Meat

These days I quite often describe myself as a “recovering vegetarian”. This started mostly as a joke, but as of late I realise that I am being perfectly serious. I was once a vegetarian, and now I am finally getting over it. Thankfully.

I became vegetarian for many reasons. The main one, I admit, was probably getting a girlfriend who was vegetarian. As Samuel Jackson says in Pulp Fiction “My girlfriend’s a vegetarian, and that pretty much makes me a vegetarian too.” It was also due to an acute sense of environmental panic, starting in my teenage years, and probably an eye for what was currently fashionable in the area of fads.

But as I looked into this previously unsuspected moral labyrinth, I found many reasons to defend the avoiding of meat. And, let me tell you, from a moral, ethical, and environmental perspective in our resource-pressed world, it is tricky indeed to defeat a well-informed vegetarian in a factual argument. Really, it is.

But defeat them you can. Try asking them how we will provide fertilizer for their vegetarian crops if we don’t have farm animals to provide shit. Try asking how many small burrowing animals get killed by the soy bean harvest. And ask them if it is a good idea health-wise for omnivores to live on highly processed factory food, like those awful quorn and soya-meat things. (And no, they DON’T taste like the “real thing” so you can shut up about that right now.)

And finally ask them if we really want our ancient and proud food cultures to disappear because a few people, most of whom have never been near a farm, and most of them fundamentalists of one sort or another, get queasy when they think about killing animals who are not people, never will be people, and are in fact nothing at all like people?

Of course, eating too much meat (and by this I mean more than a few times a week) is damaging for the environment. Although most of this damage comes from our ridiculous industrial farming practices and not from the actual meat-eating itself, which is part of an elegant and perfect closed system of sunlight-food-fertiliser. Plus there is the fact that a lot of marginal land can never be used for anything other than raising animals.

This week saw the final burning of my vegetarian bridges with my introduction to the exciting world of raw meet. I was presented with a steak tartare and I wolfed it down with a silly grin. It was excellent and I mentally slapped myself on the forehead for having missed out on stuff like this for so long. What the hell was I thinking?

And here is the thing: I love meat. I bloody love it. And as I seriously and whole-heartedly re-enter the realm of the red stuff after too many years skulking on the outskirts, I am excited beyond belief. There is so much out there to try, so many astounding ways to put food together, and leaving meat out of the equation is like taking a blind guy to a 3D movie, or playing chess with David Beckham.

To be fair, I have been to Cafe Paradiso in Cork, one of Europe’s best vegetarian restaurants, and it was sublime. Good food can be made from most things, but excluding things on principal alone is no longer something I intend to do (unless the thing itself is endangered or very very boring).

So I have decided that I will eat anything, anything at all, which is considered to be food by somebody, somewhere. Grasshopper enchiladas, roasted gerbil, squirrel pancakes, dog in a basket. Whatever – just bring it on.

I must add that I know many nice vegetarians, just as I know many nice Christians and Macintosh users, 2 other philosophies I view with deep suspicion. But I am of the opinion that the philosophy and the person are different things, and that a person can disagree with me on a lot (although not everything) and still be an important friend. And I must say that I am very suspicious of people who have not updated their views of life as they grew older and learned more, since that is what living is all about.

But back to me. What I would like is to get meat that was treated properly. Not organic meat, because that’s just a load of old wank designed to get a higher price. What I am after is meat from animals that lived well and died quickly. This can indeed be found but I will admit to occasional laziness and just grab whatever is available at the local ICA.

The ideal would be to have my own animals and eat them, but that will have to wait, since I currently live in a city. But I think that hunting might be a good option – painlessly kill some animal that has lived its life outdoors, plus get to wear a kinky hat and swagger around with a gun at the same time. And what could be better than that?

Meat isn’t murder. It’s dinner. And maybe even dessert.

/ paddy

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29 thoughts on “Meat

  1. The line about David Beckham made me LOL. Did you hear that his library was ravaged by fire recently? Both books were lost, and he hadn’t even finished colouring in one of them, poor lad :-(.

