I did a challenge a few months ago to see if I could go vegetarian for a month. It wasn't really that hard, since I've never been a big meat eater. I do have some major weaknesses, like chicken shwarma, hotdogs (I know.), and ham sandwiches. I thought after going vegetarian for a month, it would make me totally repulsed to all meat, but I was surprised at how easily I went back to my old habits.
I was at the bookstore two months ago, and I was flipping through Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. I stumbled across a sentence that said pointed out how easy it is to agree with vegetarianism, but how also easy it is to justify eating meat when you really want to.
I felt that it caught my hypocrisy so well, and it made me feel uncomfortable. How could I be vehemently against "conventional" meat from factory farms, owned by huge companies with very little regard of animal or human welfare, but then cave every time a mini quiche lorraine is passed in front of me?
It's not that I'm against eating animals in principle - My background is in ecology; I get the food chain. But I also get the ethical and environmental issues. I'm not going to tell you why I'm a vegetarian now; I think deep inside, almost everyone knows why it's "bad" to eat meat. I think we all know of the suffering, but we all choose to be in total denial about it. Why? I think it's because it tastes so good. Come on, people - bacon? Smoked salmon? A nice big slab of filet mignon? I would gobble all of this up any day; it tastes amazing. We love meat, and it's a part of our culture. We don't like it when people tell us that enjoying this is wrong.
I don't want to be one of those pretenious "meat is murder!" screaming vegetarians, but I don't think I can be in denial anymore. I have a friend who considers herself a "happyterian" - as in, she will only eat animals that were happy during their lives until they were killed. I like this idea, and it's inspired me to be an ethiterian. I only want to eat ethically raised meat and seafood. But how do I know that what I'm eating is ethically raised?
For seafood (I love smoked salmon), it's getting easier to know. I look for Marine Stewardship Council certified products, which is guaranteed by a third party to be from a sustainable fishery. You can also use the Seafood Watch app put out by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which will suggest what species are more sustainable. It's pretty cool and useful if you eat a lot of fish - it also has a list of sushi recommendations or what to avoid.
What about chicken, pork, and beef? How do I know if it was ethically raised or not? Well, I feel pretty certain that anything that comes from a supermarket was from a factory farm, unless it specifically says otherwise. I've decided to stick to farms or small stores that I trust, which is now is mostly friends' farms. It hasn't been too accessible so far - which is why I haven't eaten meat in two months. Hopefully this will improve as more people get into small, sustainable farms and grocery stores offer more of these products.
I'm also okay with hunting, and one day I would like to hunt my own meat. I'm not sure if I could actually do it... I imagine the scene going: BANG! and then I burst into tears and cry all day. I think it's important for me to do this one day, but until then I'm relying on the hunting skills of my family members (like my cousin's excellent Christmas present to me).
I think ideally, if you eat meat, you should be okay with the whole process, not just the steaming steak on your plate. Maybe one day we'll be able to assume that all of the meat at the grocery store is sustainable, unless it says otherwise.
I'm an eco-conscious girl from Montreal, Quebec. I'm currently an adjunct science professor at Champlain College of Vermont (Montreal Campus). I'm interested in any opportunities to expand my experience with grassroots activism, climate change legislation, or environmental education.