Live Real. Eat Real.

The Morality of Pete

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’.)

Anyhoo.  After having a piece of the Apple Bacon Upside-Down Cake, my Young Diabetic Friend posted this very tongue-in-cheek statement to his Facebook wall:

“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?”

“Pete.”

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.


24 comments

Lori says:

Amen sista! I haven’t commented on here for a long time but just had to after reading this. I grew up knowing where our food came from. I helped with the aminals from the time they were born. I had names for the sheep, pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys, ducks. I ran in the pastures in which they grazed. I was part of their daily feedings and care. I was also a part of butchering the ones we ate for food. I admit there were moments growing up in which this part was hard…especially when I had formed attachment to certain ones. I also was part of planting the seeds, pulling the weeds and picking the gardens produce and helping to can and freeze what we would need to get through the winter. I have tried to raise all of my kids in this same environment of knowing where our food comes from…to know and care about what they are putting into their bodies.

Great post my friend! XX

Be says:

Well said. I certainly would want to meet someone before they ate me! Oh! ..nevermind.

You baaad boy.

BWAHAHAHA! You took the words right out of my mouth, Jen! :)

I don’t think I would ever go far enough to see the butchering part of turning any animal into food, me and my incapability to sit through a nature show without feeling remorse for the zebra who couldn’t outrun the lion, but I am much happier with how we’re eating because we’re taking such an interest in where it comes from, checking labels, keeping things as natural as possible, the way nature intended. So many taglines, so little room.
You’re linked!

Hear, hear!! This is why I love you so much, Jan, you actually CARE – not just about what you eat, but ‘who’ you’re eating…uh oh, I just opened the door for Be to throw in a witty comment, didn’t I? Damn! ;)

I love that you want to make sure that what you’re feeding those you love have been loved – or at least humanely treated. You GO girl! :)

MamaBadger says:

I’m with you. I’m not against eating animals, but I am against mistreating them. Bacon is a gift from a piggy friend, the least we can do in return is make sure he was comfortable before he gave it, right?

Sean says:

I think Pete’s just a victim of the nanny state.

Lisa says:

Given that it’s hard to find a moral absolute, a set of mores that focuses on kindness, and honesty, and conscious decisions is already better than most. I like your reasoning.

chuck says:

people are too far removed from their food as you say. the less you know, the more you take for granted, the less control you have over your own health. people have been surrendering control of their own health for years and it gets worse every day. they are not actively involved with raising there food, preparing their food, nor are they actively involved in maintaining their own health. they go to the doctor and hear Wa Wa wa, take this pill, wa wa wa (my best attempt at Charlie Brown’s teacher talking). They go home and take the pill and think that is all they have to do. Next time they go to the doctor, they get more pills.

I’d rather be putting Pete and Wilbur in my mouth that Lipitor and Zoloft.

Chris B says:

I was raised in a standard ’50′s suburban life – about as “Beaver Cleaver” as you could get – but when as an adult we had some land in Tennessee, I also learned a little about cows – specifically a steer named “Franklin”. I loved to spend time in the afternoon leaning against him in the paddock and pulling the burrs from his coat. (By the way, most people don’t realize that cows raised in a pasture – not a feedlot – have a wonderful spicy-sweet kind of cinnamon-y smell.)

He had a good life for two years roaming around that 3 acre field, eating whatever he wanted and playing “bump-it” with a big blue barrel. And I loved him just as much when he came back from the butcher as over 400 lbs of grass-fed, hormone-free beef.

Darling Daughter says:

LOVE this post!

Erin says:

GREAT post, Jan!

So glad I stop by here.

One of these days I’ll jump back into the Spin Cycle.

sigh.

Peg says:

I was wondering how you were gonna spin morals and food together! You did an admirable job I might add. Very thought provoking post. Loved it!

Kacee says:

We have beef cows and we have a freezer steer out there… I named him Little Buddy (LB for short) his mama died so he is an orphan and was too small to sell to the person we sell our steers to, so we are keeping him to eat. It doesn’t bother me that he has a name and that we are eating him- I know he will have lived a good life and if we did sell him with our other steers who knows how they will be raised. Ours always have pasture and are grass fed and hormone/antibiotic free- happy cow!! He does seem to like to hang out with our goats in their pasture.

Stephanie says:

Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places.
—Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519)

I feel as if you don’t fully understand that “Pete” – even if he was the most pampered pig – was alive. Where is the meat he became? Consumed, likely gone. Was that worth taking away EVERYTHING he was?