  2. Jag var vegan ett par år i tonåren men efter hand som vegan/vegetarianerna blev mer och mer militanta och blodvärdet sjönk bestämde jag mig för att äta kött igen.
    Det är dock svårt att få tag på bra kött som har hängt tillräckligt länge, det är ofta segt och trådigt. Såg ett program på TV, “Smakbitar” tror jag att det hette, där det bl.a skrevs om ett alldeles speciellt kött som har hängt upp till 2 månader och kostar drygt 900 kr/kg. Det fanns en billigare variant som hängt 4 veckor och det kostar bara drygt 450 kr/kg. Finns att köpa i någon fin saluhall i Stockholm men vilka har egentligen råd att köpa detta kött regelbundet?
    Biff Tartar är mycket gott, men det håller inte maken med om.

  3. I became a vegetarian because of the environmental impact. You didn’t offer any argument to the high relative land and water use of livestock, nor for the much higher carbon emissions. No such argument exists.

    You wrote:

    I am very suspicious of people who have not updated their views of life as they grew older and learned more, since that is what living is all about.

    You are overgeneralizing here. Vegetarians can learn and expand their horizons while remaining vegetarians. If growth as a human being is just about becoming more average, then it is not as desirable as you try to make it sound.

    The comparison to Christians (or any of the religious) is not apt; most Christians are indoctrinated as children and intellectually bullied into faith, whereas most vegetarians make the choice to alter their diet and lifestyle. You can’t compare religious faith to a choice made based on fact.

  4. Ben:

    Good, an argument!

    I agree, and I even said so – modern farming is environmentally damaging. But there are some situations where being omnivorous has less environmental impact. Not many these days in the rich west, but quite many in rural areas of the world.

    And I must ask: have you stopped driving a car because of environmental impact? Do you still fly on airlines? Do you use electricity from nuclear power stations?

    “If growth as a human being is just about becoming more average, then it is not as desirable as you try to make it sound.”. Good point.

    And while the Christian analogy is not quite fair – being vegetarian is often a matter of peer pressure, of fitting into a group.

    And you say: “You can’t compare religious faith to a choice made based on fact.” but is it based on fact, and on whose facts? And how well have you researched those facts? I think in many situations an omnivorous diet (admittedly largely vegetarian) can be the least damaging.

  5. Pat, my friend – I can on no level agree with you although I respect your choice to eat meat or not…

    Meat production is damaging on so many levels: the transportation of meat alone accounts for about 30% of carbon dioxide emissions in the world. Huge swathes of rainforest are being cut down for grazing land for animals – and that is only making global warming worse… not too mention methane emissions from farting cows!

    For me, the ethical aspect is the worst part of it! That two kilos of grain that a cow needs to produce one kilo of meat (that can only be afforded by rich people) could feed a family of four in a poor country. Wipe out world hunger first and then talk to me about saying meat is OK.

    Being veggie is a matter of peer pressure? Not very often! In fact, I have met so much resistance after becoming one so I would say the opposite is true. Even from trained nurses at the BVC, who ask me if I know what I am doing as my kids are also vegetarian… Am I starving the poor dears, they would ask?

    As for asking if we vegetarians have given up cars, flying etc… That’s sheer hypocrisy!! Have you? NO! AND you are eating meat which only means a further negative impact on the environment. And giving up cars, flying etc. has got NOTHING to do with eating meat or not when people have decided to abstain for other reasons: religious, ethical etc.

    You sound as if you are suffering from Catholic guilt and want to defend (overly much) your choice to eat meat. Who are you trying to convince? Sounds as if you are not yet fully convinced that eating meat really is OK….

    If you want to eat meat – fine! But don’t go giving us Mac-using vegetarians a hard time of it too!

  6. Lady Fi: I can always depend on a good thrashing from you!

    Some of your points are good, but not all. Huge swathes of rainforest are also being cut down to grow sugar beet for bio-ethanol, which uses fossil fuels as fertiliser and must be refined and transported.

    Growing non-meat food also uses energy and produces CO2 – most veggies you buy in the shops are fertilised with lots of fossil fuels, transported far and very often thrown away. And you might argue that it is the WAY in which the food is produced that is important with respect to emissions. But I can argue the same for meat. Locally produced, grass-fed meat on land unsuitable for crops is a very efficient way to eat, and is a closed cycle, and actually improves the land if done right.

