The Vegetarians Who Turned Into Butchers
August 10, 2019 9:39 AM   Subscribe

 
Sure, but how do I find a shop doing this near me, article? This is precisely the sort of thing I've been muttering to family and friends about for years.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 10:06 AM on August 10


Metafilter: hipster bacon.
posted by kozad at 10:08 AM on August 10


There are very few independent butchers left. The ones that do exist, exist probably because of things like this article. I live around the corner from a place like this. Their sausage is incredible.
posted by xthlc at 10:16 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Raising grazing animals on grassland, however, is significantly more expensive than raising steers on feedlots, making the meat more costly for consumers. Ms. Kavanaugh, for example, charges $21 a pound for top sirloin steak, as compared with $8.99 at a nearby King Soopers supermarket.

In contrast, industrial pork can be had at a chain supermarket for $1.00/lb. I shudder to think what the real cost of that pork is, and who is paying it.
posted by mecran01 at 11:52 AM on August 10 [10 favorites]


a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist, where to you live?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 12:43 PM on August 10


Eat those feral hogs!
Joke aside, this is how meat should be provided and what it should cost. I know a lot of Socialists who will then begin shouting, and that is why Greens and (some) Socialists can't meet. IMO, it is not a human right to eat a pound of meat a day. I mentioned on the feral hog thread that I am reading a cookbook from 1880 these days, a cookbook for the upper-middle class of that age. And when you look at the menu suggestions, you realize that even as they look extravagant, the actual amount of meat for each person is much smaller than today, and they eat much more of the animal than most people do today. Well, they'd eat everything and its eyes and then cook a broth of the bones. They would also eat far more vegetables than we think. After WW1 and 2, a lot of people just hated vegetables because of Victory Gardens and rationing, so we have this impression that old-timey people were meat-eaters. But it wasn't like that before the wars.
For normal people, meat would be more like a treat or a spice. I remember my grandmother's borscht, which I loved. It was mainly vegetables and just a couple of slices of cured pork belly. I didn't personally eat the resulting boiled pork, but the flavor it added was essential. When I was a student, and every other time I've been feeding many with little, I've used one sausage or a thick slice of salami to give flavor to a vegetable soup, inspired by that borscht.
posted by mumimor at 12:56 PM on August 10 [13 favorites]


> Her second came in college, when she returned to eating meat after learning that the soybean and corn monocultures that accounted for much of her vegan diet were wreaking havoc on the environment.

Most soy and corn is grown to feed livestock (or make fuel), not humans.
posted by Poldo at 1:57 PM on August 10 [30 favorites]


In Seattle, @Nancy Lebovitz
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 4:37 PM on August 10


a power-tie-wearing she-capitalis,

Sorry I can't help-- I've got some information for Philadelphia.

I'm hoping someone will know a good butcher in Seattle for you.

Whole Foods says it has grass-fed etc. meat. Any opinions about whether it's satisfactory?

It would be nice to have a chart of the prices of various kinds of meat according to how it was raised rather than just a few isolated items.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:08 PM on August 10


OK, I just have to share this recipe from that cookbook I mentioned above.

For 12 people, you need about 18 liters of mature spinach, cleansed, wilted (steamed) and chopped. First you cook it with butter, nutmeg, salt and some jus or stock. (They weren't so much into measurements or timing back then). Then you mix it all with 6 egg yolks and put it all in a well-buttered smooth cylinder tin. Steam this in a Bain-Marie for a while and then turn over the tin onto a dish. Wait a few minutes before lifting off the tin. Garnish with small lamb chops or glazed oxe tongue on top and with beautifully carved and glazed carrots and turnips at the base.

I'm going to try this soon, I suspect it is delicious. But in this context the point is that the meat plays a minor role and that it was at the time less expensive meat and not too much of it. This rather monumental showpiece was, and is still very cheap to make because the spinach is the lead and carrots and turnips are also a major part. The illustration shows 18 tiny lamb chops, I'm guessing its one for each lady and two for each gentleman. But they are tiny, single chops. Every diner would get between 80-160 grammes of meat, max. An oxe tongue would give a similar amount of meat pr. person.
Obviously, 18 liters of spinach seems a bit wild, but when I've tried it, I'll know how much frozen spinach that would be, and then it becomes a very simple scalable dinner dish.
posted by mumimor at 6:10 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Long live this trend! I was a vegetarian from my early teens to late 20’s, and I started eating humanely raised meat after my dear friend and roommate took me to her family’s small farm (just enough to feed their family) and introduced me to the cow they were raising that year. He was beautiful and sweet and living a wonderful life. And then later that year that cow (who we could refer to by name) showed up in our freezer.

