9/10/11 I had decided that this would be my behavior change before class even started. I was a vegetarian for about 2 years until last winter, when my husband announced that he would only be eating ethically produced meat (before this, he was not discriminating about his meat consumption). The reason I became a vegetarian was because I had been trying to eat only ethical meat, but I found myself cheating too often. I rarely cooked meat at home and if I did it didn’t turn out so well and restaurant options for ethical meat were quite limited. But I found myself wanting meat, so I would cheat. It was also difficult to explain to people at dinner parties that “no, I can’t eat your meat because it was tortured (and you are a bad person).” It is just easier to say you are a vegetarian and not have to go into it. As a vegetarian I had the option of explaining more and having a discussion, but I also had the option to leave it.
Anyway, when my husband switched to ethical meat and started cooking meat at home it became much easier to eat meat ethically so I was back on the meat train. Delicious and ethically produced meat at home was too good to pass up. I began by saying I would only have meat once or twice a week. Then I found that it was much easier to find (relatively) ethically produced meat in prepared food than it had been 2 years ago. Then both my husband and I got much better at cooking meat so it became easier to make a balanced meal with meat than to make one without meat.
The primary reason I insist on ethical meat is for humane reasons. I cannot be a part of a system that tortures animals. However, even though I’m now good at only eating ethical meat, I find myself eating too much of it and I am concerned about the environmental implications. Then this class came along and gave me the push I needed to change my behavior!
[Written by hand at Occupy Providence on 10/16/11]
Here I am at Occupy Providence. I brought at italian sub. What is that - 2 or 3 kinds of meat?! I bought it at Whole Foods so even though I'm not sure it was ethically raised and slaughtered at least I can tell myself it was.
Corporations that produce meat do dirty, bad, destructive things. And they lobby and control the government along with the bankers. When I think of Occupy Wall Street, Wall Street is not just investment bankers. I have to remind myself of that and I hope other people in the movement understand that. Wall Street is the entire system that makes money the most powerful thing in this country. It is the pursuit of money that drives companies to put practices into place to torture animals. It is the need for money that causes people to work at those factories of torture. It is the need of the public to get the "best value", the need to spend as little money as possible on important things like food so they can spend more of their money on crap and iProducts, that causes people to buy cheap meat in droves and support the rest of the system of torture.
I think it is cool that so many activists are vegetarian. Yes, they are often really annoying and righteous about it but that is just what you get with professional protesters. Although on the leaders of Occupy Providence looks like your typical dirty punk activist but he doesn't seem to be a righteous asshole. Rock on.
Well, I think that this cutting down on meat thing has been a smashing success! I also love that it has given me the opportunity to discuss the issues with friends who are frequent meat eaters. I'm planting the seeds.... Maybe even getting them from Pre-Contemplation to Contemplation (in the language of this week's behavior change model)! For me, I'm going to continue to be mindful of my meat consumption and keep it to 2-3 times a week (but trying for 2).
The last couple days I have been thinking more and more about dairy. Even if I get my dairy from a small farm that treats its animals well (which I don't - I try to buy our local "Rhody Fresh" milk but I don't know how they treat their animals), those dairy cows have to continue having calves so they can produce milk for me. Female calves get to grow up and be dairy cows, but most boy calves end up being meat. According to my farmer, they aren't even raised to maturity since by then they won't be good meat because dairy cattle are different from meat cattle. My farmer, who has a very small herd of dairy cows (he doesn't have enough to sell any dairy commercially), lets his male calves live with mom for a few months then slaughters them for meat. He calls the meat "veal" but veal typically is only a couple weeks old - according to him some are only days old. And his veal calves are allowed to hang out in the fields with their moms instead of being tied to a stake and not allowed to move. If I could buy milk only from him, I would feel totally fine with consuming dairy. But I can't and I don't know what the story is on the farms that supply me with milk, with cheese, with yogurt, with sour cream, with butter, etc...
Now, just like with meat, I don't think that I will be able to cut out dairy completely. But maybe I can significantly reduce my consumption? If I do that, maybe I can afford to buy more responsibly? But cereal. Cereal is the problem. We love cereal at my house and for a couple years we ate it with soy or almond milk. When I eat cereal with soy or almond milk, the milk is only there to moisten the cereal and give a little taste and make it easier to eat. But when I eat cereal with cow's milk, the milk is an integral part of the food and perfect. I don't drink the soy milk left at the bottom of the bowl, but you better believe I drink the cow's milk leftover. Cereal is not the best thing to eat anyway, so maybe I should just cut that out. But it is so good.....
I had three meals with meat in 2 days. Now I can't have anymore for the week. I thought I would be more sad than I am about that. Maybe I'm not sad because I just had a breakfast of poached eggs so my belly is full of animal protein and I'm happy. But I'm also kind of craving beans. I swear I'm going to soak those damn beans as soon as I finishing writing this post....