    And you did not address any of my points about why vegetarianism is not as good as people claim. (Fertiliser, animals killed in harvests etc.).

    However I KNOW that industrially farmed food is bad. But meat raising has the POTENTIAL to be extremely environmentally benign, if done in the right way, and is therefore an integral part of a global solution, It cannot be brushed off by repeating sweeping eco-propaganda.

    And anyway, it is a waste of time trying to adapt people to your wishes – change will only happen in working with people’s natures, and not against them. So simply saying “meat is bad” and wiping your hands of all responsibility is not good enough. Idealistic standpoints do not fix problems, they just push them forward, or onto somebody else.

  7. I think Lady Fi highlighted one good issue -the devastation from transport, but it’s a problem for both meat and crops.

    Why do you keep cattle in Holland for instance, (where the lack of land keep animals in small farms without proper pasture) when you have many empty hectares of land in the Scandinavian countries. And why do you try to grow things in huge greenhouses that should be grown in very warm countries. Sweden can never be France even though we aspire to produce our own wine. And what about those artificial green apples (which are very tasty) in Austria or Holland!

    I think most of the cattle in the EU should be kept in Scandinavia and most of the production of oranges, salad etc. based in Italy etc. And when you transport the meat to Italy from Sweden you should bring the vegetables back in the same truck or train. A good logistic solution!

    And I want to address vegetarians that blame the meat producers for environmental destruction – don’t fly! – And dont subscribe to “Ekolådan” ( a box with vegetables, fruit and juice that is delivered to your door every week by a company) the juice and many vegetables are from Germany!

    To Paddy´s argument. You don’t necessarily need poo from animals as dung. I think the poo from humans is outstanding!

    And it doesn’t matter if animals are not like us, they are still worth to protect and care for. But where do we draw the line? I think many vegetarians don’t like rats in the city and cockroaches in the kitchens, do they?

    And one thing I still wanna know: Do vegetarians and vegans swallow sperm?

    And to Ben! Has a child who has grown up with vegetarian parents actually had a choice? My friend grow up with not eating meat and even though she has tried and liked it then, her systems can’t keep it.

    What about genetic manipulation? Can we ever defend it? In some African countries, it’s the only crop that can survive and thus provide food. And also a land needs to export thing to survive and people must be able to transport themselves in the name of democracy. So can we be equal and still protect other’s rights and reserve our own and preserve the Earth? I’m very confused myself.

  8. Yes, I do like to give out a good thrashing now and then! ;-)

    Paddy – you have some good points. But what about the ethical aspect of so much grain being used to produce such a small amount of meat – when there are so many hungry people in the world?

    I went veggie in the 1980s while living in a poor part of China. I was literally shocked into it after a year of being really really hungry (so hungry that I obsessed about food and dreamt about it and wrote about it incessantly) . The people in my little pocket of China (where I spent three years as a VSO volunteer) ate as much meat in a year as I saw on a dinner table during ONE meal back home. Since then, I just haven’t been able to get over the unfairness of it all – food ethics stinks – and I cannot defend eating meat while this imbalance remains in the world.

    And H: what is your point about vegetarian kids not having a choice??? Do meat-eating kids get a choice (not to eat meat)??? No – didn’t think so! Look – I don’t go around harrassing meat-eating parents about the fact that they give their kids meat… So, why do people always always always feel the need to harrass vegetarian parents about not giving meat.

    GRRRRR!

  9. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR yourself! Well being a vegetarian is an active statement. I think a primitive human eats what is there for them, if it doesn’t kill them and makes them survive. And why I mentioned my friend was that his body couldn’t process meat since his system rejected it but a meat eater can easily adapt themselves to not eating meat, although maybe not a very skinny person.

    And yes, kids who have been exposed to meat DO get a choice! Of course they do! They can choose to stop when they understand the arguments. But by putting kids off meat and never let them see it as food, you are deciding their future behaviour based on your own beliefs. And this is not fair. No matter what defence you have or think you have.

