Meat and gratitude
07.30, Thursday 6 Jun 2019 Link to this post
There’s a bunch of fuss about Beyond Burger rn regarding
- ingredients - I’d mentally filed Beyond as “healthy plant-based” whereas it’s a ton of bad-for-you vegetable oil and really should be sceptically thought of as “heavily processed”
- carbon footprint - beef is bad
I’m excited about these new vegan burgers because
- “artificial” does not necessarily equal “bad” so I’m in principle ok with the heavily-processed thing (though I’m concerned in how this is being obfuscated)
- the meat and dairy industry sucks
- yes, carbon footprint: as a society, we need to wean ourselves off things that are killing our planet
- new flavours, good stuff
BUT: thought experiment:
- Would I prefer not to eat heavily processed foods? Yes
- If the carbon footprint of meat could be reduced to something closer to plant-based burgers, using a combination of reduced frequency of consumption and hand-wavey magic, would that reduce my discomfort? Yes
- In that situation, would I still eat meat, assuming it came from a source that wasn’t unnecessarily cruel? Yes.
- The big question: would I still feel uncomfortable about it? Yes.
Why my remaining discomfort? Because animals are, well, animals. They’re people too. I’ve known a bunch of animals, and we’re all people in different ways. That fact is hard to reconcile with eating them.
For me, I do continue to eat meat (although less than I used). But I think a lot of my discomfort around it - environmentally, the agro-industry, health - is displacement from the hard-to-digest fact that, when I’ve met a cow, they’re super nice to hang out with, and I could see us being friends. And that feeling isn’t going to go away.
I have a hunch that our inability to deal with the immensity of this gift - this animal-person who has been killed so I can have my dinner - means that, either deep down or out loud, we end up denying there’s a gift or any kind of trade-off at all, hence the tribalism, and lack of sensible discussion, around the adjacent topics of health, carbon, and so on.
Or, to put it another way
The slip-sliding and dissembling around health benefits/carbon/etc makes me think that a bigger issue is being psychologically avoided. And for me, maybe that issue is “meat tastes great” vs “holy shit animals are people too” which is so hard to reconcile that it gets repressed, and repressed feelings come out in weird ways.
So here’s my solution, because without addressing the core matter of co-personhood, nothing else will work
I like that being vegan is a movement, in a way that being vegetarian was a movement in the 1980s, or Atkins in the early 2000s. These are lifestyle choices that bring alignment with the body and the planet by promoting practice changes and introducing a new kind of mindfulness.
Could there be a similar movement that embraces some of the logic behind the Beyond Burger, but also includes meat?
Here’s my suggestion:
- a selective diet that is vegetarian except it allows meat when that meat is from a known local source, farmed with care, and not consumed with great frequency
- when such meat is eaten, a prayer of gratitude is said to the animal
I am a big believer in vocalised gratitude as a means towards mindfulness, but mainly towards being able to accept the weight, meaning, obligation, and reciprocity of a gift.
Once gratitude is internalised and the gift of sacrifice is accepted, I’ve a feeling that the rest will fall into place. In short: a more balanced relationship between the food we need to live as individuals, and the planet we need to live together.
Ok so this is just saying grace. But oriented towards the animal.
I wonder if there could be a single phrase which expresses gratitude for the gift?
And something, unlike the traditional and passive
For what we are about to receive…, that acknowledges my actions and choices that have brought about this meal of meat and all that it required? Said out loud, it would promote discussion and maybe even spread…