All three meals were pre-made. I prefer cooking my meat at home, which is a definite shift from how I used to be. Now that we have a good stock of good meat in the freezer, I like cooking it. It feels like more of an event and I feel like I have taken full advantage of my meat quota. Also when I cook meat at home I can really use all of it. With bacon, I store the bacon fat and make kick ass collard greens (which I don't count into my meat consumption since we already have the fat). I save the chicken stock from cooking Frankie's meat. I used some in the aforementioned collard greens and am planning on making some awesome chicken soups. It feels good to use everything. Of course, that is made easier by the fact that Frankie has these various meats on her diet. I can usually give her all the gross parts of the meat (the fat, the gizzards, cartilage, the weird goo) and I know that those gross parts are good for her because eating the whole animal is best. I'm not about to eat gizzards and weird goo, but she loves it!
Btw, Meat #8 was written off-site so I will be posting that soon!
Disclaimer: I don't want to offend anyone who has bred their own children or their own dogs. These are only my idle thoughts and personal struggles.
Here is how I got onto the topic of breeding from my flexetarian behavior change:
I was dismantling a chicken carcass for my dog this evening and thinking about how I really should make a behavior change journal entry. I ate chicken tonight (there will be a future entry about my thoughts on meat chickens), which is my first meat consumption this week. (I also had fish twice last week and I didn't even pay attention to whether or not their were on the sustainable fish guide, but I guess I can talk about that later as well). I often dismantle chicken carcasses for my dog for whom I cook chicken a few times a week. She is on strict instructions from my vet about what we can and cannot feed her and chicken tends to be the cheapest and least stinky of our meat options. Typically I pressure cook the chicken, but tonight since the chicken was mostly for Andrew and I, I was stripping a baked chicken. It was oily. And I saw a spinal cord and for a second I thought it was a worm. I'm still kind of getting the creeps from that....
Ok, so I am stripping this gross chicken and I am thinking about behavior change and about how I can change my meat consumption, but I can't change the dog's. I know it is possible to feed a dog a vegetarian diet, but it is just not healthy for her. I try to buy as responsible meat as I can, but it is still a lot of meat - 2 to 3 chickens per week.
So what do I do about my dog's meat? Dogs are not environmentally friendly; I remember hearing a couple years ago that having a dog is like buying an SUV. So do I get rid of my dog? Well then she is still consuming, I'm just not the one feeding her. So now I have to euthanize her? Sure, that is like saying if I had a human child I should euthanize it because it is going to consume a whole hell of a lot more than a pet ever would. But maybe it is okay for me to have a dog since she is a rescue and I didn't contribute to breeding her. She isn't even pure bred so it's not like anyone would see my dog and think "I really want one of those, I'll go call a breeder."
But what if I breed a child? There is a severe over population problem. People talk about pet over population, but what about people?! When I was born, 31 years ago, there were approximately 4.5 billion people on the planet. Now we are approaching 7 billion. I am legitimately frightened.
I always thought I wanted to adopt a child, just like I wanted to adopt a dog. The child would already be here and would need a good home and I wouldn't be adding another human to further tax the planet. But it is a basic instinct of all creatures to reproduce, whether or not it is rationally a good idea. I am not immune to this instinct, nor is my husband. But shouldn't we be allowed at least one? Sure, if that is what everyone else did too that would be great.
Ok, so maybe these thoughts strayed from my original behavior change, but I think it illustrates an important point. There is a danger that once you open your eyes to your role in the unsustainability of our world and you begin to modify your behaviors, that you will become overwhelmed and you might close your eyes again because that is so much more comfortable. I know many environmentalists that shut their eyes to the issues of overpopulation and our individual roles in it. I consider the exploding human population to be the single most important sustainability issue in our world. We would have way more time to figure out how to curtail greenhouse gas emissions if people would just stop having so many damn babies.
Again, these are some train of thought musings. Don't be offended. I know it is a touchy subject.
The last time I ate meat was Saturday. That was my second meat of the week, so I am right on target. I got a hamburger at Fritz's. They said it was local, so I am assuming the cow was at least relatively humanely treated. Not that that is necessarily true. It was the end of a couple days at Antioch and I eat like crap when I am there. All carbs and little else. I needed that hamburger. Or a delicious and healthy bean dish full of fresh veggies - but that wasn't going to happen. It was either a burger or a pear, cheese and onion panini. I think I chose wisely.
Now it is Tuesday and damn I want some meat. All my meat is in the freezer so home made meat isn't going to happen tonight. Do I take out some meat for tomorrow night? I am craving some beef bulgogi from Mama Kim's food truck. Have I told you about Mama Kim's?! It is the greatest. Their beef bulgogi sliders consist of these incredible marinated strips of beef on little buns of Portuguese sweet bread. I doubt if the meat is happy. But it is soooo good. I break my happy meat rule for that beef bulgogi. But then if I have bulgogi tonight and meat tomorrow night then that is it for the week. I am really impressed with myself that I have been able to keep my meat consumption down to twice a week. I didn't think that I would be able to, so that is why I didn't give myself a hard and fast rule. But I have been doing it so I want to continue! It feels great.
