Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Interconnectedness and the Logic of Disconnecting

I hate to talk about things that upset people.
However, I want to share something with you.
Something Lori Lyn and Jill and Brooke and I all seem to have on our minds lately.

Oh boy.... Here goes....

I want to talk about factory farming.

Yes.
Sorry.

The only reason I am sharing this with you today, is because I feel we have become very far removed from where our food comes from and therefore, it may be beneficial to have a little reality check every once in a while.
People, there is some bad stuff happening on those farms and we are getting sick from it.

It also occurred to me that many people live in cities these days where they never actually get an opportunity to see a pig, cow or a chicken, up close and personal.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, this arrangement makes it super easy for one to disconnect from what one is eating.
Perhaps, the connection has been completely lost.
The connection that the shiny pink shrink-wrapped globs on pastel styrofoam trays being bought at the supermarket were once part of an animal.
And likely an animal that had a miserable life in a factory setting.

Before I go too much further, I would also like to say, if you eat meat I do not have a problem with that.
None whatsoever.
In fact, I have had seafood five times this year and even had a McDonald's Cheeseburger Happy Meal the day Lilly got sick.
My problem is not with meat eaters. It is with factory farms. Let's not confuse the two.
I am posting this entry in hopes of helping us all make more informed decisions when purchasing meat.

Also, I have decided it is perfectly okay to express my personal opinions on my own blog.
Isn't that what these things are about, for the most part?

It is alarming to me that so much information about the meat processing industry is easily available to us, yet we do nothing as a whole to make things better.
The "farming" practices (the term "farming" being very loosely applied) keep getting more and more gruesome and we turn a blind eye and just keep on eating.

Simply put; factory farmed meat is so unhealthy for us I cannot believe it is legal to sell it.
It is full of chemicals, hormones, disease, sadness, fear and denial.

Why is our grand nation in such an unhealthy decline?
Come on now.
It is really that hard to find a viable answer?
Hmmmm.
Could it be what we are eating?
Could it be that those pink globs we ravenously consume,
in mass quantity,
are only a sickly shadow of that smiling beast on the packaging?

And why so many senseless acts of violence on the news every night?
Hmmmm.
Could it be that repeated consumption of tortured souls makes us miserable?
Consuming sickly mistreated animals might be a bad idea.
You know, for our physical and mental health.

The same mental health that needs calling upon when acknowledging the undeniable and necessary interconnectedness that binds all living things and makes us human.
Supposedly intelligent even.

It is the above mentioned interconnectedness that keeps me from delving too deeply.
Once you start uncovering the intimate details of factory farming the tendrils of blame start smacking outward like whips.
One is very likely to smack me.
I know this. I'm trying to tread lightly.
I do not claim to be living any better or any more righteously than anyone else.
I have several faults.
I also happen to have several opinions...
And a easily stoked sense of urgency.
And a big mouth.
And a blog.

So it is here we find ourselves today,
with me going on about the evils of factory farming.

Me, who has eaten gigantic quantities of meat in my three and a half decades on this planet.

You see, though...
That's just it. Things done changed.
Traditional farming has now become alternative farming.
It's just crazy. The craziness is what I'm getting to...

Now would be a good time to watch a short film.
And yes, that would be Mr. Alec Baldwin breaking it down for you.




Take it or leave it... Believe it or not.
It's all up to you.

You know, I really didn't want to post this so soon after my anti-fur post,
because I am really a "live and let live" kinda gal.
But I started writing this January 1st, as part of my new year's resolution to go totally meat free,
but now I'm ready to let it go.
Release it to blog land and start focusing on more fun things like music and french kissing and cute t-shirts.

Personally, Mark and I have been "almost-vegetarians" for about 6 years.
Coincidentally, the almost-vegetarianism began when we moved into historic and beautiful Butchertown in Louisville, where one final inner-city slaughterhouse still operates.

The vibe as you pass this old brick building is oppressive.
Needless to say, it didn't take long living in Butchertown to get kinda weirded out by meat and how we are in the modern practice of obtaining it.

