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Eating Less Animals

 

Player Haters

If you know me or have read much of this blog you know that I’m all over the map on just about everything, and perhaps especially–food.

I remember being judged–a lot–for that trait growing up.  It puzzled me then and still, why people prefer others to be constant.  Maybe it’s a deep seated fear of death, that big unknown?  Maybe we get complacent and someone else constantly changing threatens that?  Whatever it is, however ridiculous I believe it to be, it’s powerful and at work in all corners of our culture.

In my past life I was a change machine.

That said, the chastisement I received for ever re-inventing myself never really bothered me so much as surprised me.  I guess I always took the disapproval as confirmation of something about myself that I actually really like…contradiction.

 

Why I hate the word VEGAN.


I don't hate the messenger.


Off and on over the years, usually as a result of something I’ve read, I find myself going back to a diet sans animals.  The whole topic is a mixed bag for me.  Why?

My first “attempt” at vegan-ism did not end well.  I got sick.  I got fat.  I got judgmental.  And so did my wife (yes I used to be married) who joined me for almost two years of admittedly vegan junk food binging.  We did it all wrong, and all the while just kept congratulating ourselves on the sole fact that we weren’t consuming (or wearing) any animal products.  We were horrified to go back to meat eating, but after a few months we were “normal” again.

I had other periods of time in my life where I was or close to vegetarian, just not feeling the need for meat.  And slowly over the years, even a “normal” diet for me never got back to my childhood levels of flesh consumption, eating  meat with every meal, every day.  But other than my two 100% raw food forays I’ve deliberately avoided the “V” word.  For many reasons:

  1. “ISM’s” bother me.  A lot.  They fly in the face of true free will, give people a false sense of importance, and almost always for convenience toss the baby out with the bathwater.
  2. I hate faux food.  Along with serious misgivings about soy (health & environment) I can’t stand imitation food.  I don’t want soy nuggets or soy bacon.  A lot of crap is technically “vegan.”  I applaud people who cook authentic real recipes that are what they are and are naturally devoid of animal products (or gluten, or don’t need to be cooked, etc.).
  3. I’m not convinced that eating meat, or eggs, or dairy is bad for you.  I feel great when I eat red meat.  I think a lot of the standard vegan arguments, like the assertion made in Fit For Life by Harvey Diamond that because we don’t want to chase down squirrels and tear them to pieces with non-existent fangs and claws, are silly.  Nature and evolution are complex, why pretend to know any of it beyond doubt?
  4. I think proselytizing about not eating animals just reinforces the majority of others determination to do so.  If you are serious about your desire to limit the atrocious suffering caused by industrial food, much more can be accomplished by a.) getting most people to eat even just a little less commercial meat and dairy, and b.) using consumer pressure to radically change the unacceptable practice of factory farming.  Congratulating people for making better choices goes so much further than chastising them for their bad ones…

 

Buddha was full of seeming contradictions.

So after saying all that, I gotta say that after all these years I’m seriously considering adopting essentially a vegan diet.  Told you I’m all over the place.  But why?

Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals along with some reading I’ve been doing on the Buddha dharma regarding doing no harm are both deeply resonating with me.

Foer makes a powerful argument that right now, in our current food system reality, being a conscious eater who wishes to avoid factory “farmed” “food” essentially means not eating meat or dairy.  Much of the feel good reassurances on animal product packaging regarding the absence of hormones, antibiotics, or cages, is as Foer says, complete bullshit.  Does it really surprise us that an industry so dark and dishonest would continue to lie to us, this time by telling us what we want to hear?

At first I thought Foer should have titled his book Eating Less Animals.  That way, the everyman could find it in him/herself to make a commitment to meatless Mondays and lighter vegetarian lunches.  The net effect of which would vastly eclipse the result of a relative few who give up animal products altogether.  But for days my new title kept making me laugh.  Eating Less Animals–there is something absurd about that to me.  I picture us as these weird Aliens with a depraved sense of entitlement to the flesh of other creatures.  And then I picture a random phone conversation between two perfectly nice human beings…

“Hi Barbara, whatcha been doing?”

“Not a lot.  Just reading this fab new book called Eating Less Animals.”

“Reeeaaaalllly?”

“Yeah, I really need to eat a few less chickens, and pigs and cows Barbara!”

Weird, right?  By the way, read Foer’s book, I think you’ll be shocked at exactly how many whole animals most of us eat in one year, and in our lifetimes!  And I think you’ll also be surprised by his tone and treatment of such a complex personal issue.

At the essence of Buddhism (oops there’s another Ism) is compassion and a whole lot of talk about suffering.  The reason vegetarianism is associated with Buddhism is because of perhaps the simplest teaching…if we cannot help others or be good human beings ourselves, the Buddha said at least do no harm to others.  And guess what?  Others is not restricted to other humans.  It’s others in it’s truest sense, and extends to anything capable of suffering.

But also wrapped up in the often confusing, yet somehow enlightening mumbo of Buddha’s teachings is compassion and understanding toward numero uno.  In fact, at the heart of the No Harm philosophy is a necessary selfishness rooted in simple cause and effect.  It ultimately hurts us when we hurt others.  Whether they have two legs or four.  Whether we think they are stupid or cute.  It just does.  One look at how sick we are as a nation demonstrates that.  We are literally a culture of death.  We mistreat and kill to eat, and it’s killing us.

 

I want to make it clear that I genuinely applaud every single person that is involved in bringing real food to consumers.  That includes meat, dairy, and vegetables.  I hope someday the average person will reduce their overall consumption of animals (see sounds silly again) and insist that those they do eat came from real farms, not factories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For now, I’m going to spend some time not eating meat.  I’m also going to eliminate any dairy except for raw aged goat cheese  & eggs that I buy from a local farmer I trust to not exploit her goats and chickens.

