Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cameras and Vegetarianism

A supermarket in Australia may start requiring its meat suppliers to have cameras in their sheds and slaughterhouses, in order to be sure they are following the standards for animal welfare, according to this post: Coles Supermarkets in Australia Wants Camera Surveillance In Supplier's Slaughterhouses, posted August 20.

Image source.

My first thought, upon reading this story, is "WHYYYYYYY would you want that?" Really? Cameras? Why would you want to digitally store footage of a bunch of pigs, so you can watch it and think, "All these pigs, which look quite alive in this video- they're all dead now. They were killed one by one and their bodies were cut up and covered in plastic wrap and sold."

That's horrifying. Why would anyone want MORE information available about what goes on in slaughterhouses?

But any line of thinking that says "the less you know, the better" is highly suspicious.

So here is my question: Do people who eat meat have a responsibility to know where it comes from?

In an ideal world, the right thing for me to do is become a vegetarian for now, do some research, decide what meat sources I'm okay with, based on how the animals are treated, and then only eat those kinds of meat. Right? Maybe everyone should try being a vegetarian for some short period of time.

But I can tell you I'm not about to do that. Being a vegetarian is incredibly inconvenient. And I have other things in my life that are more important than looking for information about slaughterhouses.

So I'm not sure what to conclude about this...

But here's another thing: Why is there this idea in American culture that eating meat is "manly" and vegetarians are weak and wimpy? And that caring about animals is just for crazy hippies? I've never tried being a vegetarian, but I imagine it's really hard- it's hard to find stuff you can eat when you're out somewhere, the vegetarian choices are so limited at restaurants, plus you have to deal with people thinking you're wimpy/over-sensitive/unreasonable for not eating meat. If anything, the vegetarians are the ones who are strong.


  1. I used to think this exact same thing -- you can see my very similar reflections here. I then took a small step of not eating meat when eating out at restaurants, and I found that it actually made things easier because it limited the number of menu items I had to choose between. I also found that when restaurants do have humanely raised, antibiotic-free meat, they share that information very prominently on their menu, and then I may make the choice to eat that meat. We got this kind of meat through a CSA subscription for some time and I began only eating the meat we had at home, and choosing not to eat meat at other people's houses. When we moved out here, I stopped eating meat altogether -- we happen to live in an area where it's very common to be vegetarian or vegan, so there are a lot of options even in our campus's dining hall.

    The whole process for me was gradual and turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be. If I find myself in a situation where it would be extremely inconvenient not to eat meat -- for example, our friends have a barbecue and forget to get non-meat options -- I don't mind eating it; it's a "don't let perfect be the enemy of good" kind of situation. I say all this not because I think you need to become a vegetarian -- Mike isn't, and I've never tried to convince him he needs to be -- but because I want to help dispel the myth that it's extremely difficult to be a vegetarian. For one thing, it is still way easier to find veggie-friendly options than to find lactose-free options, and that's something I don't have a choice about!

    1. Thanks so much for your perspective- I'm starting to think I should at least try to be vegetarian, maybe for a week or so, and see whether it's hard. And it doesn't have to be an "all or nothing" thing.

  2. Agree with Jessica on all fronts! I went vegetarian for a month, and for the most part it was not difficult. I'll admit that I stopped because I love the taste of meat and because I enjoy the different techniques of cooking meat. I try to minimize my animal welfare/environmental footprint by eating vegetarian on some days, vegan some days, pescetarian some days, with meat thrown in here and there. No matter how dedicated anyone is to vegetarian & vegan causes, there are always challenging circumstances. I guess I take the approach of "Just because we can't do everything doesn't mean we can't do something".

    This is a huge topic, though. I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on it if they come up. I really struggle with it. I literally cried over my dead goldfish on Sunday and I ate salmon for dinner on Monday. Why is this okay to us!?

    1. This makes a lot of sense- and I agree about the weirdness of how we view meat- people think it's disgusting and terrible and evil to eat dogs or horses, but totally normal to eat cows and pigs... why?

      Also in China they seem to be less isolated from the reality of where meat comes from, in my opinion. For example, one time I went to a restaurant, and a we ordered pigeon and they brought it out to us, cooked and cut into 4 pieces, with the head still on it. Another time I went to a restaurant where they throw live fish into the hot pot in the middle of the table, and put a cover on it "so they don't jump out" and then the fish cook and you eat them. I feel like in American culture we are much more sheltered from this- we try to hide the fact that it came from a real live animal.

    2. A great book on this is Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat about the human relationship to animals. It will mess with your mind, but it also helped me realize that there will always be paradoxes and contradictions in our relationship to animals and you have to just do as much as you feel you can do and let the rest go.

  3. Actually, I don't think being a vegetarian is that hard. Matt and I have done it for periods of time, and it's surprising, at least in Cleveland, how many places now carry good options. It's fun to try new things at home, too, and it can actually be a cheaper way to eat.

    On the manliness of meat note, I completely agree. I heard a commercial for a Wendy's burger either today or yesterday (the "baconator"?) being marketed through the idea that it was manly to eat more bacon (and think about chainsaws and monstertrucks while talking with someone...). I thought it was ridiculous. There maybe is a link between the protein content in meat and supporting higher testosterone levels, but whereas medically this makes sense, I'm not sure that's why we think of meat as manly.

    1. Cool- I think I should try being vegetarian sometime. ^_^ And yes, the "bacon is manly" thing... I'm like "????"

  4. I'm finding it a little crazy that I'm from Australia and know Coles (it is splashed over our TV's constantly, one of the biggest advertisers what with the constant war between it and Woolworths)and have NEVER EVEN HEARD OF THIS! Wow. Huh. Gotta love the media.

    p.s. vegetarian all my life. It makes buying meat so much easier. :)

    1. You're from Australia? Cool. ^_^ Also I'm pretty surprised at the responses I've gotten from vegetarians or people who don't eat much meat, saying it's actually not that hard. I feel like I'm learning new stuff.




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