    It is not about not giving the kids meat, because a vegetarian diet can be just as healthy (or unhealthy) as a meat diet. It’s about taking away all their future options in the area of food, and even travel and in culture. And THAT is not fair. You had the option to choose, but their options are now much harder.

    (It is by the way easier to stop something than start something you are not use to. It is more common in referendums, for example, to vote no than yes).

    You mentioned China – what about Siberia and other north parts in the world where not much can grow and meat is everything. Eskimos for instance can survive without vitamin C due to their diet. So poor them, not having any juicy apples!!!! And here is a food imbalance like you mention – they eat much more meat than us, but they do less damage to the environment.

    When I was travelling in India I ate mostly delicious vegetarian dishes, the supply was excellent and many people there are vegetarians because they can’t afford meat. But as I said they don’t suffer as much as a person in North Russia would do living on only vegetables.

    In Russia and many parts meat is very important and until 10 years ago there were not much fruits except apples, and then very expensive. So their choice at that time was cabbage, onion and carrots. So when I worked there I missed lots of stuff but I didn’t stop eating fresh pineapples when I got back to Sweden.

    And it’s still a question of transport again. If we have to import all nice veg. stuff, it’s not good for the environment to produce corn and stuff. It’s also very energy consuming (although so are sausages, I admit). Making food locally is the best, and then meat or veg doesn’t matter from an environment standpoint.

  10. I see you people are all getting along. That’s nice.

    I have some questions for LadyFi:

    1) Is eating your own grass-raised animals more or less harmful than eating veg and grains?

    2) Is it reasonable that the whole world could follow a vegetarian diet?

    3) Would the world be worse or better without farm animals?

    4) Can we force our own ethical system on others?

    5) Does a western person not eating meat mean that more meat is available in poor countries?

    6) Would it not be better to demand local, natural, grass-raised meat instead of avoiding it completely? Which one makes conditions better for living animals?

    Take your time now, I’ve got all day…

  11. Well what a coincidence. An online friend of mine recently organized the meat feast of a lifetime. For your consideration, here’s a list of everything the guests ate:

    1. Rabbit rubbed with Thai red curry paste
    2. Crocodile tail with lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce, and mint
    3. Rack of pork ribs with Kansas City barbecue sauce
    4. Spatchcocked pheasant with rosemary and bacon
    5. Goat chops, Xinjiang style with cumin and chilli
    6. Teriyaki chicken heart skewers
    7. Wild boar and apple sausages
    8. Ostrich biltong
    9. Springbok biltong
    10. Bison burger hors d’ouvres with cactus strips
    11. Vietnamese style frog legs
    12. Honey barbecue turkey breast
    13. Kangaroo burgers
    14. Wood pigeon breasts
    15. Venison and redcurrant burgers
    16. Zebra steak
    17. Algerian merguez lamb sausages
    18. Duck breast with malted rice vinegar, blackcurrant squash, Sichuan peppercorn, and ginger marinade
    19. Kudu haunch steak
    20. Garlic stuffed quails
    21. Wildebeest burgers
    22. Irish beef steaks
    23. Potatoes roasted in goose fat with herbes de provence
    24. Peri-peri guinea fowl supremes
    25. Spatchcocked partridge flattened under a hot brick
    26. Horse steak

  12. Yes – I see that we are all cozying up and making new friends! :-)

    I love a good debate, don’t you? But the bottom line, folks, is this: live and let live. I don’t harrass you for your choices and am certainly NOT trying to foist my way of life onto you. Just pointing out a few things along the way – is that not the whole point of writing a controversial blog in the first place? I’m entitled to my opinion and you guys are entitled to yours. And I certainly do not have to – nor do I intend to – defend how I raise my kids. Full stop. That’s my business – not yours. Eating meat is the ‘norm’ in many cultures – but in others it is not the norm… So don’t try to make me conform to your norm and I will return the favour.

