but many of the products in these stores are many times the price of conventional meats, and at this point in my life, I am unable to afford these products.

So conventional products end up in my fridge, and I have to forget the suffering that went into my chicken breast.

Which brings me to the alternative: vegetarianism.

It wouldn't be too much of a switch. My family would raise a collective brow (Italians like their pork) and Western Maryland is not exactly conducive to the lifestyle, but something needs to change. I don't like feeling like a hypocrite (too much, anyway), and I will have to change my habits long before the conventional meat industry changes theirs.

With Vegetarianism, I'm still up in the air. With the meat industry, I am not. But, finals week is not the best time for a major life overhaul. Maybe next week I'll decide whether or not a diet without meat is the type of lifestyle that suits me best.


  1. Hello,

    What a wierd yet vivid dream with such detail.

    Converting to a vegetarian is a unsustainable choice, at least to me. However, do free-ranged chicken fare better fate? I deeply doubt.

    Anyway, thanks for stumbling into my blog and commenting on it. I am grateful.

    If possible, please add my blog to your list of blog, as I would do the same.

    Good luck to your finals.

  2. I hear you about your family raising an eyebrow to vegetarianism.

    I'm also Italian, and during my years as a pescatarian, my family just couldn't grasp the concept of me not wanting to eat meat. My Dad (bless him!) would often sneak a little bit of pork into his pasta sauces... you know, "for a bit of flavour".

    I have now lapsed back into my meat-eating ways now (blame some Italian salame...), but every time I see news items about calves being packed in trucks to be shipped across Europe or mass cullings of chickens due to the threat of bird flu etc... I feel ashamed that I contribute to the success of the meat industry.

  3. Thank you both for your comments.

    xun: Sustainability is definitely an issue with vegetarianism. Your point is well-taken; animals are still products and the treatment difference may be marginal. But I feel that the free-range movement is a step in the right direction.

    red: Being Italian is a blessing and curse, eh? :-) Your dad sounds like my mom. They mean well. Pork is the foundation of the food pyramid.

  4. Check this out

    It's not a final solution to all the world's troubles but it's a step in the direction that it sounds like you want to take.