I was planning on soaking beans last night but forgot.
The bean dilemma: I want to eat more beans and less meat, but I don't want to buy canned beans for multiple reasons.
1) They are processed. A lot of work and shipping of various supplies went into processing those canned beans. Not to mention all that metal used to make individual cans of beans.
2) They are heavy. Shipping those cans is not very efficient when the beans can be dried and shipped smaller and lighter. I'm am opposed to needlessly transporting water (don't even get me started about bottled water).
3) Who know what is in the lining of those cans. I know that many of them have BPA (bisphenol A - a known hormone disrupter) and I have heard that some cans are labeled BPA-free but I have never seen any of those. In addition, BPA is only one of the many many chemical components of can liners that we know is harmful. I'm sure that most of them haven't been well studied. I would just like to keep my food as far away from petroleum based substances as possible. Especially when there is a high probability of leaching from the plastic.
4) I can buy canned Goya beans or I can buy bulk dried organic beans for the same price. So not only do I not have to participate in needless processing and water shipment or get exposed to questionable can lining, but I can also have organic! And all for the same price!
Sounds like a no-brainer? Yes, but canned beans are just so damned easy!
Maybe I will get around to soaking those beans tonight....but that means that tomorrow I will have to cook them.
Even back when I was a so-called vegetarian, I still ate fish. I don't particularly like fish. I did it because I thought it was healthy and because eating out was much easier when I was able to get fish (a girl can't live on carbs alone when going to crappy restaurants). But now I have learned more about the crisis in our oceans. Michael S. showed this graph in a class this weekend: http://blog.tutorvista.com/2010/12/decline-of-global-fish-stocks/ (Don't ask me about its validity because it is 1:20 am and I just spent 15 minutes looking for a darn graphic). No more fish for us! And what are the oceans going to be like without all those fish? If we think we don't know what is going on on land, we are really clueless about the ocean. We really can't predict what this precipitous decline in fish is and will be doing to 70% of the world's surface. Really scary.
Yet fish are healthy for us. And fish are much less cuddly and so are easier to think about killing and eating. I have killed a fish before and eaten it and it was delicious. I can't say that for any other class of animal. And when people are pushing meat at us, at least we can say "but I eat fish!" See?! I'm like you! I eat the flesh of other animals! I'm not crazy!
But fish are gross. They don't taste good to me (except shellfish but that is a whole other post entirely). So no more fish for me (again, I'm not including delicious delicious shellfish). I'm not going to say that I will never eat it again, but I'm just not going to force myself to eat it because it is supposed to be healthy. You know what is healthy?! Beans. The give me protein and nutrients. They don't involve species extinction (at least not that I know of). Legume plants are nitrogen-fixers so are great for soil and decreases the need for fertilizers. Beans are good. Maybe I will go soak some right now to cook for tomorrow.
Had tacos with ground beef tonight. Didn't blow my mind. But the protein was good. But this is the first time I have had meat since last Saturday. I'm pretty impressed with myself. I made sure that we got some veggie burritos at the market last night so I could be meatless for lunch. Veggie burritos are not as good as meat burritos (for the most part), but we all gotta sacrifice ;P Hey, I'm lucky I get to have a three dollar frozen burrito for lunch anyway.
This is easier than I thought it would be. I wish I had more to talk about. Maybe it is easier because I'm not stressing about it. And I've only had meat once this week. I could have it again and still keep my flexetarian status. Woo hoo!
For my Conservation Psychology course I have to pick a conservation behavior that I wasn't previously performing and attempt to adopt it. So I am becoming a flexetarian (a term I have stolen from my classmate who is also attempting flexetarian status) - meaning that I will eat mostly vegetarian but not exclusively. It can mean different things for different people (it is flexible). I am not giving myself a strict limit but I want to cut down on my meat consumption. For more description on my previous vegetarian experiences, I will be posting Behavior Change Journal Entry #1 on Monday (I had already written it and saved it at work when I decided to share on lj). This journal will really be stream of consciousness and I don't make any promises as to its clarity. So here goes...
Today I will be eating bacon. Thick slabs of fatty bacon sliced from the belly of a pig. I might even have known the name of the pig I will be eating. I feel as this might appall some vegetarians but I actually prefer it that way. If I am going to eat an animal I want to be aware and thankful that I am eating that animal and that that animal was an individual with its own life and experiences. This is why it is so important that those experiences were positive. I call it "happy meat" and many meat eaters, including my family, think that it is ridiculous. How does one communicate to people that they are participating in the torture of animals without making them defensive? Hmmm, maybe I shouldn't refer to it as torture.....