Dear Heavenly Cow Father, Forgive me for I have Sinned

On July 5th, 2005 I declared that I was done eating meat. Much in the style of a young child who makes such a decree, I had no idea what I was really signing up for. I wasn’t even certain I knew why I wanted to stop. Looking back now I think it had very little to do with a moral or ethical stance, and had way more to do with flailing to hang on to anything that I could control in my life, while I was quickly sinking.  I was getting out of a horrendous relationship, that ended as most horrendous relationships do: horrendously. Everything was spinning, and I was left feeling helpless  in regards to my own life. A feeling that is not easy to forget once you’ve experienced it. I guess it wasn’t that much different than someone who rushes out and gets a tattoo or piercing right after a break up. It was a way to alter, to redefine, and to control.

Although I didn’t know much about my reasoning, or the practicality going into it, I did my homework. I read a book called Diet for a Small Planet This book wouldn’t be that earth shattering if I were to read it today. A lot has happened in the food revolution during the last four years. I think collectively speaking we are becoming more and more aware of the importance of the way we eat. But at the time I read the book it was monumental. It opened my eyes to things that I had never even considered before in regards to the consumption of animals (And the most impressive part of the book is it was written in 1965, years before anything like it became popular) . Environmental concerns, health concerns, resource distribution concerns. I now had conviction behind my stance.

I stopped eating meat for three years. Just like that. I survived my pregnancy with Evan without eating meat, and for the first year and a half of her life I raised her as vegetarian. It wasn’t easy. I was surrounded by people who ate meat, and it hadn’t been all that long since I had been one of them. I still craved it at times, I was around it every day, and it’s what the majority of people eat the majority of the time. However, despite it’s difficulty I felt really great about myself for doing it. I was living the life that I believed in.

Actual onsie Evan used to wear

I’ve never been a huge animal rights person. It’s not what drove me to vegetarianism. I’ve read so many articles and books about the topic, and I have so many feelings about this one discussion, but to sum it up in the easiest dictation I can  “I find it unnecessary”.  I think that animals have served a vital part of our diet for hundreds of thousands of years. I think in order to survive as a species we had to eat what would provide us with the most sustenance, and the most lasting energy and we also had to rely on what was in abundance and in closest proximity to us. It made sense to eat meat. However, just as the creatures we’ve relied upon have evolved, so have we. *We’ve evolved to a point where we have an overwhelming amount of food options due to transportation and advanced growing methods. We now have better understanding about how food is broken down, how proteins need to be combined, how to optimize calories, how to survive and thrive without ever touching meat. We do not need it. *We kill animals because we like the way they taste. That’s really what it comes down to. I find it one of the most fascinating examples of what selfish creatures we really are.

Yet I returned to being an unnecessary meant consuming selfish person. During my second pregnancy I gave in. Somewhat to cravings, but mostly to convenience. I hated having to prepare, pack, plan, and cook all the time. I hated feeling like an inconvenience whenever I ate at anyone’s house. I hated having to constantly grill people or restaurants about the ingredients in food items. I found it draining the amount of energy that was going into this one aspect of my life. So I stopped. Just like that.

It’s been 1 and 1/2 years since I started eating meat again. I’ve tried several times to stop again but I find it more and more difficult each time.  It’s now an ongoing joke with friends and family about what my current meat eating conditions are. Often times you will hear them say that they can really get behind my kind of vegetarianism. 😛 But the truth is it drives me crazy with guilt. I don’t agree with what I’m doing, but I also don’t feel I can commit to doing differently right now. It’s the closest comparison I’ve ever experienced to feeling what a religious person must feel when they sin. It makes my stomach ache. Or maybe that’s just the high level of steroids in the meat I’m consuming.

Would love to hear other thoughts on this topic!

*”We” being defined as the majority of people living in the United States and other First World nations.

22 comments

  • Make a decision and go with it. Did you every judge other people for eating meat? It doesn’t seem like it from your post. Then why judge yourself? Be who you are, make confident decisions and screw guilt.

    Besides, if God didn’t want us to eat cows………. He wouldn’t have made them out of steak!!! (Yaaayyyy steak!) =)

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    • I didn’t judge them individually because I assumed they were doing what their morals led them to do, but clearly I judged us all a bit collectively because I called us selfish creatures. 🙂

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  • I went through a phase of this awhile back as well. I have recently greatly evolved my knowledge of foods, and the ways we should be eating. I find it hard to accept vegetarianism as legitimate nowadays, because I have yet to hear of a realistic protein source. Soy and legumes seem to be the most frequently touted, yet both require processing to be edible and more importantly, yield harmful effects.
    Also, I agree to an extent with the argument that cattle raising is detrimental to the planet. Yes, it is, but so is any type of agriculture.
    I would highly suggest you check out literature regarding the Paleolithic diet. I’ve adopted this recently, and it really seems to have no substitution.

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    • Hey Owen! Thanks so much for your comment. I will definitely check out that diet.

