America has a love affair w/ meat. We eat — literally — tons of it a day. About 1/2 pound per capita. Considering how many of my friends are vegetarians and vegans, that means someone is eating a LOT more.
I have a conflicted relationship w/ meat. I like a good prime rib as much as most Okies — more than many :). But I also don’t like cruelty. And I’ve heard, too, the argument that meat takes more resources. Which is true, but only if you raise meat the factory farming way.
I try to buy local meat — from Okie farmers, who raise their animals on real farms. Not ‘grow’ their meat on factory farms <shudder>. And while driving back from vacation the other day, winding through miles and miles of what Okies tend to call cattle ‘ranches,’ not farms, I had this epiphany: beef is about the only thing you can raise on a lot of Okie land. Unless you irrigate, which has its own environmental impact. Cattle are the logical way to turn dry pasture into food. IF you don’t use corn to feed them up, and don’t run so many you have to buy winter silage. Run what you can feed on your own land, and they’re a relatively reasonable energy conversion mechanism :).
And cattle are a renewable resource, if you think about it. But yes, they’re sentient. However, new research says the same thing (on a lesser scale, of course) about plants. Sagebrush, to be exact. They warn their relatives about danger. Seems to me that means a couple of important things: they know danger. They don’t like it. They feel a kind of ‘fear’ and communicate that.
So to me, who will no longer eat poor piggies (see the earlier guilt-ridden post), there’s a bit of solace in the idea that cattle may, in reasonable quantities, be okay to eat. I was feeling a bit guilty about the GREAT prime rib I had on vacation :). But thinking about the dry Oklahoma pasture, and the 10-day forecast of 100˚+ weather (and no rain), I’m remembering the miles of pasture and thinking about the uses of cattle.
This is prairie country, where bovines (buffalo) roamed the tall grass prairie for millenia. Cattle aren’t a lot different, if you think about it. So I probably won’t stop eating beef — at least not completely :). And I’m letting go of the guilt for the prime rib on vacation. But I think I’ll be eating less meat in general. And trying to give thanks for the deaths that sustain my life. Even the corn & tomatoes I hope to buy at tomorrow’s market :).