Two things happened in the last few days that have me thinking about how I was going to tackle this week’s Spin Cycle, which is “morals.”
Given our religious and political views, that’s sort of like giving me a loaded gun. But this isn’t a religious or political blog (thank goodness), it’s a food blog. And yes – food is as moral a subject as religion or politics. If you don’t believe me, just put a paleo enthusiast and a raw vegan in the same room and stand back. It could get VERY ugly. (Disclaimer: ugliness is not a certainty, but it’s been known to happen. Just sayin’.)
“The solution to all the world’s problems…is BACON.” A mutual friend of ours apparently took exception to that and replied with, “The solution isn’t bacon if you’re a pig.”
After a little back-and-forth with Beloved (who agrees wholeheartedly with my Young Diabetic Friend) about the commitment of the pig to our cake and said pig’s feelings about it, I wrote, “We care enough about the animals that provide our bacon to make sure they are humanely raised and not fed dangerous crap that will make them sick. I don’t know what more you could ask for when you’re a pig.”
To which he had no reply.
Saturday morning, during our routine farmer’s market visits, we talked to our squash farmer about purchasing a goat (I guess this makes her our goat farmer now). They don’t normally sell their goats to individuals (the animals they don’t eat themselves are sold in bulk to a reseller), but she was more than happy to agree to sell us one, provided we paid the same price per pound as her reseller – not a problem at all. He won’t be big enough to sell for a couple of months; she had me write down our names and phone numbers so she could call us when he was ready to be taken to the butcher to be processed. I did so, and wrote “Goat!!” underneath – just to make sure she didn’t forget why she needed to call us (hey – farmers are busy people).
She laughed and said, “Great! I’ll just write his n – no, I better not. You probably don’t want to know.”
“Know what?” I asked. “His name?” She nodded.
“Oh, we name all of our food!” I told her. “Our sides of beef have been Chuck and Charles – the next one will be Bob – and our pigs have been Arnold and Wilbur; we’re still working our way through Orville. So, what’s the goat’s name?”
I’d have preferred Billy, but you take what you can get.
I understand the need for the person on Facebook to want to consider the pig’s feelings about becoming bacon, I really do. But, you see, I don’t think the pig really has any feelings about his ultimate fate; he’s going to die eventually anyway so whether or not I eat his remains is immaterial, at least to him. I do think he cares very much how he lives, though, and since he is going to nourish me and those I love, I do too. And no, my concern over his well-being isn’t predicated exclusively on the fact I’ll be eating him for 6 months – no animal deserves to be tortured just so I can barbecue his ribs and turn his jowls into guanciale.
As for Pete, his story doesn’t end there. While visiting with our new goat farmer, we also wanted to buy some winter squash, but someone had bought the last butternut she had on hand. She did, however, have some available at their farmside stand, which is located right next to the entrance of their barn, so we decided to make the 5-minute drive to the farm. As we left, she called cheerily after us, “Say hello to Pete while you’re there!” I’d have loved to – we actually walked to the barn entrance to see if he was in there – but since there were at least half a dozen goats in there, it was hard to pick Pete out, although I suspect he was the largest of the bunch. Too bad…I wanted to pet him. And thank him.
I have no problem with meeting Pete, just like I had no problem visiting Jon Berger’s farm and looking at the herd of which our original steer was a part or looking at the pictures of the Berkshire hogs he posted on his Facebook wall (they’re darn cute when they’re small, by the way). Beloved and I would be more than willing to watch the animals who eventually become our dinner be (humanely) slaughtered, cut and packaged – hell, we’d be willing to pitch in and help – but since the entire process is supervised by a USDA inspector who would probably frown on the presence of a couple of nutjobs who feel we, as a society, have become far too disconnected from where our food comes from, we’ve settled for having it described to us in detail.
I guess my point here is not that I don’t feel it’s immoral to eat meat, it’s that I feel it’s immoral not to understand what you’re eating. It’s not just meat, either – we’ve gotten to the point that when we meet a new produce farmer, we try to ask them where their farm is located and about their farming practices. Food, whether you’re an omnivore or a vegan, is a moral matter, and the more disconnected we become from the sources of our food the more disconnected we become from our surroundings and even ourselves. This disconnect is costing us, in terms of our health and the planet we live on – it’s time to rediscover our morality before it’s too late for everyone.