Interestingly (and this is according to the Dalai Lama), Buddhist monks are not prohibited from eating meat despite their profound compassion for animals.  As monks they eat either the vegetarian meal provided them in the monastery or beg food once a day when traveling.  While they would never want an animal to be killed specifically to feed them, out of compassion for their human hosts they eat whatever they are given.  Also tied up in that is a profound acceptance of their reality and a refreshing lack of concern over food in general–allowing them to focus on other things.

So if you ever see me eating a juicy burger again, I hope I’m selfish enough to be eating the flesh of an animal that was well cared for up until its slaughter, and that you will understand that like life, I’m an ever-changing contradiction.

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60 day raw food log: Day 40 Why live with doubts & dread?

Read the following little diddy and ask yourself if you think it’s true.  Even better, leave a comment and tell me what it made you feel…

Better to eat beer and franks

with cheer and thanks

than sprouts and bread

with doubts and dread.

It’s sometimes recited a little differently and is often credited to a “wise old man once said…”  But to me it’s simple and powerful.

Raw Food Diet

Eating only raw foods is something I think everybody should experience. Not eating animals or their “product” is another important thing for people to experience. Both open some kind of awareness portal that can have long-term affects on how you see the planet, it’s food, and yourself.

Perhaps it will cause a sudden flash and with moral certitude you will disavow flesh consumption until the day you yourself perish.  Or maybe your connectedness with flora and fauna will instead manifest itself in greater reverence for whatever passes your lips. Either way you are going to get closer to understanding what food really is, and how much of it you actually need.

Vegan-ism

If you are a vegan, and you’ve never spent a few weeks or months eating only raw vegan foods I would really encourage you to do so.

Years ago (many many) I read “Diet for a New America” and it influenced me enough as an 18 year old that I became “a” vegan.  For a little over one year the only qualifier I used when deciding what to eat was whether or not it contained anything from an animal.

It was one of the least healthy periods of my life.  I got fat.  I felt shitty.  I was eating  mass quantities of stuff that is downright bad for you; processed soy products, low quality wheat gluten, and other “proteins” whose SOLE “value” are derived from the fact that they aren’t from animals.  Sugar in all it’s many forms is also vegan…

Some vegans I have met eat very healthy, feel great, and wouldn’t feel right eating any other way.  They eat their greens and they do agave instead of table sugar and corn syrup.  They get protein from quinoa, spinach, and raw nuts.  They limit the amount of “vegetarian” fried foods they eat (like McDonald’s french fries).  And they are not stuffing themselves with soy protein isolates, seitan, and tofu.

But many others aren’t eating any more veggies than the meat & potatoes crowd, and from a health standpoint have just substituted one “bad” thing (industrial toxic meat & dairy) for another (industrial toxic soy & other bullshit–potentially carcinogenic fake foods).

If you’re a conscious healthy vegan eater, more power to you for making a decision that’s congruent with your point of view.  And congrats on choosing a lifestyle that causes less harm to sentient beings and obviously makes a substantial positive environmental impact as well.

But…if you’re the second type of vegan, please don’t try to take any credit for  lessening your negative impact on the planet.  Do some research into the environmental havoc of your industrial vegan food.  You may be very surprised.

Meat-less versus Less-meat

Once, while waiting tables in San Francisco, I encountered a man who knew exactly what he didn’t want to eat.  He was originally from India, and was ordering food for his large family. The soft spoken patriarch looked me in the eye and asked me to please listen closely.  He wanted to make sure I was paying attention and understood fully his one request.  I’ll never forget the way he put it…

“My family doesn’t eat anything with a family.”

Fair enough!  I thought it was a simple eloquent way to express it, and a nice take on life. So they eat cheese and eggs and butter and don’t mind if there is milk in the pizza dough. But under NO circumstances would they ever consider eating even a tiny bite of pepperoni…

Are Baby Animals Harmed Making SALT!?

Interestingly though, it doesn’t have anything to do with health.  It’s another ethics based dietary choice.  And while a nice sentiment, it also doesn’t necessarily ensure that animals haven’t been harmed in the process of preparing his families dinner.

The issue we all face with food is that there is so much “information” being thrown around (my blog included) that it’s become nearly impossible to compare mangoes to mangoes.  Think about it.  How could someone compare the ethical, environmental, and personal health impact of any two people?

Could you honestly argue that someone eating countless chemically processed, cleared rain forest grown, soy patties, whose ingredients have been shipped from the other side of the planet, is eating better than a family who  mindfully includes some hormone and antibiotic free, free range, organically fed meat from a local source they know and trust?

What I propose

What if the individual goal is simply more conscious eating and less judgment in general?

Me? I need nothing.

That question/statement brings us full-circle back to having periods in ones life where regardless of whether we are a Jain Monk or a Tyrannosaurus…we eat mostly raw, and mostly vegan.

Not necessarily as an end in itself, or permanently; but because it may be the easiest way to learn exactly what works for us, and how to be the healthiest, happiest,  ascetics  or flesh-eating dinosaurs that we can be.

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If you are curious…today I ate: a blueberry smoothie, a nectarine, some raw pistachios, and a weird green/cacao smoothie.

It’s 5 am and I never went to bed.  In a few minutes my girlfriend will wake up and go to yoga and in a couple hours I’ll be filling up reusable cloth hippy bags with loads of fresh organic produce from the Palm Springs Farmer’s Market!

Who's for dinner?