Vegetarian Inclinations

24 Jul

So, I’ve been saying that what I really want is to have a closer relationship with my food. And that I have. Every week I go to the farm and I see the fields, how the crops are progressing through this season, I chat with Farmer Dan and the farm interns, I go out and pick snap peas or whatever else is ready. But that’s not all. As I’m walking around the farm I can hear the chickens cluck-clucking away, punctuated occasionally by a rooster’s proud crowing. I see the big black cows staring calmly at me over the edge of the electric fence, blinking with their big eyelashes. And the little pigs, oh the pigs! I haven’t seen the pigs at the farm the past two years we’ve been members. Were they kept off site before? Last month we were picking strawberries and the patch is right next to the pigs’ pen. They’d see us walking closer and they’d scramble to their feet and come running towards us in one big clumsy pack – shoulder to shoulder, tripping over one another, snorting happily. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to pigs. They remind me of my dog, Milo the way they play together. Nudging one another, wiggling their little snouts. Their coloring is even similar to his – black and brown spots. I’ve been surprised with how taken I’ve been with them. They’re adorable. I want to climb over the fence into their pen and play with them. I can’t bear to think of them getting slaughtered at the end of the season. It really upsets me.

The first year we were members at the farm we ordered a pound of bacon in the fall. It looked so real compared to the anonymous stuff you see in the grocery store all wrapped up in plastic. What we had was really and truly a hunk of pork belly. It still had the thick layer of skin on it, pores and little tiny hairs, little pig nipples. I took one look at it and knew I wouldn’t be able to stomach it. In theory I liked the idea. If I’m going eat meat, it’s nice to know it comes from a trusted source. But this was a little too close to home.

I recognize that when I do eat meat I like it to be pretty unrecognizable. I don’t like anything with bones or skin. Even better if it’s ground up or in a sausage or something. Last week I went out to lunch at a place in Holyoke. Everything was very meat-based so I picked the most innocuous looking chicken dish I could see behind the counter. It was really good but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about the chickens at the farm. And this weekend Josh cooked up some bacon and it smelled great. And as much as I would have loved a BLT, I thought of the little piggies at the farm and couldn’t eat any.

I was a vegetarian all through college and for a few years afterwards. I watched the PETA animal film and that put me off meat initially.  Slowly the conviction wore off and I found myself craving meat and not really knowing why I was depriving myself. It was a slippery slope. I started by just adding fish to my diet, then chicken, and before I knew it I had moved onto bacon cheeseburgers. But as I did go back to eating meat, I promised myself to be thoughtful about it. For example, if there are times when I could be just as happy eating a veggie burger instead of beef burger, why not spare the cow? At first I think I did very well maintaining my promise, but now as time’s gone on I’ve caught myself occasionally ordering meat at a restaurant when something veggie would suit me just fine.

Now it feels a bit like the pendulum is beginning to swing back the other way. When literally put face to face with my food, I have a hard time thinking about taking a life. If I had to kill the food I eat, I would be a full-fledged vegetarian without a doubt.  For now, I think I will just keep with my promise to myself and try to be very mindful of the choice when I decide to eat meat, taking into consideration how much I enjoy seeing the animals alive and well at the farm. Omnivores and vegetarian friends alike, what’s your rationale for the way you eat?

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