“Pete” – as are most pigs – was likely an intelligent, sensitive being. There was a heart behind those eyes. He felt joy, fear, love, excitement, tiredness. And if you could ask “Pete”, on the day of his slaughter, what he wanted more than anything in this whole big wide world.. “Life” would probably be at the top of his list.

HIS life, the life he knows, The one where he feels all that love and excitement and tiredness and even sometimes fear. Just like us, just like any living being, he wants LIFE.

And because someone somewhere wants to add a certain something to a meal, he must give up everything he is, everything he was. He must be no more. Every experience, every bit of his heart, mind and being must end. Think just for a second if that was you, what you would be giving up. How is it so different? He feels everything we do. Everything.

I wonder if perhaps it was a dog, a cat or a horse you were about to consume if it would be so easy to visit them. Pigs are one of the most intelligent and sensitive creatures on this earth, even surpassing dogs. Most people don’t know that! A dog IS a pig IS a horse. Smart, sensitive beings!

Why not eat Fido too? It really is the same thing. (I did not believe this until I researched the subject, by the way.)

Please, PLEASE take a moment to consider what you’re actually doing. I was once a bacon-loving girl myself. Heck I would have sucked the meat from a cow if I was hungry enough. But when I stopped to do real research, on farms, animals, the world, the truth, I changed my views, even though it was hard.

Your opinions influence many people, I hope you take that responsibility to heart and do more research on this subject. You can prevent pain, not encourage it.

http://www.veganwolf.com/reasons_to_be_vegan.htm#Eating%20meat%20is%20totally%20unnecess

There is a link for anyone interested in a HEALTHIER, more compassionate lifestyle. It’s not hard! Get informed and KNOW for a fact you’re doing the right thing (the power of research!)

Thank you.

Jan says:

Ummm…Pete was a GOAT. I don’t think I’ll go vegan any time soon, especially if it means I lose the ability to read with comprehension.

hcantrall says:

If you eat – something is dying for it. You vegans think that because you don’t eat animal products that you’re not killing anything to prolong your own existence, which makes you more enlightened. What about the ecosystems that are wiped out for the acres upon acres of soy and grains that you eat? Only farm animals count in the killing of living organisms?

Hey Stephane!! Here’s the thing. Unless you are eating a rock, EVERYTHING you eat is a life, has lived, is sentient, and has a being. You cannot stop it – you MUST kill in order to eat and live. Sure, you may not hear the silent (to you) screams of the slowly dying carrots in your crisper, or the muffled subsonic death gasps of your garlic as it sits out on the counter – but rest assured, they were and are alive before you eat them. Don’t believe me? Put them in a glass of water and watch them sprout.
At least with a goat, the death is final. It’s the cycle of life – and you just can’t escape killing in order to sustain yourself – unless you can live off air. Even then, you’re killing microscopically in order to live. The only answer to avoid killing to sustain yourself is to do what is best for vegans – don’t eat period. It’s the only way your flawed logic works.

Linda Tustin says:

Stephanie- I understand that some people do not eat meat for many reasons. However- posting your misguided admonsishements at Jan’s sushi Bar is just wrong and silly. Why do people have the need to tell everyone else what to do? If you don’t believe that homosexuality is right- don’t be one, if you don’t think eating animals is right- don’t eat one. Either way- don’t tell my freind Jan she is wrong and needs to research when you didn’t even take the time to read the post. Anyone who reads Jan’s blog should know that Jan researches EVERYTHING… LOL

Be says:

E V E R Y T H I N G !

Lance says:

I like meat, it is yummy and I eat it all the time. For breakfast (Bacon) for lunch (Ham) and for dinner, Lamb baaaaaaa!!!

Art says:

For over 5 years, I was vegan or some variation thereof. Vegan/Raw Vegan/Pescetarian/Vegetarian.. you name it, I tried it. So I understand where Stephanie is coming from.

Oh, I tried so hard to be vegan.. but I just couldn’t get into it. I did it solely for “health reasons.” I ate a lot of whole grains, and processed crap, and a lot of soy products. As a “healthy vegan”, I weighed more than I ever had at any other point in my life.

But, I thought I was happy. I thought I was healthy. And then I went Paleo/Primal/Low Carb, whatever you want to call it. I’m not as strict as I used to be.. but I’m happier. I’ve lost some weight. I have more energy. Oh, and I like bacon. A LOT. And I’m never going back.

[...] we call a “squash run” last week – basically, we drove out the farm where we got Pete the Goat and picked up $20 worth of winter squashes.  Since they charge by the squash, not by weight [...]

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