I treasured the food we made with that cow. I felt comfortable with the process. And I love living in Portland now, land of hipsters exploring lost skills. I feel more connected with what I eat now than I ever did as a vegetarian, though I still eat meat infrequently and more as a garnish.

If anyone in the Portland metro area wants a transcendent experience, try Deck Farms’ garlic sausage or their brats.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 6:23 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


these garlic sausages?

I didn't investigate deeply enough to discover any shipping limitations, but at first glance, their meats appear available online.
posted by ryanrs at 9:57 PM on August 10


There are very few independent butchers left.

Small-scale butchery is a bastard of a business, at least if you're in the wrong state. I personally know of two butchers that have had to close because their existing operator was grandfathered in and did not need to fully comply with current regulations, but any other operator (son, daughter, other) would have had to comply (chlorine processing, that kind of thing), which is not economically feasible unless you're either handling tens of thousands of pounds a week or you are a captive supplier to someone who can pay top dollar. A guy breaking down deer and local cows can't meet the requirements.

...and then, if you escape that particular trap, you enter the world of personal vendettas and NIMBYism. Tyson Foods can afford to buy off anyone, but a small time operator can rapidly find themselves outflanked. Witness, for example, the demise of Black Earth Meats (supplier to many famous restaurants in Chicago). Found themselves at the wrong end of small-town politics, and they're gone. Because, yes, slaughtering is a somewhat uncomfortable business. "Public nuisance" (which, again, is not entirely wrong!).

Small-scale butchery is only possible, in most (not all) states if you can remain truly small-scale, such that nobody really notices. The second you step up into being a significant business you'll be crushed, one way or the other.

[alright, look, I'm vegan four days a week so I'm not saying slaughterhouses are super-awesome places, but still the world gets worse every time Tyson Foods wins another contract over some random local place. Also, there is obviously a distinction to be made between a slaughterhouse and a butcher, but if your butcher is just sourcing the carcass from Megacorp and breaking it down in-house then what's the point really?]
posted by aramaic at 10:19 PM on August 10 [10 favorites]


This article does it's subjects the favor of not actually asking them any real questions about their transition away from veganism and not probing into their paper-thin rationalizations of their unjustifiable ethical choices. The most confusing part of this particular subset of ex-vegans and ex-vegetarians and what they've decided to do is that they've decided to sell meat for profit - that's just totally incompatible with still being an ethical person. Sure, it's their choice, but everyone can choose to be a little more evil on purpose. It doesn't mean we should be proud of them. Is the next article gonna be 'These ex-union organizers turned into capitalists?'

The reasons for being vegetarian in this article are the standard environmental, ethical, and emotional arguments. By the end of the article none of the former vegetarians has offered a counter argument. The environment is being destroyed now, faster than before (Every year, more soybeans for more cows). The animals are still suffering when they don't need to (You don't need to kill an animal, we don't need to eat them to live). The animals still can be empathized with (You can still name the cow that you kill). The only thing that's changed is that these people saw an opportunity to make some money, and decided that money was more important to them than their personal morality.
posted by durandal at 2:08 AM on August 11 [26 favorites]


I read an interesting article a little while ago- I think a persuasive piece in a Year 10 English textbook (I am an English teacher). The premise of this article is that vegetarians don't actually effect change that much, and that they should eat meat instead. Instead of removing their $$ from the capitalist eco-system, instead, through the choices to eat ethical meat, they can influence the market. A bit like how the gluten-free fad has led to real choice and more options for coeliac people.

I notice the same argument in the article- instead of being passive, actively removing thousands of $$ from the industry.

*I am a meat eater.
posted by freethefeet at 4:41 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


What a small world of the possible that textbook writer must live in, where the best way they can imagine injustice being stopped is through joining the system and perpetuating the injustice at a smaller scale.

Injustice cannot be combatted by collaboration, gradual reduction, or compliance. It can only be defeated through opposition.
posted by durandal at 5:37 AM on August 11 [8 favorites]


I live around the corner from a place like this. Their sausage is incredible.

Mike Dulock is a great guy and his shop is wonderful. We get their meat CSA, and it's really helped me as a cook since I'm not defaulting to just buying steaks and pork chops. We got a beef tendon a few months ago and I learned how to cook that!

