Why I’m no longer strictly-vegetarian: A blog on ethical eating

For eight years, I didn’t eat a touch of meat. Not an ounce of animal flesh passed through these sometimes-black-painted lips, aside from the occasional bit of sustainable seafood — and only then, my choice in seafood was (and still is, and shall forever remain) based in sustainability. When choosing seafood, I always refer to my “pocket seafood guide” provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium (for information on getting your own free pocket guides to which seafood is sustainable and what is not, please visit http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/download.aspx to print them out or click on “order large quantities” to order 10 or more pre-printed copies for yourself and friends).

As mentioned above, the key to eating ethically (which has always been my focus) is to choose food wisely, whether plant or animal. Save seafood, I didn’t eat meat (and certainly proselytized vegetarianism) for reasons of ethics and morality. I still, and will always, be concerned with animal rights and the ethics of things we consume — food product or otherwise. Every dollar we spend is akin to casting a vote.

When my Coven proposed butchering half a pig last Autumn (free-range, from a local farmer) with the help of some of our community elders who were to partake in the other half, my stomach churned. At the time, I couldn’t imagine eating meat: it was unethical and immoral. After talking to ecologists, browsing certain articles online, and after reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, I realize that the ethics of eating are not as black-or-white as “veg vs. non-veg.” It’s much more complicated; there are numerous dimensions and factors to consider. The production of the food, the way in which the product is treated, genetic modification of plants and animals (GMO), carbon footprint, effects on the environment (devastation vs. conservation), and one’s surrounding agricultural cycle are of extreme significance.

It’s true that our ancestors ate meat. It’s a good point. BUT, that meat was not factory-farmed, so it’s not a valid argument for those who eat unsustainable meat. Our ancestors, as well as other cultures across the globe who live in tune with nature, valued and understood meat to be the flesh of sentient, conscious creatures. Our ancestors ate seasonally: more wild game and root vegetables in the cold season, and more fish, fruits, and veggies in the warm season. I recommend taking a page from their book! If we’re going to eat meat, I believe it should be in alignment with our local environment and agricultural cycle. I live in Montana, which means that we have relatively long winters — the most ideal and ethical diet for this environment includes wild game. If I lived in an area of the country or world that had a year-round agricultural cycle (with fruits and veggies almost always in season), a vegetarian or vegan diet would be the most ethical choice — in this case, meat consumption would be an unnecessary expenditure of life. Vegetarianism and veganism are fantastic choices if such a diet is supported in one’s immediate environment. For ethical reasons, I would much rather eat some elk, deer or antelope that my dad hunted, and which provide years’ worth of sustenance than eat vegetarian “sausages” whose environmentally-devastating, genetically-modified soybeans were grown in Paraguay (South America) and combined with Monsanto corn products in the States. I’d rather eat a formerly free-roaming, happy pig named Ferdinand, whose local farmer I am familiar with (and garnish his cut with local potatoes and carrots) than consume a high amount of vegetables imported from gods-know-where while Jack Frost rears his head just outside the back door.

Factory farming is the enemy of sustainable living, earth consciousness and ethical eating. It doesn’t matter to me whether meat “tastes good” or not; what matters is my impact on the environment and the welfare of all beings whose energy was spent creating the food. I won’t order meat at restaurants because it’s nearly always factory-farmed, unless the menu specifies otherwise. The process of factory-farming animals gives no recognition to the animal’s happiness. Animals are usually pumped full of growth hormones, inhumanely crammed into tiny spaces, torn from their families, are unable to roam free, are given cheap GMO feed, are allowed to develop tumors and infections, and they may never see direct sunlight or feel the grass beneath their feet — not to mention the environmental impacts from their waste products and the GMO feed itself. I refuse to support a greed-based, inhumane industry such as this. No being should have to endure the suffering that millions of factory-farmed animals are forced into every year.

Supporting real, local farmers, fishers and hunters helps reduce negative impacts on the environment. Putting money into ethically-raised meat takes money away from the factory “farmers.” Hunting is also financially economical. Organic (or similar) meat may be more expensive in the grocery store, but that’s okay: most human bodies don’t need meat to survive; we are omnivoriously designed, and America’s meat frenzy (the perception that we need a daily intake of meat to live) is unrealistic, unsustainable and unhealthy.

Free-range. Animal-friendly. Organic (if possible). Grass-fed (if bovine). Sustainable. Veg-fed. Ethical. LOCAL! These are qualities I look for. If you choose to eat meat, I hope you will too.

Dukkha muccantu: May all being be free from suffering,


PS: Here’s a great, scientifically-based article on the subject: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/06/meat-production-veganism-deforestation

9 comments on “Why I’m no longer strictly-vegetarian: A blog on ethical eating”

  1. kramlat says:

    You may know me as Mark. Recently I saw videos on Netflix about Monsanto, oddly even Annonymous dislikes how they treat local farmers too. Suing local farmers over what bees do is wrong as are patents on genes.

