I sigh as I notice that familiar feeling and glance down at my wristwatch. No, my system isn’t putting on a show; I’m getting ravenous.
Thoughts of what was once an option — some delightful pan-seared steak with all the accoutrements; a hearty stew; even just a sinfully tasty, cheese-overflowing patty of meat on a dusted, soft and warm Kaiser roll — lull in and out of my mind (about as quickly as they entered).
Okay, I think to myself, can’t go that route these days.
But why not?
I should start by mentioning that my current diet of leafy greens and coarse grains is only a recent undertaking. It’s one that I made a conscious decision to abide by after some careful thought.
My understanding of food evolved quite a while ago: The knowledge that animals die for human consumption was there from a young age, like most others. It’s part of the hierarchical way of life. I embraced it.
I bathed in delightful bits of animal products for every meal. I couldn’t see living any other way. I was removed from the process that came before my consumption. I guess it wasn’t until I inserted myself into the production process that I started thinking.
And feeling ill to my stomach.
Now, I don’t mean to say that I began working on a factory farm, but enough research will get most people a bit perturbed by the practices of the meat industry. Go a little further and you’ll be downright livid.
To better understand what I was partaking in (and consuming), I started with videos documenting previously untold instances of depravity in slaughterhouses. What more can I say? Paul McCartney came pretty close when he described the “glass walls” principle.
The current standards in place by large-scale farms are vile and unhealthy. Workers are subjected to witnessing daily bouts of brutality, torture and slaughter in order to feed an ever-carnivorous population.
Drugs and growth hormones are pumped into animals in order for them to survive the brutish conditions in which they “live.” These lead to the development of even more detrimental and resilient strains of viruses.
Greenhouse-gas emissions soar, and ground water is polluted by mobs of cattle. These practices are the sad result of a very hungry population.
The United States Department of Agriculture at present requires some 26.4 billion pounds of beef annually to feed its population (minus 2 billion pounds in exports). About 34 million head of cattle are culled to meet this annual end.
Though the United States leads beef and veal consumption at present, other nations are catching up. China already leads in pork consumption.
Ever-increasing affluence is associated with a meat-laden diet. Brazil, Russia, India and China are not slowing down.
I find out these things and shudder at the sublime horror. We’re acting as selfish tyrants in a land of infinite splendor. But the spoils are not infinite. And they are sinking our mighty vessel.
In my act of vandalism against Meat and Agriculture Inc., I do all that I can: I remove meat from my diet; I eat products that are not treated as vast commodities; I buy products from generous, working farmers with whom I can identify — everyday people with a notion of what is right; and I try to explain to others why the present standards in the USDA are not in our best interest.
What really saddens me, though, is that the little businesses miss out on my retreat from meat consumption. There are family farms that still exist, and the really wonderful ones are those that practice sound soil ecology practices, let their animals live as creatures should, care for their producers of dairy and respect what food is about — quality, wholesomeness, and creating a communal sense of togetherness out of love for food that’s just plain good.
I won’t continue preaching to you. Maybe you won’t care a lick for anything I’ve said. Maybe you’re already with me. Maybe you’ve surpassed me. It doesn’t matter.
All I ask of you is to embrace your curiosity.
Ask yourself: how much do I use and how much do I really need?
You may find the answers surprising.
Joseph Barbaree is a graduate student studying journalism and a columnist for The Post. Cheer him on by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.