I'm not saying slaughterhouses are super-awesome places

There's a nuance here, but butchers generally don't slaughter animals, at least in the US. The animals still need to go to a USDA-inspected facility for slaughter, and then the butcher will receive a lightly processed carcass (skinned, gutted, and halved/quartered if it's a large animal). Our neighborhood butcher is not leading live animals in to the back of the shop.

I've mentioned before how I have butchered pigs and chickens. I have killed animals for food. I've always been a meat eater, but it was important to me to understand the process of where my food comes from. It's difficult work, but ultimately very rewarding. And in our limited growing season in this area, we're able to subsist on the meat in our chest freezer (from our meat CSA, the last of the chickens I helped process, and lamb from a local farmer), our vegetable CSA, and the local grains we buy in the winter. During the summer, the only things we really buy at the supermarket are eggs, dairy, and coffee. Now if I could find a local person to sell me eggs and milk...
posted by backseatpilot at 6:13 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


Those are the ones, ryanrs!

If you can’t see the difference between a biodynamic farm with grassfed cows and feedlot cows fed soybeans and corn, durandal, then I’m not interested in this morality lecture about how all meat eating is feeding into a capitalist system.

This kind of reductive argument is the reason I never went vegan and went back to eating meat after almost two decades. Well, that and the rampant fatphobia and smugness.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 7:27 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


I can see there is a difference, TTBHR, but what is that difference to you? Both cause elective suffering, and the "biodynamic farm with grassfed cows" provides cover for the "feedlot cows fed soybeans and corn". The pasture raised cows probably have relatively happier lives than those in the feed lots, but I don't think that means anything since the fundamental reason for eating animals is still invalid when weighed against the animals desire for still, you know, being alive.

I'm not sure I follow your reasoning for regressing from vegetarianism - you started eating meat again because other people make arguments that make you uncomfortable? You started eating meat again because people are smug? Were you then not eating meat because people weren't smug at some point?

The positive case for being a vegetarian or a vegan is plain, and most people can see it, and it makes people uncomfortable because it's confronts them with a case where they are now aware that they don't need to be doing something they can't defend.

To state all the cases at once: you don't need to eat animals to survive. You can live a good life not eating meat. Animals don't want to be eaten, and raising an animal to eat it when it doesn't want to be eaten is not respecting the animal. Animal agriculture is helping to destroy the planet.

There aren't good counterargument against this. There is only rationalization. You're free to dismiss me as smug, or sure of myself. But, at the end of the day, the only real justification to eat meat remains the same: "Because I want to."
posted by durandal at 7:55 AM on August 11 [14 favorites]


It’s not worth it for me to argue about whether eating animals is moral with you, in the same way it’s not worth it for me to argue with people about whether abortion is murder. I’m not going to have that argument with you, durandal. It exists only to make the both of us feel morally superior to the other. It presumes neither of have considered any of the questions of morality you pose. I have, I think you can eat meat and still care about animal welfare, and you’ve concluded the opposite. There’s no point in hashing it out here.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:28 AM on August 11 [11 favorites]


I don't feel uncomfortable when I am together with vegans or vegetarians. I have Buddhist and Jain friends. They are nice, I like them and I make food for them that they like and l Iearn from their traditions. But their religion is not my religion. I do not think the "positive case for being a vegetarian or vegan is plain".
For most of human existence on earth, our place in the ecosystem has been than of an omnivore, a hunter and gatherer. To suddenly claim that we have some moral obligation to treat other animals as if we were the same family is to me absurd. I have loved all of my pets dearly, but I have never imagined they were human.
I do agree that we have broken the natural order of things and that we have an obligation to work to establish a better balance, even as we can never entirely recreate what we have broken. The dodo won't be back. But in such a better balance, there would have to be big ruminants and domestic fowl, and we would need to eat some of them, sometimes. Not as nearly as much as now, but not never, either. Fish would play a role, as would shellfish.
I'm only half-joking about eating the feral hogs, and I'd like to add the Pacific oysters living in Atlantic waters and the round goby which is eradicating native fish thousands of miles away from its native Caspian Sea to that menu. What is the Asian fish that is out-competing native species in the US? We need to control the invasive species we have moved across the globe. We have done it and we have to undo it.
Sustainable agriculture and gardening includes animals. They contribute to the overall balance of the land. What is fundamentally wrong is industrial food production, and IMO, a processed Impossible Burger is as much an industrial food product as a Chicken Nugget, I wouldn't eat either, ever. It doesn't matter wether a monoculture of corn or soybeans is fed to cows or humans, or if it is organic or not, if it is replacing virgin forest or grassland. The fertilizer it will need to grow to industrial standards will pollute the waterways, regardless of the product's final destination.
Eat food.
posted by mumimor at 8:28 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


