The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan explains (among other things) that the omnivore’s dilemma is deciding what to eat. A carnivore eats meat – no decision needed. An herbivore eats plants – no decision needed. But when you can eat just about anything then the question becomes, “What should I eat?”
I have been against the selling of horses for slaughter for as long as I’ve been aware of the issue. While the thought of eating my beloved horse makes me ill, eating horse meat has been quite common throughout human history and the U.S. used to have a number of slaughter plants for horses. They are now illegal in this country, but that does not stop “kill-buyers” from buying cheap, unwanted horses at auctions and shipping them to Canada or Mexico for processing. In California shipping a horse to slaughter is also illegal, but it happens all the time.
Let’s set aside for now the issue of what to do with unwanted horses. That’s an issue for another post, but this is why I support Horses’ Honor Horse Rescue and Sanctuary here in California. There are many such sanctuaries of various sizes throughout the country.
But back to my omnivore’s dilemma. If I don’t think horses should be eaten, why do I think it’s OK to eat cows? That is a very good question, and was one of the reasons behind my decision to stop eating mammals a year ago. No beef, pork, venison, rabbit, etc. If it’s a mammal, I don’t eat it.
I’m not against eating animals per se. Of course if one is starving, one will eat whatever one can catch. Carnivores eat animals (duh); sometimes you’re the fox and sometimes you’re the rabbit. But what I cannot support is the practice of factory farming, which is pretty much all the farming that is left in this country. Even meat that is labeled “humanely raised, grass fed,” etc. isn’t what we think it is. Unless you have your own farm and can kill and butcher your own cow or pig or chicken, or you know someone that has such a place that you can buy from, it’s all factory farming of one sort or another. Google “factory farming practices” to get an idea of what that’s all about if you aren’t already aware. The amount of such suffering created by these practices is insurmountable and not something I can be part of any longer. So, there’s that.
Then, recently I read Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy by Matthew Scully. This book was hard to get through as it describes the horrible ways humans have “had dominion” over animals, as if they didn’t have the right to be on this planet unless they serve us in some way. I had to read it in small bits. One of my a-ha moments from this book was the author’s discussion of what it means when we know that there are plant-based means to healthily feed out bodies and we know that factory farming produces such pain and misery, but we eat meat anyway because it tastes good:
Gluttony, pure and simple. Which all three major religions count as a pretty big deal. That brought me up short, because I’d not made that connection before. This is another place where the “equestrian” and the “theology” meet.
Up until now, I’d sworn off mammals but still have been eating chicken. Chickens suffer just as much, so there’s no real reason for me to eat them except that they’re lower down the evolutionary chain, and convenient. But no more of that for me, either. I cannot in good conscience let gluttony and convenience trump suffering.
So, what do I eat? Lots of chocolate. Just kidding. Not really. Still on my plate: fish, eggs and dairy. I am a work in progress.