    Paddy – some answers. Yet again, there is no clear black and white here but a messy grey zone:

    1. Eating your own home-grown veg and grain would be less harmful – uses less water for a start and no transport costs. However, eating your own grass-raised animals is less harmful than eating imported bananas, say. Much better to buy locally-produced fruit, veg or meat…

    2. No. But it is not any more reasonable to expect everyone to follow a meat diet either. Again – respect other people’s opinions… and agree to disagree.

    3. We would still need farm animals for milk, eggs etc… However, as someone else pointed out – we could still use human poo if needs be.

    4. No. So quit bashing me with your ethical systems, dear readers! ;-)

    5. Unfortunately not. That’s why food production and ethics stink! We need governments to react and new structures in place to stop hunger… However, I still choose to make a small declaration each day on a tiny, micro personal level.

    6. Absolutely the best way to go. Natural grass-raised animals that are killed swiftly and humanely without any yukky drugs and adrenalin pumping round their bodies, and without being stuffed full of weird food while they are alive. I’m all for that! Then it’s up to each individual as to whether they want to eat this natural meat or not…

  13. LadyFi: To cut to the chase: industrial meat raising is very harmful. We eat too much meat today. And as I said, the harm comes from the system of production and not from the practise itself. However, a global vegetarian diet is unsustainable too.

    Of course grain-raised animals are bad – but grass-raised, done in the right way, run basically on sunlight and enrich the soil as they live. And our soil in the future, when oil (and thus artificial fertiliser) gets scarcer, is going to need a LOT of enriching if we are to feed ourselves, whether it is with meat or veg or gains.

    The natural small-scale farm only works with input from farm animals, so if you want to bring “natural” into the equation, then this is the way to go for humans. Althouh impractical for most of us.

    So as it stands eating less meat is less damaging, thanks to today’s system of agriculture. But not raising meat animals at all is actually worse.

    Homework: go read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” for a truly mind blowing account of global food production, plus a balanced discussion on the ethics of eating meat or not.

  14. This post has to have the longest comments ever. I’m just gonna say that I’m part (spelled party at first, woot) vegetarian because it makes me feel better and because I’m not really longing for red meat ever. Chicken and fish I enjoy when I’m not too lazy to cook it, and the random grilled hotdog.

    People ask me a lot if I’m vegetarian when I cook stuff that doesn’t contain meat, generally it’s either meat -or- veggie food. So I’m borderlining vegetarian without the moral aspects, I just totally go with taste and how my tummy feels.

  15. Er.. I think that we agree, Paddy, that grass-raised animals is the way to go. I have never suggested that we get rid of farm animals – but that still doesn’t mean I want to eat the damn stuff!

    As someone once said: One man’s meat is another woman’s poison…

  16. Typcial Sweden-everything has to be so fckn consensus all the time. You can be great freinds with different opinions, you know. In Sweden you cant end up a conversation without consensus, then you have a enemy or a big conflict atleast. So you have lots of meeting and everybody thinks its because the can influence and in all meetings or debates there got to be consensus so people can reach a common desicion.

  17. H: Well I’m afraid I don’t agree with you on this. Or, in fact, with any of the other people. It’s my blog, not a bloody democracy. OK? Now somebody go make some coffee.

  18. LOL H! How I recognize this ‘you cannot leave this meeting until you have agreed’ environment here in Sweden. I’m a bolshy Brit – in case you hadn’t guessed – so have never felt the need to agree with anyone on anything. But since living here, I can at least agree to disagree.. although, of course, I’m always right! ;-)

  19. LadyFi: You can be right on days that begin with “T”.

    SirPe: Take note of previous sentence.

    OR Melling: Nope, because humans are not animals. Plus it’s probably illegal. And we have moral taboos against it. Plus humans probably taste of vodka and ciggies.

  20. OR Melling Says:
    > Hmm, would you omnivores eat human if it was on the menu?

    Yes, certainly! If it is in the right context. After all, there are several science fiction novels about people taking samples of human meat (in humane amounts, and under local anaesthetics), growing the meat in vats, and then using it as high quality food.

    And why not, since human meat is the meat best suited for human needs, does not create a lot of bovine slavery camps, and lastly but not leastly – it’s yummy!

    cheers!

    /Rolf (rapidly wolfing down my second pizza in ten minutes)

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