This article does it's subjects the favor of not actually asking them any real questions about their transition away from veganism and not probing into their paper-thin rationalizations of their unjustifiable ethical choices. The most confusing part of this particular subset of ex-vegans and ex-vegetarians and what they've decided to do is that they've decided to sell meat for profit - that's just totally incompatible with still being an ethical person.
Interesting frame. “It’s unethical to sell meat for profit.” This sounds less argumentative than “it’s unethical to eat meat,” which I think would be less question-begging.

Well, I disagree. I am comfortable with the fact that my ancestors ate meat when they could get it as long as they were what we could describe as “people.” I am comfortable with preparing and serving meat for me and mine, and the fact somebody on the internet claims it is “unethical” isn’t denting my resolve.

Now, I can definitely get behind “no cruelty” and less factory farming and suchlike ideas, but “everyone that doesn’t agree completely with me is just bad” is not a very persuasive argument—it seems more likely to confirm people’s opinions that disagree than otherwise.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 8:34 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


Most soy and corn is grown to feed livestock (or make fuel), not humans.
posted by Poldo at 4:57 PM on August 10 [16 favorites +] [!]

Yes, but as the article states, these butchers do not use meat fed with corn or soy.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:52 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Real question:

I moved to locally sourced meat from various rural farms around here. This being Missouri, the farms are in the blazing red part. What do I do when I find that some of the farmers are Trump supporters?
posted by fluttering hellfire at 11:04 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I moved to locally sourced meat from various rural farms around here. This being Missouri, the farms are in the blazing red part. What do I do when I find that some of the farmers are Trump supporters?
Engage! The more they get that you are a person of integrity and honor just like them, the more they will be interested in opening up to other points of view.
My neighbors are suddenly getting a lot of business from city people, and it is influencing their opinions on important stuff like immigration, sustainability and taxation.
posted by mumimor at 11:16 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


If you want to eat meat go ahead, but I am pretty sure the animal would rather be alive - especially if it has a happy life - than coshed on the head and in your stomach. And even on a small scale it is environmentally a shitty thing to be doing, especially for larger animals like cows.

A lot of people seem to become vegans or vegetarians out of a desire for purity in their food: this is in my experience where they end up because it allows them a fantasy of good pure meat.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:32 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


Now, I can definitely get behind “no cruelty” and less factory farming and suchlike ideas, but “everyone that doesn’t agree completely with me is just bad” is not a very persuasive argument—it seems more likely to confirm people’s opinions that disagree than otherwise.

There are a lot of arguments besides that in the comment you're referring to.

This kind of reductive argument is the reason I never went vegan and went back to eating meat after almost two decades. Well, that and the rampant fatphobia and smugness.

Mostly, what bothers me about this style of concern trolling is that you literally think it's normal and okay to say that you eat meat because people---not meat animals, people---said something or did something that bothers you. Killing as a form of expressing, what, rebellion? Resentment? And then blaming other people for it is a disturbing thing to do.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:41 AM on August 11 [15 favorites]


I worked in a restaurant / grocery years ago that served, vegetarian, vegan, and macrobiotic. I was a vegetarian at the time and came to the conclusion that all diets are simply drawing lines where the person drawing them is comfortable. Vegans talk a good game but at the end of the day they're wearing PLASTIC. Is that locally sourced organically grown plastic? Carbon neutral plastic? I suggest this is what we're all doing. You're not comfortable with my lifestyle? OK. I'm not inviting you to live it. Live the life you're comfortable with. I have known many people of varying diets and lifestyles that for the most part seemed thoughtful and cared about their impact. How about we stop stepping on someone else' best because it doesn't measure up to ours.
posted by evilDoug at 1:59 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


If you want to eat meat go ahead, but I am pretty sure the animal would rather be alive..
..the animals desire for still, you know, being alive


Animals don't understand mortality in this way. Of course all living things are hard wired to avoid danger, but they have no sense of life or injustice or mortality. A cow that dies being struck by lightning and a cow dying to become food (whether for people or lions) are morally the same, because they are functionally the same.
posted by FirstMateKate at 2:21 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


Animals don't understand mortality in this way. Of course all living things are hard wired to avoid danger, but they have no sense of life or injustice or mortality.

