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I became a vegetarian because I fell in love with a chicken
Pets defined by culture
Animals that Americans call "pets" are frequent menu items in other cultures and vice versa.
- Horses. Horse meat was/is consumed in Central Asia, South America, Indonesia, the Philippines, France, Germany, Kazakhstan and other regions.
- Dogs. Dog meat is regularly eaten in some African countries, Asia, and Southeast Asia. Once called "blockade mutton" in Germany, eating dog meat is now prohibited there.
- Cats. Like any other animal, cats were consumed in ancient times especially during famines. Today, most countries have moved away from eating cat but South America, China and Switzerland still allow cat meat consumption.
- Birds, fish. While we keep these species in our homes for companionship and entertainment, many cultures catch them in the wild for food.
- Guinea pigs. There are roadside stands in the Andes of Peru that specialize in raising and barbecuing guinea pigs for hungry diners. West African is developing husbandry practices for raising guinea pig meat.
- Monkey, apes. Monkey meat is called carne de chango in Mexico while considered one of many types of bush meat in Africa.
Is there really a difference between pets and livestock?
When I made a decision to go vegetarian, my omnivorous taste buds panicked. From childhood, my palate had been developed, honed, and accustomed to eating juicy meats. My mouth watered just to think of fried skin-on chicken, crisp fatty bacon, and succulent Ribeye steak. I'd eaten so much of them my entire life.
It honestly wasn't the health warnings that made me reconsider my food choices. I fell in love with a chicken. My sister gifted my daughter with two ducklings and four chicks for Easter (when people tell you it's a bad idea to give pets as a gift without permission, believe it!) Because she's afraid of birds, I adopted them myself and once you name an animal, it really should off the menu.
Others don't always agree. My sister's friend slaughters her cows, bags the meat and labels the packages with their names; then, she proclaims, "We're eating Dolly tonight." Am I the only one who finds this creepy?
My chicks and ducklings would peck around their vast green backyard during the day and line up at the backdoor to be let in for the night. They sat on my lap, my shoulders, my head, eager for the fresh fruit, vegetables and grubs I'd hand-feed them to supplement their ample offerings of fortified feed. People say chickens are too simple-minded to know love, but they seemed to bask in mine, closing their eyelids and softly clucking when I stroked their feathers or cuddled them in my arms.
Eating a pet?
We eat their pets!
Animals other cultures consider pets that we don't:
- Cows. India views cows as sacred and they are allowed to roam freely and safely through its streets.
- Chickens. In early Greece, chickens/cocks were considered exotic animals and used for sacred ceremonies and religious rites. Initially, they were raised for cock-fighting more than for food and egg production.
- Bugs and beetles. In Southeast Asia and South America, large beetles are adorned with beads and gems, and then tethered by a thin chain clipped to a blouse as living jewelry. In China, little children keep good luck crickets in small bamboo cages while in Mexico, the crickets are deep-fried and seasoned for crunchy snack.
And then, I saw the cruelty
Then, PETA sent me a DVD revealing how our poultry, meat and dairy is manufactured, and the disturbing images of cruelty made me cry. Carnivores claim that dumb animals don't know any better or can't feel emotions but does that mean the sentient hold dominion over the non-sentient? I believe that the more evolved sentient beings understand that it is their responsibility to be a steward and protector over those who cannot protect themselves. The gentle, vulnerable non-sentient beings.
Once upon a time, I believed I could be the proverbial pioneer woman who beheaded and de-feathered poultry to feed her family. After all, human survival is a basic instinct, and I'd stop at nothing to keep my child from starvation. But we're no longer cave people with limited resources. Today we have numerous food choices.
Falling in love with my chickens shifted the way I saw food and what I want to eat. When they grew so plump and beautiful, everyone made jokes about eating them. Some were serious. When the bird flu epidemic came, the neighborhood voiced fears and I felt forced to return them although even then I knew the probability was they would be caged for their gorgeous eggs and eventually slaughtered for their flesh. I still feel pain over this ultimate betrayal. Would it have been better for them never to have known love and freedom at all? (Please don't harass me for this as I torment myself already.) Yet, their lives were not in vain for I now am a vegetarian who promotes cruelty-free food choices, and they are the reason.
Slow but sure changes
It still took me several years after my chicken time to go vegetarian. Changing lifelong habits while living with hardcore carnivores was a challenge. But memories of my beautiful chickens and ducklings continued to haunt me. Just because we don't see the cruelty and abuse of animals does not mean it isn't happening. Stopping the billion dollar meat industry with just one vote--my plate--seems highly unlikely but I cast my vote anyway. Of course, I hope, like drops of water accumulate to create a tidal wave, our votes can cause a shift in the way the world eats but if nothing else, I vote to appease my own conscience. I vote for my chickens and ducklings because in this world, they could not vote for themselves.
Where your food comes from matters to you
Even if you do not wish to eat vegetarian, I encourage you to become informed about how your food is raised and manufactured. If you would like to eat cruelty free food, choose organic, free-range chicken and eggs and grass-fed beef. Both are nutritionally superior, and studies show that livestock that suffers stress during cage living and the slaughter process release toxic hormones into their flesh.
So even if you lack compassion for the suffering of animals, your own health is affected by their suffering nonetheless.
I may not agree with the radical and even militant practices of some animal organizations such as PETA, but they are well-intentioned. View their websites to see what is really going on in the food industry, and then come to your own decision about the food choices you make, what you put into your mouth and voice your vote with your plate.
Please view my other hubs about how you already are eating more vegetarian than you know. Keep it up! And you'll be contributing to a little less suffering in this world.
Caution: Graphic Images
Be forewarned that there are disturbing images in this Youtube video by hsus and has been assigned age restrictions. This is only one of many such exposes about the chicken industry. This one is an egg production farm in the United States.
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Fresh Avocado Salad Recipe
There are so many delicious, healthful vegetarian foods that avowed carnivores can't get enough of, and this is one of them. Avocados are rich in healthy fats and have a satisfying meaty flavor.
I cannot stress enough the importance of using only fresh (and not bottled) lemon juice!
- 3 large ripe Haas avocados, peeled, cubed
- 1 large fresh tomato, seeded, diced
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt, to taste
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper, to taste
- In a large mixing bowl, toss the fresh avocados, tomato and red onion gently.
- Squeeze about 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice over all, reserving more lemon juice for just before serving. How much will depend upon the size and amount of avocados and your own tastes, but usually around 1/3 cup total. Coat the avocados with the lemon juice to prevent browning.
- Cover bowl and let this meld in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. You can skip this step if time bound. It will still taste sensational.
- Just before serving, squeeze a bit more fresh lemon juice over the salad and add salt/pepper to taste. Serve chilled. Do taste this to see if you'd like more fresh lemon juice.