Things here are in turmoil. The healthy eating was derailed by Christmas and I’m struggling to get that back.
I have separated from my husband and he is no longer living with us. That requires multiple posts all of its own, but it’s not something I feel comfortable sharing to an audience that might or might not include people I know that might or might not take the trouble to speak to me about it. Sigh.
Those things aside, what prompted this post today was that I have recently watched two documentaries:
I have always been the first person to put my hand up and state that I would never become vegan. Isn’t it funny how knowledge can change things so quickly?
Here are some things I have (shamefully) said about veganism (who have always been viewed with slight suspicion by all us happy meat eaters and vegetarians):
Why anyone would chose to eat vegan is beyond me – we clearly need B12 so why eat a diet that excludes it?
The thing with this comment is that I can see I was only thinking about one person. Me. I need B12, so I should therefore at least be vegetarian. I never really connected with the principle behind veganism – i.e. it is a sustainable way to feed a planet of 7 billion people. The horrors of the meat and dairy industry are indescribable in a blog post. Out of the two documentaries above, Earthlings is by far the harder one to watch. In fact, I didn’t actually watch a great deal of scenes because they were so utterly distressing. Cowspiracy, on the other hand is easy to watch (mostly), but is a total revelation. The utter destruction of our planet caused by agribusiness is literally beyond belief. There might be 7 billion people, but there are 70 billion cows. Do you know what happens to all the cow poo? Vast areas of dead zones, massive ocean pollution. The farming land required is destroying rainforests and other eco-systems. 51% of carbon emissions come from agribusiness. I have, just like the maker of Cowspiracy, been doing my bit by recycling and choosing green products, with no idea that just choosing not to eat meat in one meal probably beats all my other efforts for the week. As someone who cares about our planet, I had no idea that farming was causing so much devastation.
I only buy high welfare meat.
This is one I have said for years. I actually wouldn’t touch the cheap stuff in the supermarkets – I know how disgusting intensive farming is. However, firstly, there is not enough land on our planet to feed high welfare meat to every human. Secondly, high welfare meat still goes to the slaughterhouse, and what happens at the slaughterhouse is horrific. I always thought cruelty videos and dreadful conditions were from far off places in the States. Animal Aid is a UK charity and they have been running undercover operations in slaughterhouses for many years. If you want to know more about our ‘nice’ UK abattoirs, you can read more here (tmi warning). Also, even in slaughterhouses that are well run, the margin of error for “humane” stunning and death is large. Horror-movie scenes that cause workers to be signed off with depression are a daily fact. Thirdly, even organic animals receive dozens of vaccinations soon after birth. Parents are concerned about giving their children a handful of vaccines in childhood, but if you feed your children organic meat, they are ingesting trace levels of vaccinations every time they eat.
I don’t know why vegans don’t wear leather – it’s a by-product from all the meat that would go to waste otherwise.
This one truly shows my ignorance and misunderstanding. It turns out that the demand for leather is greater than the demand for meat. So much for thinking I was just buying something that would go to waste otherwise.
I only buy organic, free range eggs
Again, I thought I was doing great here. Sadly, there is no part of the provision of food for billions of humans that is “kind”. Male chickens from egg layers (even organic ones) are killed after hatching because they are of no use. They can’t lay eggs and they grow too slowly for food. Fast growth is imperative, because the demand for meat is so huge. In the UK chicken sexers are paid £40,000 a year. They sort of the males from the females and the males are frozen for pet food, or macerated alive. Millions of them.
I could never give up cheese!
To be honest, I think I still think this. But I am also carrying knowledge of what the farming industry has to do to supply the world with it’s cheese, cream, milk and ice-cream. Dairy cows have their calves taken away (what do they feed the calves? I don’t know if I want to learn any more), and are milked relentlessly. They are artificially inseminated to cause recurring pregnancy so the cycle can be repeated. After around 3 or 4 rounds of this, the cows become so weak and milk production starts to fail (all mums who have breastfed will know how much demand it places on your body). They die years before their natural lifespan. And even at the most well run farms, collapsed dairy cows can only be moved with farm machinery – in the jaws of a digger, or dragged by rope with a truck/tractor. Can you even imagine someone doing this to human slaves? Repeatedly making them pregnant? Expressing until they produced maximum milk? Trucking them to the crematorium when they collapsed? Sigh. It makes me, as a mother, so very sad. Who are we to treat animals this way just so we can have milk on our cereal? Why are we allowed to do this? (Also, did you know that artificial insemination is a skill that requires practice? The people that do this are allowed to practice on female cows at the slaughterhouse. Because the cows are going to die, it’s okay to violate them just beforehand.)
The demand for meat and dairy is so enormous, and the profits are so massive, that we have moved from traditional farming to ever more high-tech and intensive methods to generate the goods.
And in doing so we treat animals like a commodity. We forget that they feel pain, fear and attachment to their young.
They are, in the industry, an inconvenience for being alive in the first place.
And then the industry works very, very hard to conceal anything distasteful. Happy chicken pictures on packaging. Cows in fields. Sanitised, homogenised, standardised, dyed products that do not “remind” us of the transition from alive to dead.
How many of us would kill an animal in our own garden in order to eat it?
So what now?
I apologies if this post sounds preachy. It’s not my intention to lecture anyone on their choices. I have been choosing to eat meat and dairy for most of my life.
For me, personally, my opinion has been changed. I have always looked at diet and nutrition from a selfish perspective – what’s best for me? I can’t believe I didn’t know before about the impact my choices have on the planet, and on the animals themselves.
We have a fair amount of meat and milk in the house. My children eat it and always have. I have no idea where to even start. But I do have to start somewhere, because to be honest the thought of now consuming meat and dairy makes me feel faintly queasy.