There’s a capuchin monkey who has some thoughts to the contrary.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 4:25 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


In Seattle,

Good news! You're in a great location. You've got brick-and-mortar Rain Shadow Meats in the Melrose Market. There's also Seabreeze farm and Skagit River Ranch,both of whom can be found at the U-District and Ballard farmers' markets. Along with a mess of other meat vendors. A lot of this is made possible by substantial public investments in USD-inspected mobile slaughter.

That's all I've got off the top of my head at the moment. We don't tend to buy meat so I don't keep as up on it as I should.
posted by stet at 5:15 PM on August 11


I think it’s quite understandable that I went another way after seeing enough vegans acting in ways I disagreed with strongly — eg PETA and their racism, sexism, and fatphobia, not to mention advocacy for killing all domestic animals — over and over.

Killing as a form of expressing: that’s a truly bizarre overstatement. I don’t understand your accusation of concern trolling but I do think this might be an example of you doing it. Do you think I’m snapping the necks of chicken and thinking “fuck vegans!!!” while I do it? I sought out producers of meat products working in sustainable and humane ways, and discovered that those people treated me with kindness. I rejected a group of people who by and large seemed to have no respect for their fellow humans. It made me reconsider what values I was aligning myself with, and it came out on the side of thoughtful meat eating.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 6:22 PM on August 11 [6 favorites]


I’m sitting here pondering your comment more closely, IFDSSN9, because I found it really seemed to misunderstand me—I wonder if you what you think I was saying was that I eat meat only out of spite for vegans and not, as I tried to say, because I disagree with their reductive arguments in addition to how I think they tend to treat fellow humans?

Rather, I think you can raise animals with respect for them and the earth, slaughter them humanely, and treat the people in charge of them well and I grew frustrated with arguments against eating meat that insisted that there’s no difference between CAFO and biodynamic farms. Hope that makes it a little clearer. I’ll drop it now, I feel confused by your comment and had to type it through more, but if we just disagree, well, nothing more to say.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 6:38 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


That’s not what you came in with ttbhr. That’s what you have added when faced with critique.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:17 PM on August 11 [5 favorites]


There is nothing humane about slaughtering a healthy animal. Taking life from a sentient being for the sake of your tastebuds is so far from "humane" that it boggles my mind anyone could even use that word in connection with what is being described.

People love to tone police vegans. It's easy to see through it though as a tactic to silence voices for an ethical justice issue that makes people uncomfortable to hear about. That someone's ethics around violence towards and exploitation of animals could be decided by coming across some people they didn't like? I'm trying to imagine someone happily announcing that they oppose marriage equality because some straight advocates they met were jerks.

So I guess add me to the list of people who were "mean" about an issue of widespread cruelty and violence. I'm "mean" about human rights too if anyone needs to make any other ethical decisions.
posted by sarahw at 7:29 PM on August 11 [9 favorites]


Do not put words in my mouth to make your straw man argument. The first time it happened, I thought I was being unclear. The second time? I think it’s deliberate and it’s not okay. I’ve stated that I believe there is a humane way to raise and eat animals and since you don’t believe that there is, you’ve decided that I must not really mean that either. That what I must mean when I say I am not swayed by your arguments against meat eating and furthermore find the way you make the arguments to be dismissive of your fellow humans to mean that I eat animals because I find vegans to be “mean.”

My first comment may have been unclear, though I (thought I) stated pretty clearly that my problem was with the reductive arguments being made, not the “mean” nature of them — and mean is not a word I used — but I followed up twice because I dislike being misunderstood. I’m following up again and saying the same thing. At this point I’m not sure what the point is except to ask that if you want to score points against me by putting words in my mouth...please don’t. That’s a strange and scary thing that hasn’t happened to me on Metafilter before, it feels like being gaslit to be told what I really mean must be something else.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 7:50 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


[Hey, folks, I'm gonna ask that we collectively take a couple steps back here and try and reset to a point where this feels more like a conversation we're having in a community we all want to be in, even if we disagree on close-to-the-heart stuff. It's not a surprise that people have strong and varying feelings about meat consumption or the ethics and industry politics of same, but it needs to be possible to have a conversation about it where the "how I feel about it and why" bit doesn't lapse over into the "this is what you/they must think" or "this is why you/they are bad" stuff.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:27 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


Animals don't understand mortality in this way. Of course all living things are hard wired to avoid danger, but they have no sense of life or injustice or mortality. A cow that dies being struck by lightning and a cow dying to become food (whether for people or lions) are morally the same, because they are functionally the same.

