Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Why I Became a Vegetarian

This blog was intended to be about "city nature" stories - interactions with nature (usually animals) in an urban area. The story of how I became a vegetarian has nothing to do with the city. Or maybe it does. You the reader can decide.

I grew up in the country, on a small farm. We kept various sorts of livestock, and provided ourselves with most of our own food. Every spring my parents bought a piglet, and every fall, when it had grown up into a pig, they killed it, chopped it up, and put it in the freezer. Then we spent the rest of the year eating it.

It was my job to feed the pig. How old was I when I started? Five, maybe. I understood that we were providing food for these animals, so that they in turn would provide food for us. Without ever putting it into words, I respected those pigs. They were giving their lives for us. I don't know of any way to repay a debt like that.

So I fed the pigs, both their regular food and treats from the garden. I frequently visited the pigs and scratched their backs. Pigs love that. They will leeeeann against your scratching hand until they're like to fall over. And when the time came for them to die, I never watched, but I wasn't really unhappy about it. That is what they were there for.

(We killed and ate chickens too, but it's hard to feel genuine respect for a chicken. I did enjoy looking at their multicolored insides, though.)

Time passed, and my family's circumstances changed. By the time I went away to college, we no longer kept any animals for food (although my mother bought sides of beef and pork from a local farmer, and had them butchered at a local slaughterhouse.)

College was where I first encountered vegetarian propaganda, which consists of two main points: 1) it is possible to be healthy without eating any meat (which contradicted what I had always been told); and 2) animals in factory farms are raised and killed under appalling conditions.

College was also the first place where everything I ate had come from "unknown" sources. I realized that I was uncomfortable eating meat when I had no idea where it came from - when I had never been introduced to the animal, as it were. It wasn't the first time I had eaten store-bought meat, by any means, but a steady diet of it began to disturb me. (Also, sometimes it did not taste entirely fresh.)

Gradually, over the course of a couple years, I stopped eating meat altogether. At this point I can't see myself ever eating meat again. I'm not prepared to kill my own food, although I wouldn't object to other people who do.

Now, what does all of this have to do with living in the city?

Note: See also Those who Died for Us, which I wrote about a year later.

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