A Sober take on Love, Life and London
By Janna Fox
I have decided to become a vegetarian. Again.
This is not my first time. At eight years old I didn’t agree with killing animals, especially horses. I was horse MAD and something inside me felt that to slaughter a cow, sheep or chicken was equal to slaughtering a horse. So I stopped eating meat. Fortunately I have a wonderfully understanding, forward-thinking and tolerant mother who went out of her way to accommodate my new dietary requirements. She prepared veggie alternatives for my every meal and even went to the trouble of making nut roasts from scratch with veggie gravy to boot on a Sunday.
But alas, temptation was afoot and my stomach got the best of my moral compass. One Sunday a beautifully roasted chicken was sitting on the work surface; its garlic butter coated crispy skin just waiting to be ripped from the carcass that lay resting on the silver platter it would be carved upon. All thoughts of cruelty left my mind, my mouth began to salivate and endorphin’s flooded my brain as I tore off the skin and gobbled the lot. Mum was visibly relieved, she could go back to cooking one meal a day for her family and wouldn’t have to worry about my protein intake anymore. I went back to eating meat and my flirtation with vegetarianism began to disappear like a long term relationship that didn’t quite work out.
It haunted me though. Everywhere I went people always assumed I was a vegetarian to which I would proudly state that I was NOT, like being vegetarian was somehow bad and I would be ridiculed for being ‘that’ person who chose to ‘make a fuss’. We do that in this society. If someone or something is not of the norm or the ordinary or worse, something we don’t understand, we make a joke out of it to make ourselves feel better which invariably makes the other person feel worse. But who cares about ‘feelings’ it’s funny right?
I never found out why people would take one look at me and automatically assume ‘vegetarian’. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit lanky or because I have ‘opinions’, maybe it’s who I really was?
Generally speaking I have always preferred vegetarian food opting for veggie burgers over meat ones. When I cook for myself, even if it’s something with meat in like a chilli, I always put in a higher quantity of vegetables, partly because they’re cheaper but partly because I just prefer them. Over the last five years I would definitely class myself more selective omnivore than carnivore, only really eating meat or fish two or three times a week.
Why stop now then?
A couple of years ago I saw Kip Anderson’s stunning documentary Cowspiracy that exposes some rather uncomfortable facts about the effect of animal agriculture on the planet. Facts like:
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
That’s interesting. I had no idea, tell me more…
Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 on a 20 year time frame.
Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day.
Reducing methane emissions would create tangible benefits almost immediately.
WHAT?!?!? So half the country are cycling to work and going on walking holidays instead of flying and it’s all the bloody cows fault? Fine so I’ll stop eating cows but fish is still OK right?
3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted
We could see fishless oceans by 2048
90-100 million tons of fish are pulled from our oceans each year
For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill.
*this seems like a good time to mention that twenty of the roughly thirty-five classified species of sea-horses worldwide are threatened with extinction because they are killed as ‘by-kill’. Sea-horses mate under a full moon, have long term monogamous relationships and swim in pairs plus it is the male seahorses that give birth to their young. They are amazing creatures that get killed so we can eat prawns and tuna.
Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.
Just in case I need to remind anyone how important the rain forests are here’s a link.
The leading causes of rainforest destruction are livestock and feedcrops.
1-2 acres of rainforest are cleared every second
Talk about sobering. One of the main things this documentary focuses on is the lack of advertisement of these FACTS which if you want to check the sources please click here. Even environmental charities like Greenpeace refused to comment on this issue when asked repeatedly for interviews, at the time of filming they had no mentions of animal agriculture as a cause of environmental concern on their websites when strangely it seems to be the biggest. It turns out that the Meat Industry doesn’t want anyone messing with their profits and are prepared to pay handsomely for silence. Even during the making of this film Kip lost funding from two of his main contributors because he was pissing important people off. Luckily for him Leonardo Di Caprio stepped in and saved the day. Good old Leo!
However even after learning all these new facts I still wasn’t prepared to don a vegan hat. Why not? Because it tastes good. I, like the rest of the planet am a selfish individual susceptible to pleasure and unless I can see the rainforest burning before me I can quite easily push it to the back of my mind and enjoy my nice blue steak. I did nearly go back full-on veggie last summer but after giving up drugs, alcohol and fags in the same year my discipline had reached a limit and after a few weeks of well-meaning attempts I fell back into eating meat when it was given to me.
While away on a yoga retreat this year I learned that there were pigs at the Ashram which was also a working vegan farm. So one night after dinner I went with one of the yoga teachers to feed the pigs and was left with them for about ten minutes. That was all it took. I looked into those piggy eyes and saw a creature just like me. It didn’t sound like me or have the exact same physical appearance as me but there was life and intelligence and personality in those eyes and when they nipped at each other they cried out in pain, if I was to run after it with a knife in my hand and hate in my eyes it would be afraid and if I was to pump it full of drugs and leave it in a cage above say thirty other pigs that would be cruel.