We know v little about animal consciousness, and some animals do seem to have a sense of justice. But I don't know what you mean by morality - of course there is no way they are going to share human mortality because that has been worked out for our social structures, not theirs.

Some of the animals we like to eat are smart and social, like pigs. And I went vegetarian after seeing pigs freak out at a small slaughter house as a child. They sure did seem to know what was coming for them.

Again, eat meat if you want to, but thinking that it can come without some animal suffering seems really foolish and blind - to me at least. And you can decide to minimize that suffering which is better, but I doubt that you could eliminate it.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:29 PM on August 11 [9 favorites]


Aargh realize I misread 'mortality' as 'morality'! Apologies - ignore that bit of my reply, please!
posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:59 PM on August 11


Killing as a form of expressing: that’s a truly bizarre overstatement. I don’t understand your accusation of concern trolling but I do think this might be an example of you doing it. Do you think I’m snapping the necks of chicken and thinking “fuck vegans!!!” while I do it? I sought out producers of meat products working in sustainable and humane ways, and discovered that those people treated me with kindness. I rejected a group of people who by and large seemed to have no respect for their fellow humans. It made me reconsider what values I was aligning myself with, and it came out on the side of thoughtful meat eating.

My impression of the situation is that you are thoughtlessly harnessing a commonly-used anti-veg*n argument, which people employ in response to veg*n arguments. That commonly used argument goes something like this: "it's comments/statements/actions like this that led me to eat meat." This is a really brutal and disturbing argument. I assume that you ended up in that particular well-worn track because it's so common and accepted as a valid response to veg*n arguments, not because you were thinking about it much. But it's a really ugly trope and one which I would suggest taking pains not to fall in line with, even accidentally.

In terms of how you describe your decision to eat meat, if this is really your path, I guess I understand it, although I do not agree that it's the right way to make ethical decisions. It seems more like a sort of religious approach, with "vegans" being one thing, a group that one chooses to associate with or not. To me, there is no organized vegan religion, and one's own ethical choices have little to nothing to do with others'. One might reasonably choose not to identify as vegan if the label is associated with things one does not want to be associated with. However, it is hard for me to see how that is relevant to the decision to eat animal products (or not). The animals involved are distinctly unrelated to the people who identify as vegan. There is just, for me, no connection. It also does not help to solve (for example) fatphobia to eat meat; again, that is more about not labeling oneself as vegan.

I think here is where I am supposed to say something like "whatever works for you is fine" but in a serious ethical conversation, it would be disingenuous. (And you also did not say that about veg*ns, who you associate with fatphobia, smugness etc., so I hope you will not take it personally that I refrain in kind.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:04 AM on August 12 [5 favorites]


I feel like there's a lot of "my way of viewing meat-eating is the correct way, and everyone knows this, you just don't act on it because you're either a coward or evil" coming from like, the majority of the Vegans/vegetarians in this thread.
not probing into their paper-thin rationalizations of their unjustifiable ethical choices....

The positive case for being a vegetarian or a vegan is plain, and most people can see it, and it makes people uncomfortable because it's confronts them with a case where they are now aware that they don't need to be doing something they can't defend.
I honestly don't understand how these comments weren't deleted outright, I definitely flagged them. We're getting nowhere if you're going to operate in bad faith. I have no problem with eating meat. Personally, if I had the means, I'd only eat game, but I wouldn't care about people eating from ethical farm-raised animals. I am not uncomfortable with my decision, I'm not ignorant, no one here is saying anything new to me. It's not something I've never thought about.

Eating meat, and understanding that your life comes from the earth, that you're reliant on nature, helps me respect it better.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:10 AM on August 12 [4 favorites]


The way this conversation is going is disappointing. Reducing meat consumption, trying out meat substitutes, and fighting factory farming are things that many people presumably have in common and could discuss here.
posted by sacchan at 8:29 AM on August 12 [9 favorites]


I usually love your comments FirstMateKate, but here is where I disagree with you. The thread is also painted with, as ifdssn9 says, the basic tropes of meat eating folk (btw I am one, occasionally) - the cliched anti veg*n bingo card being ticked by comments like these. If Vs were nicer/ but our ancestors/ animals can’t feel mortality/ eating animals is ok even if they want to live because we are nice to them/ a farmer I know is nice/ etc etc. but most of all is the trope that angry vegans moralising - this makes a discussion unfair. The article presents a moral shift in the protagonist. The vegan response has been to point to ‘why wasn’t this explored?’ which seems fair enough to me.
posted by honey-barbara at 8:33 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


The article presents a moral shift in the protagonist. The vegan response has been to point to ‘why wasn’t this explored?’ which seems fair enough to me.