  2. Paula Holmes-Rodman says:

    This is a thoughtful piece you have here, Raven. I’ve been a vegetarian (ovo-lacto) since 1993. It was a month in Morocco and the outside meat markets that finally brought the closet vegetarian in me out. However, I am in what you might call a “mixed marriage” — my husband of 14 years is an omnivore – and the family cook. We not only get by, but both eat very well – as our waistlines will attest. :-) We both try to eat locally – hooray for The Hundred Mile Diet – and we both profoundly moved by Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life”. Of course, we life in the fertile Comox Valley on beautiful Vancouver Island. 100 miles from our house is a bit different that my Montana kin’s situation. Much love to you and all the family.

  3. Justin Whitaker says:

    Great thoughts, Raven. I’m encouraging my folks to move in the local/organic direction now. My dad may even hunt again this year, “better to shoot ’em with a rifle than hit ’em with my car.” :)

    I’m with you 100% on making sure my purchases go to the best possible place. I still plan to live as much of a pescatarian life as I can; but following the Buddha’s advice to his monks and nuns, I will generally accept any meat that is offered to me as a gift – especially when traveling in foreign lands where vegetarianism isn’t common even amongst Buddhists.

  4. Julie says:

    My family and I are self sufficient. We hunt for our meat, grow our own herbs, veggies and use farmers markets for fruits and veggies if we need. The Native American in me believes that the animal you are hunting will present himself to you, if it is meant that you are to have him. We harvest only what we need (and allowed by law of course) and also share with those less fortunate.

  5. Raven shadowmoon says:

    I tried being vegatarian several times but i couldnt do it because i physically can not be vegatarian i get sick constanly when i was vegatarian so i do eat meat but i try to get meat from open range farms because i agree that factory farming is horrible and terrifying :(
    I also believe that we all soemthing in the process of eating eating vegtables is hurting a living thing either way no matter what we choose to eat humans are harming somehting in the process but we shgould be aware of what we are harming i believe in what the native americans believe in we can eat meat but we should not waste meat and we should give thanks to the animals that provided us food and we all should eat meat but only low amounts of it not to much americans consume too much meat which is the cause of factory farming :(

  6. Corrina says:

    I admire your dedication!

    Due to reasons of health and personal ethics, I’ve made the choice to become a vegetarian. It hasn’t been an easy road however. I have difficulty finding recipes that are quick and easy to make, provide adequate nutrition and fit into my budget as a student. It’s even more frustrating to dine out. Finding good vegetarian dishes on a budget can sometimes turn into a nightmare. I still haven’t found a good way to deal with my carnivore family when I visit for the holidays. I guess what I’m saying is HELP!!! I’m trying real hard to maintain a vegetarian diet but money, nutrition and family get togethers are a major hurdle for me. Is there some kind of book, website or personal advice you can offer up to help me deal with these issues?

    Keep up the good work and many blessing to you and your family,


  7. Quinn K says:

    Well we are certainly luck to live in a city that supports such a lifestyle. (not perfect but livable) I love the local restaurants that purchase locally or work to provide in seasonal vegetables and meats. Not only is it better for the environment it tastes like so much better. Things that were purchased at farmers market and picked the day before in a local garden cannot be compared to some thing shipped 2 days in a truck from a greenhouse.

  8. dolmadraka says:

    I agree with you though i wish i could’ve stayed a lacto-ovo vegetarian as i like the ideals (had been 1 for 11+ year … shades of missing being a hippy by 4-5 years i guess). Unfortunately I read the book THE SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS and the statement that plants do not feel pain, like animals do, is unfounded. Which makes it hard to eat anything if you are attempting to not cause pain. So for me much of it comes down to intention toward the lifeform sustaining me. (Kitka is wishing you well again as she is between me and my Mac screen … maybe now that i have passed her feline blessings on, she will let me see what i am typing; yeah she did! ).

    Since college i have attempted to live greenly, simply and quietly. In one of my Tibetan cookbooks there is a statement that the Dalai Lama has asked that those that eat meat (which he has to do himself, if I remember correctly) please eat meat from an animal where 1 death feeds many people. I guess you could say i am a conditional omnivore.

    However i have a lot of food allergies and intolerances so my naturopath put me on the blood type diet; i found i cannot live for long periods without red meat since i am type O and have barbaric ancestry. I taught myself Indian Ayurvedic cooking and medicine back when i had no health insurance or money for health care), so i attempt to merge the 2 frameworks with locavore eating. I, sadly, have to choose between paying for organic food or for seeing the naturopath, so i balance my finances as best as i can.

    People forget that “one size does not fit all.” Traditional Chinese, Tibetan, and Ayurvedic Medicines along with western astrological and Hermetic medicines all talk about different types and the infinite variety and combinations found within. (Vulcan IDIC anyone?). I suspect the following is a result of my backlash against my right-wing fundamentalist upbringing, but i wish we could all find ways to honor both our similarities and our differences. One of my dearest friends at the Grey School of Wizardry is a vegan/raw food enthusist, yet we accept each others space. But that is just me. Tashi Dalek and Danse in the Dragonwinds, DolmaDraka and Bright Eyes (meow)

  9. Clea Danaan says:

    Well spoken! I don’t always live by these guidelines, but I aspire to always. Thanks for the push in the right direction.

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