In 1978 I became vegetarian - thanx to Peaches, my beautiful
collie mix dog. She has always been an inspiration to me. In
1983, I completed my journey into compassionate eating by
becoming vegan. This journey was interesting and Mark Bittman's
article "Fake Chicken Worth Eating" takes me back and makes me
realize how far we've come.
I would never ever willingly and knowingly eat meat of any kind
which comes from a living animal. On Care2 this week I read some
views on this and some commentors justify their eating of meat
because they grew up on a farm.
Well, naturally I weighed in on this topic and wrote something like -
things have changed considerably since then. Today's CAFOs are
not at all reminiscent of the farms of yesteryear. I would ask those
people who see nothing wrong with eating the products of living
farm animals in CAFOs to try to imagine what it would be like to be
a chicken in a tight battery cage -unable to spread her wings. How
about a pregnant sow in a smallish crate who will never bond with
her piglets because they are carted off shortly after birth. And then
the poor mother cows who too are separated from their calves so
that we can have the milk intended for them. People of compassion
get it. People lacking in it, don't.
On Care2 we sometimes get "green" stars of appreciation from
readers who agree with our viewpoint, and I knew there would be at
least one reader who would agree with my comment, and I was right.
I got my green star! Of course, I don't need any green stars, but all
of us appreciate a good word or compliment. My green star made me
recall when I was a teacher putting colored stars on my little students
homework. So even as old as I am, I appreciated the green star from
the lady who gave it to me, and clearly she was a person of com- passion. I even remember my final statement on my comment -something like: We freed the black man from slavery only to enslave the farm animals with our insatiable taste for their meat, eggs, and dairy.
I appreciate so much Erik Marcus' Vegan.com blog - and this morning
I read his "Bittman's Opinion Piece on Vegan Chicken." Thanx Erik-
you deserve a green star too.
Bittman's post which appeared in the New York Times Sunday Review
was titled "Fake Chicken Worth Eating." I almost laughed out loud
though because the fake chicken analogue which I ate in the 80's was
not. However, I'm so glad that he wrote this blog about visiting a factory that is perfecting a new type of substitute for chicken which is hoped will reduce the level of suffering of animals raised for meat in industrial conditions.
He starts his thoughts with mentioning 4 possible ways which we could
employ to alleviate animal suffering:
1.Improve the animals' living conditions.
2.Eliminate animals' consciousness by removing the cerebral cortex-
converting them to a kind of vegetable state (distasteful).
3.Consume fewer industrially raised animals, concentrating on
those raised more humanely
4.We can reduce consumption, period.
He notes that number 4 would be difficult since people eat an average
of a half pound of meat daily. At the end of a year- how many pigs, calves, cows, chickens would that equal? It makes me remember what Bernard Shaw, a man of of great compassion noted - that at his funeral he sees all the animals he didn't eat come to pay their respects to him at death. Yes, I, too, don't need human mouners either. The animals I didn't eat will serve well as mouners for me at death as well.
Bittman acknowledges that his personal approval of fake meat has been long in coming. He preferred traditional meat substitutes like tofu, bean burgers, vegetable cutlets, etc. and found meat analogues lacking in bite, chew, juiciness and flavor. He was also annoyed by their cost and couldn't understand why they should cost more than real meat since, obviously, the production process is much faster and easier. Well, Mark, I think I figured that one out. There were just so few of us vegans/vegetarians - that in order to make a profit, they had to charge more. Well, at least that's my take.
But his views on meat substitutes changed since visiting a place in The Hague called The Vegetarian Butcher where the butcher laughingly states that they "slaughter" soy. On trying this plant-based product, he found that it was actually pretty good. And he began to consider that it might be better to eat fake meat that harms no animals and causes less environmental damage than meat raised industrially.
Too bad First Lady Obama hasn't been influenced by Bittman's writings. Her influence could well move along some worthwhile healthy ideas as this one. I'm only on p. 2 of this 6 page article, but I'm ready t o paste many beautiful shiny green stars on this post which considers the harmful and cruel impact of animal production as well as the unfavorable consequences of meat eating to our health and the detrimental effects to our environment as well.
On this subject of fake meat, he clarifies immediately that it isn't the much publicized laboratory simulacrum from Maastrict University that combines pig cells and horse fetal serum. I doubt that I would be interested in something like this either.
In this post he makes us think on so many levels re the chickens raised today- while noting that he loves good chicken, but most of the chicken we eat today doesn't qualify. His whole post is worth reading and I hope if you think so too, you will search for it on the internet.
I am concluding with a paragraph which Erik Marcus also quoted on his blog:
"Really: Would I rather eat cruelly raised, polluting, unhealthful chicken, or a plant product that's nutritionally similar or superior, good enough to fool me and requires no anitbiotics, cutting off of heads or other nasty things? Isn't it preferable, at least some of the time, to eat plant products mixed with water that have been put through a thingamajiggy that spews out meatlike stuff, instead of eating those
same plant products put into a chicken that does its biomechanical thing for the six weeks of its miserable existence, only to have its throat cut in the service of yielding barely distinguishable meat?"
Thanx Mark - so well written and makes a lot of sense if one reads your blog with an open mind. There were 452 comments and I'm sorry that I didn't take the time to read some of them. But I bet any money that someone will have said - that if this product takes off - there will be no more chickens -ever! That makes me laugh. There will always be people who want the "real" thing - no matter the reasons for
adopting a more humane and compassionate life style which also benefits our health and the environment.
I can't ever envision a time in the future when the chicken will become extinct as sadly I was recently reminded of Martha - the last passenger pigeon who died in a Cincinatti Zoo many years ago because of our poor stewardship. Once there were millions of them, and then I imagine they may have been treated like the Hegin pigeons in Pennsylvania - where hunters use them as target practice. Sometimes
I think God must have regretted given us stewardship over the animals.