Vegetarian in Spirit, Carnivore in Practice
I often write about my moral and spiritual evolution. Peace and enlightenment aren’t final destinations, so much as constant pursuits. They require work.
Most of us go through life in a perpetual state of fluidity and fluctuation. I like to believe that I’m moving in the right direction of becoming a better person. But that’s not always the case. I admit to falling short of my personal goals, way too often.
One of my pursuits is greater awareness for the rights of animals. I fear history will judge us harshly for what we’re doing to animals. Our descendants will question why we sat idly by and allowed such distressing levels of suffering. Animals have emotions and feelings too, and dare is say — rights. Asserting our so-called “humanitarianism” requires both a genuine concern and a custodial responsibility for other creatures which inhabit the earth. I believe our gross mistreatment of so many animals on such a massive scale will ultimately be a blight on our generation in the same way we now look back with condemnation at our ancestors who owned slaves and routinely practiced terrible acts of torture. So much pain, the intolerable conditions, and industrial mass killing have become largely unnecessary — particularly now that there are so many alternative food options which are both cheaper and healthier.
This won’t be a sermon on pursuing a healthier diet. I’m neither vegan, nor vegetarian. Admittedly, I’m way too selfish about the things I enjoy to totally commit myself to such a revolutionary change of lifestyle. Perhaps the time will come eventually when I decide to make such a commitment in my life. But now is not the time.
Still, I’m convinced most of us can do things which are positive, without sacrificing our most pleasurable dietary habits and satisfying traditions. For one thing, we can continue to eat meat and consume other animal products, but do it less often and in smaller quantities. For instance, I used to eat meat 6 to 7 days a week, sometimes even multiple times daily. Now, I’m on a stricter diet where I eat meat about half as often. Using a little wordplay — we can have our steak and eat it, too.
Merely cutting back on instead of wholeheartedly repudiating the consumption of meat products might seem like a cop out. And, it is. However, it’s also a more realistic approach which is entirely achievable for just about everyone. More important, it’s a leap forward. Sadly, we can’t put an end to all the misery we cause to animals. Yet, we can tone it down a bit and work to improve conditions for these innocent creatures.
I’m locked into a lifetime of habits. Often, my writings cover these most hedonistic of pursuits. I can still dine out at the steakhouse and order the surf and turf with (mostly) a clear conscious. Then tomorrow, I’ll have the salad and soup instead of a hamburger. Critics might point out correctly that’s a bit like preaching out against slavery, then owning 2 instead of 4. Head bowed. Point conceded. But I’m also convinced that most positive change isn’t sudden. It’s incremental. There’s no point in taking a giant step forward if you’re going to end up failing down flat on your face? Rather, take a few baby steps forward, and see if that works.
This isn’t entirely about forfeiting pleasure. In fact, eating less meat has proven to produce tangible health benefits. All studies show the modern diet contains far too much meat and dairy products, which contribute to our collective obesity, an explosion of diabetes, and even premature death (don’t get me started on sugar, soft drinks, and processed foods — which are poisonous). As a consequence, cutting back on our consumption of meat products isn’t sacrificial at all. Frankly, it’s an extraordinarily ambitious pursuit of self-interest and even a wager on increasing our odds of survival. Who doesn’t want to live a longer healthier life? So, cut out the sugar. Stop consuming so much fast food, so often. And, eat less meat.
Cue the swelling violins. Animals aren’t just dumb creatures, as they’re so often portrayed and perceived. Just because we aren’t able to recognize characteristics in their behavior which reveal many of the same physical and emotional needs as humans does not mean they don’t possess instinctive needs for love and affection, just like we do.
As evidence, here’s a short video of “Bandit the Bull,” who was kept tethered in chains for much of his lifetime. What an inspiration. We see what happens when Bandit suddenly gets released from this bondage by his caretaker in Austria. It’s an emotionally riveting few minutes which I hope might make us think a bit more about all the ugliness happening behind walls we cannot see where animals are kept for what amounts to processing and packaging. Bandit is just one of tens of millions of livestock worldwide wedged into narrow stables who are abused and ultimately slaughtered on the way to our dinner plates. No, animals do not get used to abuses. Animals covet the same things we do, including the right to be treated with respect and decency.
Video Link Here — courtesy of Gut Aiderbichl animal sanctuary in Austria.