Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Finding a Balance

There is a very funny episode of a show that I don't think even has a name. It was a pilot episode for a show that was never picked up and was included on an issue of Wholphin. The name of the episode was The Pity Card (linked above and recommended - it's very funny) and in it the protagonist, on a first date, took the girl to the Holocaust Museum. He realized how terrible a location that was for a first date, but was surprised to discover that the girl had somehow never even heard of the holocaust before. Hilarity and awkwardness ensue.

I feel like that with regard to meat sometimes. Not to compare the factory farming industry to the holocaust, although I don't know that the distinction is too great, but because of the way I feel when I am forced to think about it. As I said, not eating meat is extremely easy for me. It's inconvenient at times, but in the two and a half years (more on that in a moment) since I made my decision, I have never once been tempted by a piece of meat. So I go through my life not eating meat and not really thinking about it too much. I play games, watch TV and movies and go shopping and never think about why I don't eat meat. And then some times when my attention is focused and I am reminded why I made my decision in the first place.

Factory farms are places of so much horror and misery and absolute evil and greed that it makes my stomach drop. It is depressing and I feel helpless, powerless to stop the absurd cruelty. I can't believe that this goes on now - today - and no one even cares. It makes me want to scream. That's what my last post was. It was a scream. I wrote it last night and today, just like always, I was no longer standing on the table and wasn't even repulsed when I walked past the deli at Kroger.

I will probably continue to consume dairy products but in limited amounts. I will buy eggs from local farms (easily available at local farmers markets) and will avoid milk products where possible. When eating out I will eat eggs and dairy that were likely procured with pain and suffering. I will feel terrible about it. It is nearly impossible to avoid leather completely, especially with shoes and belts. I will continue to buy leather shoes and I will continue to use all of my currently owned leather products until they are no longer usable. But I will feel guilty about it.

There is just no way to avoid the guilt. There is no way to put enough distance between myself and the humans who cause so much pain and destruction because I am a part of the problem. We are all a part of a violent machine and cannot escape. I called this our original sin. I still think that this is apt, except that there is no real salvation. I can avoid meat but it is still harvested with or without my support; besides, I will still feel the guilt for the three decades in which I ate meat with abandon. I can drive sparingly but I have a car and live in a city where relying solely on public transportation is impractical, so I am a part of the oil problem and a part of the environmental destruction.

There is an argument to be made for ignoring all of this and simply living my own life. At the end of the day, I really am only responsible for my own actions. It is truly tiring and mentally numbing to be responsible for the actions of everyone on the planet. But if I ignore these things, if I just keep quiet and forget about it all then they will continue. The balance is very difficult to find.

I am constantly reminded of the movie Year of the Dog. It is flawed, but definitely worth the time. It chronicles the emotional journey of a woman who is faced with the reality of animal cruelty and the weight of the world and does not know how to handle it. Her beloved dog dies (saddest scene in a movie ever, by the way) and she suddenly cracks. She goes from omnivore to vegetarian to vegan, she tries to adopt a dog from a shelter and ends up with the entire death row in her house. Wackiness ensues (it is a comedy, after all). At the end she joins PETA to travel the country protesting animal cruelty. When I watched it I didn't get it. I thought that her solution was absurd and illogical, but now I think I understand. That is the logical, pure, selfless endpoint for this problem.

I'm not going to do that. I'll live in my house and enjoy my electronics that are made with human misery. I'll drive my car that runs on the oil that is destroying the planet. I'll keep my money in banks that are widening the poverty gap in this country by the minute. I'll shop at Starbucks because it's convenient and delicious. I'll eat cheese because I love it and eggs because I just can't imagine having a salad for breakfast. I'll talk a big game but when it comes down to it, the rock is just too big to move.

I am sorry if my last post was too accusatory and mean. I do recognize that, for some people, extra protein is imperative. Humans are omnivores and most of us can easily cut meat from our diet. Dogs are not so versatile and so I will continue to feed my dogs off the shelf dog food and treats made with factory farmed meat. I'm lazy and the thought of buying locally slaughtered goat and cow to prepare and feed them is just too daunting. It's easier for me to just pour out processed brown pellets. This is why the problem is still here. Because people like me, who are outraged and disgusted by the practice, are also hooked on it. We are born into this machine. I suppose I could go "off the grid," a la Colin Beavan, the No Impact Man. I hear that the book is better than the movie - thanks for the tip. I'll check it out. But from here it seems as though extracting myself from the machine is a full time job and at the end of the day I really do appreciate modern science and technology.

It confuses me. It's very hard to find a balance.

1 comment:

Snowbrush said...

I stopped eating meat in the early '80s. I lived in Mississippi at the time, and was literally the only vegetarian I knew. I went back to fish in '87, but I miss meat at all. In fact, it grosses me out, and then there's the humane and environmental aspects.

I love the photo at the top, although it led me to read the last word in the blog name as dog instead of blog.

The verification word for my response is "insanity." You've got to have a lot of influence to have set that one up--ha.