I also agree that that seems fair. But what i'm responding to is that people aren't referring to it as a moral shift, but rather a loss of morals, or that the people still have the same morals but aren't acting on them because laziness/spite/revenge or whatever. Which just isn't the case.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:59 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Why are you all typing "veg*n"?

I'm dating vegan which is a good experience, but I have an anxiety based eating disorder that my parents made VERY bad as a child. It sucks. I wish I was a salad person.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:23 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


veg*n incorporates both vegans and vegetarians.
posted by Laura in Canada at 11:33 AM on August 12


I've been thinking a lot about this thread. Just when the article was posted, I thought of posting a sarcastic popcorn comment, because this is one of the things we don't do well here on MetaFilter. Mostly because we are all passionate about our respective positions, and to some extent judgmental about other positions.
Also, I think that there are places where veganism is widely mocked, so vegans are instinctively on the defensive, and I think there are some radical/anarchist/leftist communities where veganism is embraced almost religiously (I've been in one), which can make vegetarians and omnivores feel uncomfortable. So in real life, we may have very different experiences that influence our attitude. As I wrote above, I have friends who are vegans for religious reasons, and I respect them and their choices, just as I respect everyone's food choices. We have had a vegetarian household for a year, because one of the kids decided to be vegetarian because of the climate. It's fine. No complaints from me, ever.

I am passionate about the point of view that was vaguely expressed in freethefeet's English book. I'd like to unfold it. But let me explain it through my story, rather than as a manifesto, or judgement.
I've always enjoyed savory food more than sweet, and I've always loved vegetables and fruits. Since I was given my first cookbook at 7 or 8, I've been experimenting with food and cooking. And since I was about 15, I began mostly eating vegetable food and cooking a lot of the family's vegetable dishes to make sure they were cooked right. At 18, I had a job at a greengrocers and learnt much more + I got free fruit and veg, so I obviously centered my diet on them even more.
Most of my childhood and youth I've suffered from skin problems, hay fever and asthma, except when I was at my grandmothers farm. When I was 23, I discovered why when I had a bad asthma attack after eating a few spoonfuls of Knorr spaghetti bolognese. I had a very rare allergy to monosodium glutamate, and had to stop eating processed food, soy, parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and lots of other delicious stuff. After 20 years I could begin to eat tiny amounts of the things I missed most: soy sauce and parmesan cheese. Most other things I don't even like anymore, like processed food, so I haven't tested it. When I stopped eating processed food, I also stopped eating non-organic food as far as I could. The availability wasn't tops back then, more than 30 years ago.
This all led to my interest in food growing. I realized that my grandmother's food was fine for me because she cooked from scratch from sustainably farmed products. I found friends who were also foodies, and we spent days and holidays cooking together, we shared books and went to expensive restaurants. One friend became a cook and apprenticed at one of the first fine-dining restaurants here with a mostly plant-based menu. Another became a cookbook writer and later a food developer, and he too was very interested in vegetable dishes. We also ate mostly vegetables because it's cheaper and we were poor. My then-husband just doesn't like meat, and he introduced me to Middle-Eastern food, which is also mostly plant-based. We never thought of being vegan or vegetarian. At that time and place it was either a fanatical or a religious position, and the food you could read about or eat at restaurants in those communities was not interesting to us (though there was a secret macro-biotic dinner club that was very good, but I never found any of their recipes anywhere, and they didn't share much). What I'm saying is that since I was very young, I've mostly eaten vegetable food, with the exception of 1 1/2 years where I experimented with traditional Danish food and put on 25 kilos of weight that I haven't lost since, and worse: together with the weight has come recurring depressions. TLDR: I really, strongly believe it is best for me to eat mostly vegetables, to bake my own bread in order to avoid additives and to make everything from scratch. I suspect that would be good for everyone, and I cook that way for my family and friends and they like it.