While living next to the slaughterhouse,
I witnessed with my own eyes the way pigs are not-so-very-kindly prodded off a truck while being screamed at by men and women with long sticks.
I've heard pigs scream and squeal when entering the factory. No happy oinks are uttered.
It is not a happy place.

I've been at stop lights numerous times, behind jam-packed silver transport trucks.
Dozens of haunting eyes looking directly into mine. So damn sad, tragic and unnecessary.
They know exactly what is going down.
The know this ain't no field trip to the city.

I have even tried to ignore that slaughterhouse smell of shit and blood, as it hangs in the air there, on hot summer nights,
Tried to disconnect from what was in the very air I was breathing.
Sometimes, with some real effort I could dig around in my brain and find the part of my logic that still allowed me to go to Genny's Diner and order bacon.

Although, it has never tasted very good after living downtown.
Living downtown forced me to reconnect. I didn't want to.
It is so much easier to live in denial.

Recently while visiting our Butchertown condo, Mark and I witnesses and escaped pig running down Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
It was an awful sight.
We were very upset be seeing such a thing and followed the animal while trying to figure out what we could do to save him.
Afterall, at this point, after escaping the menacing humans with sticks, didn't he deserve to have a happy ending?
He was navigating the sidewalks and busy traffic better than most tourists and he was running as fast as he could to just get the hell away.
Unfortunately, "away" was too far.
Within minutes, a local man-child police officer with a buzz cut and an itch to use his gun on something besides hay bales and Pabst Blue Ribbon cans arrived with his lights a-twirlin'.

We knew it was over.
The pig knew it was over.
I would have had the pig jump into the car if I could have.
Driven him to an animal sanctuary and wished him well.

I'm sure the cop shot the pig but I couldn't bear to watch.
I begged Mark to just drive away.
The pig was just trying to survive, as well all would.
We were witnessing the final moments.
His last chance to just go somewhere and be a freaking pig.
Like he was born to be.

The logic to disconnect is a peculiar thing.
It think it goes against everything that we inheritently are, but is it necessary or our hearts would be full of pity and heart break and there would be no room for joy and laughter and inspiration.

So strange... I knew the connection well as I kid and it was much harder to deny.

I particularly remember the day my family helped slaughtered the hogs on my Aunt and Uncle's farm in Lawrenceburg, Ky. Although I was upset that we had just killed a rather interesting member of the farm,
a member that I had watched in total wide-eyed city girl amazement on a regular basis several times before.
I knew even then, at a young age, that it was just part of farm life. If you wanted to eat meat you had to kill an animal.
Meat does not grow on trees.
Pretty darn simple.

I did manage to find comfort in the fact that, at least, that particular pig had been fed well.
Consuming not only his feed, but all of our leftovers from delicious Sunday meals and other kitchen scraps.
He had been cared for by 4 people who treated him well and patted him respectfully on his fat hairy hide.
He felt the seasons change and had maybe even enjoyed his life on the farm.

I think that pig tasted good, too.
You know the main reason?

I believe it was because we were all connected to it in some sort of sacred way.
We were thankful for the pig and quite aware of what he had sacrificed for us.

I suppose my Uncle had the strongest connection to that soul.
He had built such a relationship with the pig that it came right up to him when he called for it that snowy day.
Very calmly and without hesitation my Uncle silently raised his long gun and shot the animal one time,
point blank, right between the eyes.

It was almost ceremonial.
Everyone was reverent even the children.
There was no torture or disrespect towards the source of that year's contents of the deep freezer.
Every time we pulled an odd shaped piece of frosty wax papered meat from the back porch, we thought about that pig. We fully understood the connection.

Today, I know very few folks that actually wring the necks of chickens for a cup of chicken soup.
I don't believe I could do it.
However, I appreciate such a thing in a meat eating sort of scenario.
I appreciate when one is acutely aware of their meal and it's origins.

Even the hunters of Western Kentucky which I used to have such disdain for, have made me reevaluate my relationship to the food I eat. The fact that these hunters get out in the woods to kill their food, and the fact that their food got to romp around in the wild for a while makes me respect the process, at least more than I used to. They use just about every inch of that animal, and when they are done harvesting what they can for food, they hang it's head on the wall.

