let me preface this entry by saying that i do love carne asada tacos. i’ve eaten meat most of my life. i was a vegetarian for about five years when i was in college and for some years after that. strangely, i was never a vegetarian because of anything i knew about farming animals or the meat industry. i just didn’t like a lot of meat at that time in my life. somewhere along the line i started dating adventurous eaters and a world of gourmet foods and new tastes entered my life, which included many meat dishes. street style tacos could’ve been my lifeline if i had to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life.

last year i was becoming more connected to my food. i wanted to know more about meat. i watched the movie Food Inc, and while it was a very good documentary i didn’t feel that I learned anything new. however, the parts with the cows hooked up to the machines with their sides ripped wide open and human hands digging into their stomachs was a bit intense. i kept reading about Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals and i knew i had to read it.

well i read it. i read it when i was in texas visiting with my boyfriend’s family. it was a tough place to read about eating meat. texas is built around meat. i read it and i didn’t start any fights, so it was a success for me. half way through the book, i thought that i would still eat really ethically raised meat. that was until i found out that it doesn’t exist. i think it was the slaughter chapter that really got me. please understand that i’m not naïve, i didn’t expect that the slaughter of animals would be clean. however, i didn’t think that animals were skinned alive with their muscles being pulled off while they’re going down the slaughter belt. i never thought about the impact this has on the psyche of the laborers who stand ankle-deep in animal blood trying to knock out surly animals trying escape. i never thought about the factory farms and how they’re destroying family farms and the freedom to create another option for meat consumption. i never really thought about meat fillers and how we feed these animals that we consume. lets not forget the antibiotics and hormones that also are a part of the equation. i never thought that eating meat had so many components to think about.  well, i think about those things everyday now.

i think about it everyday. i also think about the social pressures to eat meat that were so clearly articulated in this book. the whole concept of “the communal table” when applied to meat is very interesting. when you tell a person you don’t care much for a certain vegetable, lets say brussel sprouts, it isn’t a big deal. if you tell a person you don’t eat meat it creates a weird divide. talking about meat is as uncomfortable as talking about religion.  people have strong views about meat. it seems to me that people assume that i think  i’m better than them because i choose to abstain from the act of eating meat. this couldn’t be farther from the truth. nonetheless, it creates an awkward dynamic. often, people feel offended when you don’t eat what is offered. this tends to happen more in places where vegetarianism isn’t as mainstream. i live in los angeles so i have it pretty good.

i guess my whole point in sharing this is that the root of the conversation about food and our society needs to be replanted.  the whole way we talk about touchy subjects like food and religion, two things that bring comfort to many, needs to be shaken up. the two most common negative reactions i receive when i talk about meat are “i just don’t want to know how it gets to my plate” and “i just don’t believe in vegetarianism”.  these reactions come from very smart people. all i want is for people to stop reacting and instead engage me. ask me why i’m a vegetarian. ask me why i became interested in not eating meat. i guess in the end i’m hoping to change the tone of the conversation that comes along with choosing not to eat meat. the dialog in our country is so divided right now. we can’t talk to anyone with opinions different from ours without cutting them down first to prove our point is right. we’ve attached dogma to everything.  politics, religion and food are going to segregate us more and more if we don’t remember that choices stem from opinions. we’re lucky enough to live in a country where we’re allowed to have them.  lets start talking about meat and how we can work on a more sustainable and compassionate system for farming animals. i’m not a utopian dreamer, i know that most americans will want to continue eating meat. i just think that we can start talking about solutions to changing the system instead of attacking each other. a good start is reading this book.

Eating Animals” has changed my life and my boyfriend’s life.  Slowly, my copy is being passed around town to friends and people keep asking me what that book about meat was that i was reading awhile ago.  i couldn’t be happier to share it. sometimes yelling at people about stuff just doesn’t work. people are quietly reading this book and quietly making decisions to eat meat differently. whether that is eating the same amount of meat, just cutting back or going full-blown vegan, it  is a personal choice that this book sheds some light on.