On Eating Meat

A few things have happened today that have stuck in my omnivorous craw.

I was perusing facebook as a freelance writer is wont to do and I see the NY Times has posted a writing challenge: Tell us why its ethical to eat meat. At first, I deduced that this had some relevance to the recent, justified uproar over “pink slime” being passed off as basically-the-same-as-actual meat. Not so.

I clicked through to find reference to Peter Singer’s 1975 publication of Animal Liberation and the 2009 Jonathan Safran Foer bestseller Eating Animals. Since, by the Times’ estimation, us carnivores have had precious little to say in the intervening years, the editors dreamt up a writing contest asking for six hundred donated words on Why Eating Meat is Ethical. (As I typed that, I thought of little Ralphie sitting down to write his theme for Ms. Hoover.)

Then, a very dear friend messaged me to vent that the ladies in her office, whom are throwing a young donors gala fundraiser featuring a selection of “celebrity” chefs providing bites as bait for $190 tickets, were all in a kerfuffle because one of those honored guests had the audacity to put veal on his menu.

Now, I haven’t read Eating Animals or Animal Liberation, nor was I witness to said kerfuffle. And maybe what I’m really pissed about is this article in the Huffington Post, which essentially asserts that women be treated more like animals while the ladies in the office, Foer, and Peter Singer are asking that we anthropomorphize actual animals. And the New York Times has some magazine space to watch us all duke it out.

I am willing to bet big bucks that the ladies in that office eat cheese. I bet some of them travel down to Murray’s on Bleeker Street in Manhattan and have a slate board from Williams-Sonoma with a designated piece of chalk to identify their Camambert from their Cambozola at cocktail parties.

What I bet they don’t know (or willfully ignore) is that many many many many delicious cheeses use rennet to coagulate the milk and create that fudgy deliciousness that cheese lovers can write 600 word odes to and travel to Bleeker Street to procure.

Veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry, as is rennet. From the male cow, slaughtered young to provide the most lucrative feed conversion ratio to the farmer and a delicate protein to celebrity chef do-gooders and home cooks alike. From that same animal is harvested rennet that ends up on cheese boards or in your kids’ mozzarella sticks.

Vegetarian cheeses are out there, primarily made with rennet derived from plants in the thistle family, grown in petri dishes as microbial rennet, or produced as the first genetically engineered enzyme allowed in the US food supply. The FDA, however, has decided that it is not a requirement that the cheese company tell you which one it uses on the packaging.

So for everyone upset about the baby cows, seek out specifically labeled vegetarian cheese. Better yet, until in utero sex determination becomes the norm in the industry, best avoid dairy all together as with every insemination, there’s a 50% likelihood that your Yoplait purchase just demanded a baby boy cow be born into the food chain.

I love animals. But I understand their place in my life. My dog and I go to agility classes and this morning, a fellow student handed me a small party favor bag with dog paw prints on it and said, “It was Lily’s birthday on Saturday and so she made Rooster some carob muffins.”

Lily is a miniature schnauzer! I am pretty sure she doesn’t know her way around a mixing bowl, let alone her preference for carob over chocolate. Rooster would devour an entire chocolate cake given ample opportunity, poison be damned!

My chickens (rest their souls) provided eggs. My next chickens will remain nameless and provide eggs and meat. Pigs provide meat. End of story. They are aggressive, hungry, mediocre parents at best and were it not for the hard work of pig farmers keeping them alive for the purpose of feeding a bacon-hungry population, they would have fallen off the evolutionary charts eons ago.

My point is this: to avoid appearing like a self-righteous hypocrite laden with rich people problems, keep your mouth shut. When it comes to pronouncing that I am a savage or a slut, remember Mrs. Santorum’s problematic history and ask yourself, ‘Do I really want to be remembered as saying that?’

And enjoy your lacto-ovo-pesactarian approved cheese.