      I did eat soy, tvp (textured vegetable protein), and legumes, but I also learned how to combine incomplete proteins to make complete proteins. Although it’s not as effective in terms of energy as complete proteins, I also wasn’t running any marathons or anything like that. 🙂

      Cattle raising, and feed lots in general are such an awful thing, period. A lot of what Diet for a Small Planet brought to light is also the factor of distribution. (Not sure if these stats are still accurate but…) We produce enough grain in the U.S. alone to feed the entire world. But we feed it to animals, who then can only be eaten by the wealthiest few. So there was lots of factors going into my moral dilemma. 🙂

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      • I disagree with your comment about not running any marathons or anything like that. You’re the single mom of two highly energetic girls currently holding down 2 (or is it 3 now?) jobs. If that’s not a marathon, I don’t know what is.

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  • Hi Meg!
    I’m one of Audra’s library school friends and have really been enjoying your blog.

    Have you read/seen Food Inc? It also puts a lot of light on the issues you mentioned today, especially with respect to cost of food and what’s going in it.

    I’ve sort of compromised on a “flexitarian” diet. I don’t really like meat (except fish), but I’ll eat it so as not to be a hassle to others. If I’m cooking myself, I tend to take supplements and combine proteins.

    Good luck with your dilemma.

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    • Hey Rachel! Thank you so much for reading and replying. And thank you for that reminder. I actually have not seen Food Inc. yet. I’m am now adding it to the list.

      I’ve kinda adapted a the same type of diet. I try not to purchase or cook meat, but I do eat it in other people’s food. We’ll see how my conscious does with this plan. 🙂

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  • Great post Megan! I just wanted to tell you about my favorite book; Hope’s Edge by Lappe and her daughter. It is a follow up to Diet for a Small Planet. In Hope’s Edge she travels to different farming communities all over the world and learns about sustainable agriculture and the social movements that have been developed in response to these changing practices. I think it is a brilliant read for activists or people who are just passionate about community and food. I think you would really enjoy it!

    I have never really been a vegetarian but I try to eat as sustainable as possible and that makes me feel good about what I put in my body.

    You are a rock star!

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    • Love you Whitney! And yes,I got Hope’s Edge as soon as it came out. I never finished it though so I’m going to add it to the “to do” list as well! Thank you so much for your feedback. I think sustainability is a really great direction to go in!

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      • I was a vegetarian for about 5 years. To me, personally, it seems like the most logical answer, but I seriously HATE being called out all the time about the decision and having the defend myself against the gamut of arguments – anything from “animals are lower on the food chain and should be eaten by humans,” to “what if the raising and slaughter of animals is done in an ethical way?” – when all i really want is to enjoy a dinner with my family and friends. Like you said in reply to an earlier post – I assume others have followed their moral leanings to whatever end they’ve chosen and don’t like to argue the point or guilt people with stats. Much like Whitney, I’ve come to the conclusion that sustainability and the ethical treatment of animals are the most important factors. I look forward to chatting with you more about this topic in the future and learning how you, Whitney, and others are living life in a sustainable, ethical way. Candidly – it’s a challenge with regard to both convenience and cost. I’m struggling but we’re powering through. Next step: composting worms in the basement! Can’t wait. 🙂

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      • You are so amazing and I am anxious to hear anything that you are trying, INCLUDING worms in the basement. 🙂

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  • I was a vegetarian/vegan for years until I moved to Alaska, where two major things happened. One, I worked in a lot of small, often native, towns, and discovered what an ass I was when turning down their food; and two, the vegetables sucked. So I started eating meat — never buying it, but ate what came my way. Which after three and half years there I was fortunate that most of what came my way, came from local sources and people I knew. I am an opportunivore, with a guilt complex.

    Therefore I started eating local (before blogs were written about it, not that I am trendy, it’s just local is what rural folk and Alaskans do). And instead of limiting my diet to certain foods, I rather limited my diet to this question: where did it come from? A lot of soy comes from the Amazon — which in my book equals bad. A lot of meat in Idaho came from the woods and people who worked for it. And I just ate a whole week of nothing but meat that came from Aubrey’s brothers’ cows and Wyoming mountain critters. So my two cents is: it is not what you are eating that you should question, but where it came from, who harvested it, how was it processed and how far has it traveled.

    I think every person should visit a feedlot and landfill — the younger the better. I think people who believe hunting is unethical should try working a season harvesting vegetables and see how unethical that industry is, plus, I had worm bins in Idaho in my basement apt., and I think you rock. And I still remember the moose you gave me from your Dad because you would not eat it — so thanks 😉

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  • I like the “opportunivore” idea. And I agree with a bunch of the above comments. Locality of your food and how it was grown/harvested is more important than what it is, I think. I read an interesting article a while back about the top foods nutritionists/food professionals refused to eat. A lot of them were fruits and vegetables because of the amounts of pesticides and ever herbicides that were being used on them. Personally, I buy organic where and when I can. I try to eat small portions of meat and large portions of vegetables. I get protein from beans as well as animals. You do what you can.

    Actually, you and mom and dad and Beth should look into finding a local farmer that raises chickens/cows like mom and dad use to do in Rathdrum. Those chickens tasted better than any store bought ones, and were treated a hell of a lot better too.

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  • Ok. I’ve got a new book for you to read. It’s Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. She chronicle’s her family’s effort to eat more responsibly for an entire year – in her case, only eating food that they knew where it came from. Her husband contributed more scientific types of articles to it, since he’s a bio guy, and her teenager contributed recipes and insights as well. You’d love it.

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    • I started it and couldn’t get that into it. However I’ve heard it’s great so yes, I DO need to try it again. Thanks sissy!

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    Like

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