The book Andy has asked me not to read.
It’s only because he’s worried I’d starve myself if I learned more about the farm industry. I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve got animal produce coursing through my veins right now. In fact, I’ve had two cheeseburgers in the last 8 days. But another truth is that slowly I’m learning (even without having read Peter Singer’s investigation of food production) to make better choices.
Our lives changed over a year ago when Andy and I watched Richard Linklater’s “Fast Food Nation” on DVD. I’m pretty sure he stopped eating meat on the spot. I tried abstaining, but psyched myself out after only 8 days.
My excuse? If meat is eliminated, the spectrum of what I’m immediately ready to eat is sharply reduced: I’ve been a “vegephobe” since birth. My strong aversion to the smell and texture of vegetables, combined with my even stronger gag reflex made meal times miserable for my family all throughout the mid ’70s. Whatever pop psychology my mom innocently subscribed to back in the day only served to reinforce my stubbornness.
Green beans haven’t touched my plate since that night in 1977 when my exhausted parents realized that being sent to bed before “Sunny and Cher” was a sacrifice I was prepared to make on a regular basis. Yep. I won. I’ve never even eaten a single leaf of iceberg lettuce. Salad dressing won’t help – mayonnaise is higher on my list of NEVERS than cooked spinach and broccoli.
Over the course of the last 15 years, with help from a good therapist (“Perhaps lightly stir fried Asian dishes with a sauce you know you like”), some great friends, and time spent listening to my beloved Tony Robbins’ tapes (NLP ROCKS!), I’ve been able to incorporate a few vegetables into my diet. But I’ve never made a habit of it. And I’m a long way from being able to put just any old thing in my mouth. God help the person who tells me, “Just try a bite.”
So now, although I’ve obliged Andy’s request not to even skim Singer’s book, my attraction to both the forbidden and horror stories have made doing so sickly tempting. Just imaging how animals on factory farms are treated has caused me to replace my daily milk and yogurt staples easily with organic soy versions. They don’t taste the same but are delicious in their own way and seductively guilt-free. Meanwhile, I have occasionally dared to glimpse at sites like The Unhappy Cow. Luckily, it’s possible to make the transition to compassionate eating without dwelling in the heart-wrenching terror-filled realities of factory dairy farms and slaughter houses.
Leaving the “how” out of it and learning about who we eat is compelling enough.
“Each cow has the ability to recognize more than 100 other cows, and they form close friendships with members of their herd. Researchers report that cows grieve when their friends or family members die.”
“Pigs are curious and insightful animals thought to have intelligence beyond that of an average 3-year-old human child. They are smarter than dogs and every bit as friendly, loyal, and affectionate.”
“Chickens understand sophisticated intellectual concepts, learn from watching each other, demonstrate self-control, worry about the future, and even have cultural knowledge that is passed from generation to generation.”
“Some fish gather information by eavesdropping on others, and some even use tools.”
My conversion is slow going. There’s a half devoured wedge of Cambozola in the fridge now. God, I love cheese. So the research du jour becomes finding farms where the cows are treated with love and, in good health, are left to have a full range of moods, including happiness.