Another thought had entered my mind that pain, fear, even simple negativity has a physical effect on our animal bodies. On our flesh. I have noticed a huge difference in how I connect to my body since sobering up and can feel every cell with a heightened sensitivity; when I am holding tension it becomes acutely obvious. Was this the same for animals? If a chicken, for example, lives in a shed with 250 other chickens (it’s free-range because there’s a window at the end of the shed) it’s had it’s beak chopped off on day 1 to stop it damaging the other chickens (no anaesthetic) and it’s breasts are hugely over-sized through selective breeding because that’s the most popular bit making it’s legs pretty much useless then when it turns 42 days old it is passed through an electric water bath while shackled upside down prior to scalding. Scalding is exactly like it sounds; dipping the bird in boiling water to make it easier to pluck.
Best hope that electric water bath did the trick eh…
I’m pretty sure that the chickens aren’t relaxed when being shackled upside down along with all of their shed mates and dragged through the bath of death. Does this have an effect on that chickens body? Does the chicken hold tension like you or I? What happens to that tension at the point of death? Are we getting a free portion of fear, pain and torture embedded in our Coq au Vin?
If so what is that doing to our bodies?
I had noticed a book lying around the Ashram called ‘Eating Animals’ By Jonathan Safran Foer, the Yogis obviously felt strongly about this book as they had copies in Swedish, Danish and English. After mulling it over I felt that maybe I should give it a read as I was most definitely questioning whether or not I wanted to continue doing just that.
The book contained more grisly facts in even finer detail about the reality of farming, fishing and slaughtering animals for food from environmental to ethical. Flagging up things like there are no humane guidelines for killing fish; imagine if you saw your cat being hacked into with a pick axe to get it onto a boat? That’s what happens to tuna. He also puts forward a rather strong argument for eating dogs questioning why we protect the rights of some animals and not of others. It is a very educational read and one I would recommend to anyone. In investigating every aspect of animal agriculture from the best farms to the worst our writer also brings into focus the myths, familial storytelling and tribal rituals that we have attached to our food. The act of togetherness, solidarity and sharing when Dad starts carving the Lamb leg on Easter Sunday, the nostalgic smell of Nanna’s chicken casserole and the acceptance of an offering of food from someone else. The very dangerous realisation that if we all thought carefully about what was actually going on to get our meat to the table we probably wouldn’t eat it and yet most of us still do.
We selectively forget the slaughter, possible cruelty and environmental tragedy that goes along with eating animals.
Similar to drug taking, smoking and drinking when you all participate in this act together you feel united in your enjoyment and involvement; it forms a bond like when you find the only other smoker at a wedding. When people offer to buy me a drink when working behind a bar they are visibly ruffled when I refuse even when I explain I no longer drink alcohol and why; it is as if I am somehow rejecting them. The rejection of traditional customs revolving around meat consumption are no different. We have placed an emotional attachment on our food and happily argue until we are red in the face in order to defend that attachment to what is essentially a cruel and damaging process with little to no health benefits.
The most common ones are:
We are at the top of the food chain and it’s natural for us to eat meat. – Yes we are however we don’t need to go out and hunt in order to eat anymore and we are also supposedly a more intelligent and sensitive animal than any other therefore maybe that means we should use these gifts to live with principals and stop damaging our own environment for profit and pleasure? Just a thought.
Plants are living does that mean we are hurting them when we eat them too? Erm I’m pretty sure that we eat mainly fruit and vegetables that are produced by the plant as a lure to other animals in order to continue reproducing through the distribution of seeds. And honestly I don’t know if they feel pain but plants are not animals.
We need protein from animal meat to have a balanced diet. In this day and age it is a myth that we can only get protein from meat. There are millions of other ways to get your daily intake of protein from foods like; soy, tofu, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, beans, nuts, pulses, corn and more.
I only eat free range/organic and they have a nice life. It’s possible that you may want to look into the realities of free range/organic farming. But even if what you say is true does having a nice life justify a potentially painful death? Most animals regardless of their classification all end up in the same slaughter houses and there is little to no guarantee in a slaughter house that any animal is successfully stunned every time. If you’d like to see some real-life recent footage of the kill floor in various UK slaughter houses please click here.
I don’t care about animals. I don’t care about you but I’m not going to torture and kill you just because you taste good.
Watching ‘Carnage’ By Simon Anstell I was amused to see he had found a way to make the planet Vegan. In fictional 2067 it is unheard of to eat another animals flesh, perpetually rape cows to keep them producing milk or eat a chicken’s period. But he had to imagine the coasts of the U.K underwater in order to get to that point.
Are we so unconscious as a species that we will literally watch the planet disintegrate around us, cause endless pain and torture to several billion animals while destroying many others all for the love of a taste?
I sincerely hope not.