It is with these folks in mind, in fact, that I have been trying to make a deal with myself...
The deal is: If I can't kill it, I can't eat it.
Which would leave me nothing but a plate full of mosquitoes, fleas and ticks.
Suddenly that tray of roasted asparagus seems like a feast.

And while I know that wishing we could get back to the days where we connected with the animals is an impossible idea.
I wish we could, at the very minimum, take a look at what we have going on these days because I will boldly venture
to say there is nothing sacred, ceremonial or reverent about factory farming....

Furthermore, there is nothing healthy about eating a tortured, disfigured, mentally disabled, chemically bloated and disrespected anything.

Honestly, I could care less if you eat meat or not. This is not about eating meat.
This is about respecting animals.

At the very least it would be nice if we could treat these animals a little betterwhile they are alive.
Let them have a little happiness. Some sunshine maybe. Some fresh air wouldn't hurt.

And I'm guessing a little kindness might make them taste better, too.
If you're into that sort of thing.

6 Comments:

Blogger Lori-Lyn said...

This is a great post and I agree with everything you have written here, but I'm going to digress a bit in my comment and say that you absolutely do have a right to write about what ever you wish on your own blog. As women, and southern ones at that, I think we have a tendancy to put others first and make sure we're not making waves. I check myself all the time wondering if something I write is going to be offensive to one of my readers, and I have held back posts for this reason. While that may not always be a bad thing, we need to remember that our voices and opinions matter. Other people can take it, and it's really not our responsibility to please other people in the first place.
I, for one, love hearing you talk about the things that matter to you. Especially in this case, since we're on the same page!
Thanks for posting this!

Wednesday, 22 March, 2006  
Blogger anessa said...

Thank you LL.
It cold have rewritten it a million times, but it always boiled down to the same basic theme. Kindness.
Glad you appreciated it. You are right on about the southern woman thing. I like making waves, but only if I know who I am about to rock. And eve then I apologize too much about it.

Wednesday, 22 March, 2006  
Anonymous Brooke said...

I know many share your feelings, but what I think makes this so much more eloquently written than some animal-rights rants is that you have a personal experience that draws you in.

Not that I am here to critique your writing styles, but your feelings make me feel like I was there...

And you sum up many reasons why I am vegan. :)

Wednesday, 22 March, 2006  
Anonymous JACKIE-O said...

HEY GIRL, NOTHING WRONG WITH YOUR OPINION AND THE TRUTH!! ITS BEEN A FEW DAYS SINCE IVE BEEN ON YOUR BLOG, AND THE LAST LETTER I WROTE YOU WAS ME SCREAMING "WHAT DO YOU DO THOUGH?" IVE TALKED TO TONS OF PEOPLE ABOUT THE FILM ON FARM ANIMALS SINCE YOU SENT IT TO ME, BUT IT ALWAYS COMES BACK TO THE SAME THING, WHAT CAN BE DONE TO MAKE THESE PLACES MORE HUMANE? AND YES, I TOO HAVE ATE MEAT SINCE THAT FILM, BUT I CAN HONESTLY SAY THAT I SPOKE ABOUT HOW I HAD JUST ATE MEAT, AND INSTEAD OF SAYING "DAMN THAT WAS SOME GOOD STEAK!" I SADLY THOUGHT HOW THE ANIMAL DIED SO THAT I COULD EAT IT. SO SOMETHING IS HAPPENING INSIDE ME. :(

Thursday, 23 March, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anessa,

You are very timely. Check the NYT Magazine section this week at

The Modern Hunter-Gatherer

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/26/magazine/carnivore.html?ex=1144126800&en=0d045e009c2fb200&ei=5070&emc=eta1

You'll have to sign in.

Monday, 27 March, 2006  
Blogger Mags said...

I just think you are the cutest....even though after reading this to say you are the cutest doesn't sound so "right"
I love your reasoning. I love how kind you are...even to me someone you hardly know. You are an amazing woman. I know you truly care about the welfare of all things great and small. You are a beautiful girl.
I couldn't read the links though....

Wednesday, 29 March, 2006  

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