☆ May 7, 2012
It’s certainly not for lack of caring about animals. But before I get into details ~
I have noticed, over the years, that conversations about food and diet often veer into a similar realm as those about politics or religion. I don’t want that to happen here or in the comment section. I’m often asked how I can care so deeply for the cows and calves we raise and still eat meat ~ in answering that here, I am simply sharing my choices and what works for me; I’m not trying to “convert” anybody. I think every body has different needs and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to diet.
Onward! I was really naive about food until I turned 26. I didn’t particularly care about food ~ it was not a priority in my life and I just ate whatever. I thought food was food, that all food was pretty much fine, because why would they have commercials on TV for Big Macs if they were bad for you? Naive.
Then I became devastatingly ill, to the point where I had to sit on the bathroom floor to brush my teeth because I didn’t have the energy to stand at the sink, and was battling an unyielding depression. It took me six months to discover the root was gluten intolerance and when I cut gluten out of my diet, all the horrible symptoms and effects disappeared. That period of illness was the worst six months of my life and it was the best thing that happened to me. Because everything changed. I realized that what I put into my body affected how I feel and how I function. I started paying attention to my body and I started paying attention to food.
I went vegan for a bit, but soon realized my body functions best with animal protein. It’s just the way it is with me. Some people thrive on a vegan diet and I didn’t. And so I began incorporating raw organic milk and cheese and grass-finished pasture-raised beef back into my diet, all of which I could buy in stores as I was living in San Francisco at the time.
These choices regarding animal products, however, were not rooted in altruism; they were totally self-centered. Since I had discovered that food = health and health = power, I wanted the animal protein I was eating to be as pure and natural as possible ~ when you eat meat, eggs, or dairy, you consume what the animal consumed, and factory-raised products are filled with antibiotics, hormones, and unhealthy fats because of the conditions in which the animals are raised.
Yet in my research surrounding this, I began learning about the absolute horrors of commercial farming and that is when I became passionate about the animals. I vowed that if I was going to eat an animal, I would make sure that animal never spent time in a feedlot or factory farm; that the animal’s life was as happy and peaceful as possible before that life was surrendered for mine.
I don’t ignore the fact that an animal dies so that I may eat meat. I don’t take it lightly. But to reconcile that fact, I have to know the animal had the happiest, most stress-free life possible and the quickest, most stress-free death possible. I eat elk that Mike hunts, because he hunts with a rifle and is so skilled that the animals he takes are dead before they fall. I also eat the beef that we raise, because I know the animal’s life was good, that it was loved and free, and I am with it till the end. There’s no feedlot, no slaughterhouse, just a trip down the dirt road to a small USDA-certified processor run by a woman who is smart and kind.
Because I am so adamantly against the industries of terror and abuse that are conventional farming, I haven’t eaten chicken in ten years, and I only eat eggs from Mike’s chickens (when they stop laying I go without) and dairy from Daisy (when she dries off for two months before each calf I go without). I feel really lucky to be so “close to the source” via my life in Wyoming. But it’s an ongoing process ~ just the other day I realized my favorite gluten-free bread which I buy upon occasion is made with eggs, and these are very likely factory-farmed eggs. So I switched to a different brand of bread that is vegan and gluten free.
Going back to the original question, how can I invest so much care in a orphan calf, or keep a hypothermic calf in my house, when I know it’s going to die anyway? Because I love each calf. Because I have so much respect for these animals and am so grateful for them. I will live in service to them because I know they will die in service to me. And in the meantime, I want their lives to be filled with respect and freedom and peace.
This is kind of a stream of consciousness blog post and I’m sure there are points I glossed over or points I may have missed, so please leave any questions you may have in the comment section and I will answer them. I can anticipate one question: How can I feel so strongly against feedlots and yet help raise calves that are sent off to that torture? I don’t. We don’t. But that is another long story which I will save for another day.