Thursday, May 5, 2011

Making Peace with Eating Meat

For the last 2 decades, we have struggled with this "kill Animals" for Human Food thing but we are more at Peace with it now. This has been a long journey.  The following takes you through some steps along our Path.

It makes sense that we would feel for the Animals. Why wouldn't we? Their Gift is substantial.  They are Living Beings with Feelings. They too are Gifts of the Divine.

For a while, Melanie and I tried being Vegetarian as a way to side step the issue, in part. We were acutely aware of the suffering of the Animals and also the fact that eating Meat has a huge ecological footprint on the Planet. But, we quickly discovered our bodies needs Meat.

So we started taking Baby Steps. Our 1st awareness was noting the Meat that we ate and thinking about the Animals.  Some of it was not fit to eat in comparing it with an old standard of Meat that we would have grown up with. 

I do admit that we were not charmed by either huge feedlot operations or hard cold loud prisons on the back of semis which transported fearful Animals to market.  I do admit that for the last 16 years, I say an apology to the Animals every time I go past 1 of those trucks.  Every time.  And I tell them that I am trying to do better.

We made more steps:  We would not allow meat to waste in the Refrigerator, which we had often done before.  We began to buy Meat that was Organic and Free Range from our local natural foods market, Amazing Grains.  As products became more available, we would buy Local whenever we could.  The difference in the taste and the vitality of the Meat was substantial.

I wanted to see and meet the Farmer who provided us Meat.  I wanted to thank him/her. And I did.  To me, our relationship was Sacred.  They were providing us with Food to live.  They were nurturing our lives on a very elemental level.  On a more practical level, I wanted to make sure that the Farm Family was provided a living wage.

All of these steps brought us closer to the "death" issue.  It didn't make any sense to us that we would give someone else the responsibility for killing/processing the animal. In many cases, those who worked in slaughter houses were disadvantaged from power and needy for income.  They were people without a full range of choices.

Overall, we 3 C's seemed to be screening ourselves from that final act, yet it happened.  Richard said if he ever had to have someone else process our Chickens, he wouldn't eat Chicken.

When we live up north, Terry Jacobson, an Organic Farmer, provided us Meat (Beef) through Amazing Grains. Terry was also a poet and a leader in the sustainable agriculture movement on the Northern Plains. He wanted to make sure that the Animal was well cared for throughout Life.  And the night before the slaughter, he would thank the Animal for its gift of Life. That felt really good, right, and comforting for us. That little act, which was huge, was an epiphany in our thinking and an important lesson for our Lives and our Living.

In the meantime, we were being more open to the thoughts and lifeways of other cultures, especially Native Americans and south and eastern Asian Peoples.  We were placed on this Earth together and surely that meant we had important teachings for the other. Within the systems of those with whom we connected, I learned that Life is viewed as a Circle.  For something to live, something must die.  I learned that many 1st Peoples of this Continent believed (and believe) that as a result, something must be exchanged between the 2: the Giver and the Taker.  At the very most elementary level is the simple statement: "Thank you".  But we Humans can do more.

Beyond that, my Family and I became more active in thinking about our roles.  One aspect of that was to make sure that the Animal was well cared for and that we would never ever lose sight of the significance of that Gift. In the presence of the Animal and even when we are separate, we became ever mindful of the Gift. Gratitude and the words Thank you were ever present.

This Gratitude was not extended to the Animal alone.  It also was freely given to the Farmer and his/her Family. We wanted to make sure that the Farmer knew our gratitude and was paid a living wage. 

So what is happening on this Little Farm?  We do raise Chickens for Meat.  In fact, 40 of them arrived on Monday of this week.  They are the Baby Peeps.  In about 16 weeks, they will become our Meat Birds, taking up residence in the Freezer.  And yes, that is far longer than some of the later varieties.  But these are Birds which are Heirloom and not genetically engineered. 

I do believe that our Birds know their role and they are at peace with it.  That too is a traditional belief system common among Indigenous Peoples in traditional practice.  In the meantime, we make sure they are well cared for in every respect.  They are treated as our partners on this Little Farm.

When they are big enough, they will be free range. Their Food is organically grown which has greatly affected their vitality and their health.  We feed ourselves organic food; why wouldn't we share that with them?

Just before they are ready to be processed, we know and I think that they know.  When Richard is ready for that step (and he has taken the leadership here), he tells us.  We each spend some time in the Coop thanking the little Roos for their Gift.  Within a few days after that, the place is quieter and more somber.  That is part of it too.

Previously, Richard took all the responsibility for processing. He had grown up processing Animals for Food.  Melanie and I both grew up in town and were largely screened from such things.  However, Melanie and I have begun to help.  That feels good and right. More of that will come.

We do eat Pork, Beef, and Deer which we do not raise here for Food and someone else processes.  Rolf Christen has provided us with grass fed Beef.  At our request, he lets us know when the Animal will be processed.  Once again, we spend time with thoughts of gratitude directed toward the Steer which will feed us (and the Farmer too).  We are very pleased that the Animal is slaughtered on site.  Slaughtering on site means less stress to the Animal. We really like that.

We have not spoken yet about these things to the Folks who provide us Pork and Deer.  But those conversations will happen over time. We can't do it all at once.

We try not to judge others' practices.  That's hard.  But I do believe we each are doing the best we know how to do. 

These are simple ways that we 3 C's have made peace with eating Meat and processing the Animals who ultimately will feed us.  They surely are not universally held beliefs, but they are important to us.  We try to connect our deepest core values with our practices.  That just gives us a lot more peace for the World.  And yes, the World could use more Peace from the Humans right now.

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