When I was three or four years old, living on a horse farm, we had a chicken who followed me around everywhere.  I talked to her, she talked back.  She was a friend.

I don’t know what happened to her.  I don’t think my parents slit her throat and cooked her, though they may have.  All I know is that it was another ten years or so when, as a teenager, I thought: “Hey, why am I eating animals? I like animals and I do not need to eat them to be healthy.”

This is the part where maybe you, gentle reader, tune out:  Oh, yeah, vegetarianism, blah blah.  Good for her.  Not my choice.

Humor me. You may want to rethink the concept choice.

I became a vegetarian teenager.   For a few years, I still dabbled, sometimes caving to social pressure, occasionally eating chicken or fish, under the impression that somehow this was better (it’s not, the practices for factory farming birds and fish are, if anything, WORSE than those for farming cows and 99% of the animals we eat are factory farmed. Family farms are just about completely extinct.)

Over the past week, I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s extraordinary Eating Animals and Catskill Animal Sanctuary founder Kathy Stevens’ lovely book Animal Camp.

Also, my friend Laura the Hot Farmer killed one of her pigs and ate him.

I’ve been bordering on vegan for years, but now I’m over the border: Officially Vegan.

It wasn’t the Facebook picture of Laura’s pig’s HEAD (a pig I had met)  on a table that did it.

It wasn’t reading and taking in (in a way I’d never before taken in) the brutal and hideous facts of factory farming, transport and slaughter.

It wasn’t even reading the tender stories, in  Animal Camp, of chickens befriending pigs befriending horses befriending sheep and ALL befriending people.  It was the realization that I know damn well that even “organic” store-bought eggs come from creatures that have suffered unnecessarily.   Why was I contributing to this?

I can do better.

The weather is wonky.  Climate change is real.   We are all spooked.

FACT: Factory farming “emissions” contribute more to global warming than all fuel emissions combined. Why don’t we talk about that?

FACT: We are killing the earth, and ourselves, in order to grow cheap meat.

This is how “farms” dispose of their toxic mix of shit, blood and ground-up diseased animals:

“….sometimes they simply spray it straight up into the air, a geyser of shit  wafting fine fecal mists that create swirling gases capable of causing severe neurological damage.  Communities living near these factory farms complain about problems with persistent nosebleeds, earaches, chronic diarrhea, and burning lungs.  Even when the citizens have managed to pass laws that would restrict these practices, the industry’s immense influence in government means the regulations are often nullified or go unenforced.”

My friend Jody Sigler recently sent me a photo of a sign for ROADSIDE MEAT.  A stand, in Tennessee, selling steaks.  20 for $25.  Accepting food stamps too!

As gross as the concept of a roadside meat stand is to many of us, it’s probably no worse than the meat or even the eggs and cheese we buy at the store.

Every week…millions of chickens leaking yellow pus, stained by green feces, contaminated by harmful bacteria, or marred by lung and heart infections, cancerous tumors, or skin conditions are shipped for sale to consumers….how good could a drug-stuffed, disease ridden, shit-contaminated animal possibly taste? – but the birds will be injected with “broths” and salty solutions to give them what we have come to think of as the chicken look, smell, and taste…

It would be healthier for us — and for the earth — to eat roadkill or our own dogs and cats than to eat the meat and dairy sold in grocery stores.  Even high-end ones.  Even “organic” ones.

When I was young and the Smiths’ album MEAT IS MURDER came out, I was already a veg, but, still, I thought “Wow, that’s a pretty strident title.”

Also, when I used to take class at Jivamukti Yoga in the city, co-founders David and Sharon would often launch into jeremiads against eating animals.  I would think: “Aren’t they preaching to the converted?  Who the hell eats meat and goes to yoga?”

I was a naïve idiot.  The answer is: A LOT OF PEOPLE.

Because we think we have to to survive.  This idea (and it is just that, an idea, not a fact) had been shoved down our throats by politically powerful corporations and by the USDA.

“…our nation gets its federally endorsed nutritional information from an agency (the USDA) that must support the food industry, which today means supporting factory farms.  The details of misinformation that dribble into our lives (like fears about “enough protein”) follow naturally from this fact…”

Doctors and nutritionists often go by guidelines issued by the USDA.  This is NOT science.  These are statistics issued by an agency with an enormous conflict of interest.

I used to be vaguely apologetic about being vegetarian. Screw that.

Laying hens,  even so-called “free range” or “organic” ones, do NOT lead good lives and their deaths are unspeakably brutal.

All meat sold to the public (including “organic” “grass fed” “free range”) has to be killed in a USDA slaughterhouse.

Underpaid slaughterhouse workers become desensitized and sometimes sadistic.

They piss on dying or dead animals.  They poke them in the eyes, anus and mouth with electric prods.  They beat them with steels pipes. They saw off animals’ limbs while the animals are still alive, their eyes rolling in their heads.

All this has been documented. No. NOT by animal rights extremists.  By USDA inspectors who have WARNED the facilities in advance that they are coming for an inspection. 

Even if a person only eats animals from one of the very few surviving family farms in this world, the animals still have to be transported and slaughtered in a USDA plant.

We do not need meat or dairy or eggs to survive and thrive. Many many centuries ago, in certain climates, eating animals was the only way for humans to survive.  But these animals weren’t grown in cages or skinned alive or pissed on or prodded.  They lived the (sometimes brutal but FAIR) lives animals live in nature  –and then were hunted and killed.

My friend Laura’s pig got to live a natural pig life during its brief time on earth. This is her thoughtful blog post about it.  The pig lived free of drugs, he hung out with other pigs, rolled around in the mud and had shelter, sunshine, good food and the respect of the humans who eventually swiftly killed him.

Raising one’s own animals (and killing them quickly and without fear) is the only ethically viable (and earth-friendly) way to eat them. People say “I dont’ want to think about that.”  Then they shouldn’t eat that.  I respect Laura and people like Laura.  They are eating consciously.  It’s not something I would choose, but it is the only healthy way to eat animals.  If everyone suddenly STOPPED eating factory products and ONLY ate vegan or the animal products from the very few remaining family farms, corporations and  government would get the message.

I have recommended reading Eating Animals to others.  They all shake their heads and say, No thanks.

What are people afraid of?  Becoming vegetarian?  It frees us of the dominion of profoundly immoral corporations, improves our health and the health of the planet, and ends the pointless torture of BILLIONS of living creatures. It is US who are being factory farmed.  By corporations that have horrifying political power.  We have the power to put them out of business.

One final quote from Eating Animals (all quotes in this post are from Eating Animals.)  This is from Frank Reese, the self-titled Last Poultry Farmer, who raises his animals free range, on a species-appropriate diet AND supervises the animals’ deaths in the LAST small, and Actually Humane slaughterhouse.  The final two sentences sum up my feelings exactly.

“People care about animals.  I believe that.  They just don’t want to know or to pay.  A fourth of all chickens have stress fractures.  It’s wrong.  They’re packed body to body and can’t escape their waste and never see the sun.  Their nails grow around the bars of their cages.  It’s wrong.  They feel their slaughter.  It’s wrong, and people know it’s wrong.  They don’t need to be convinced. They just have to act differently.  I’m not better than anyone, and I’m not trying to convince people to live by my standards of what’s right.  I’m trying to convince them to live by their own.”






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