Parallel to this, something else happened. At school we first had a terrible biology teacher, and then a good one. But both of them were strong environmentalists, and we did a lot of fieldwork, and learnt a lot about ecosystems and the effects of pollution, deforestation and industrial farm practices. Back then, global warming wasn't a big issue yet, but we read The Limits to Growth. For some of us, those classes were really fundamental to our understanding of the world and our place in it. And our love of food and our environmental interests gradually merged. We became interested in the farm to table principles, and in Slow Food -- actually it was the above mentioned friends of mine who introduced Slow Food here. We were more and more interested in traditional foods, in foraging and in a healthier balance between agriculture, food and the environment. And we became more and more aware of the way in which healthy agriculture works with nature, and is a balance between livestock, grains and gardening. One of my main assignments at architecture school was about re-wilding. Our group of friends grew to include more people who knew about agriculture, forestry and food.

Gardening is probably the best way to get many healthy calories out of the ground, if you have suitable land for it. But it is labor intensive and it needs some fertilizing (depending on where you are). Manure is a very good soil builder, and you get the best manure from animals. So it's good to have chickens and some other animals. It's best to have your own, because then you are in control of the process. If you grow grains, you need more fertilizer because most grains deplete the earth. Some farms have returned to the ancient practice of crop rotation, where you change between grains, legumes and perhaps pasture, or you may have pasture in areas that are not suitable for grain fields or gardening, because they are too wet or too steep. If you have pasture, you need ruminants. If you have dairy cows, you also have calves, and the male calves can not all grow up to be bulls or oxen, so some of them must be culled. Will you then eat them or destruct them? IMO being a vegetarian and eating cheese but not eating veal is not a sustainable option, which is why veal often features strongly in the cuisines of cheese-producing areas. Pigs can be far better than machines if there is an area on your farm where the ground needs to be cleansed and loosened up. It could be an overgrown wilderness or forest area. The pigs fertilize the ground as they rummage, and they don't bring giant wheels and diesel in there. When the job is done, and you suddenly have a lot of pigs because they do procreation very well, will you then eat them or destruct them?
There is a lot more, thousands of pages more on how to do sustainable land management that can also feed 10 billion people. I'll stop here.

An other thing: I've visited Greenland, and admire the Greenlandic people, and hope to visit other Arctic areas. I had a good very friend who was Same, though I never went to her birthplace, because she didn't. These people cannot possibly live as vegans or vegetarians if they don't live in the few cities that have all-year air-access, and they don't want to. Do these people have questionable ethics? Really?

Finally, there is also the issue I mentioned in a comment above. Our malpractice, specially during the 20th and 21st centuries, but also long before, has led to invasive species destroying ecosystems all over the world. Some of these species are plants that can be composted and used to fertilize the land. But some are animals, and again: should we just throw these animals on the incinerator or should we eat them? I feel the incinerator solution is immoral. These species have not decided to move, we have moved them. If we at least put them to use, they are respected at a more cosmic level. The last alternative, to just let them be and destroy ancient habitats and push native species to extinction seems to me to be extremely immoral.

In the end, I've concluded that the best solution for the world is that we should eat mostly vegetable foods, a little seafood and meats (and all of the animals we eat, not just the filets), and not at all industrially processed food. The meat we eat in our family has all been sustainably farmed and the animals are killed on site in a manner so they do not experience any fear. If they are afraid, it can influence the taste of the meat, it's just most people don't notice because they have no experience with carefully butchered meat, but once you've tried good meat, you'll never eat supermarket meat again.
The meat we would be able to provide out of the animals needed in a universal sustainable agriculture and the animals culled because they are invasive species would never be enough for the Western lifestyle with meat on the table three times a day and meat as the centerpiece of every dinner and maybe lunch. But there would be a little meat, sometimes. I believe in seeing food and agriculture as a whole, and as a constant circular movement, where plants and animals, nature and agriculture are always interacting in different ways. That is what I am passionate about and try to persuade friends and family to follow. I also try not to be judgmental if someone disagrees with me, though I'll admit that is hard.
I hope this will be seen as a thoughtful argument for the principles I live by, and at the same time I want to restate that I respect all other decisions and will serve you whatever you like if ever you visit me with no snarky comments.

PS: Plants feel, too.
posted by mumimor at 3:55 PM on August 12 [7 favorites]


Your comment was thoughtful and lovely, mumimor, I'm glad to have read it. These are all things that interest me intensely and the questions you raise are ones I have thought about too, both during the nearly two decades I didn't eat meat and in the time after that. Thanks for all the additional food for thought (pun intended :)
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 4:13 PM on August 12


I thought artisanal butchering was the new playing-bass-in-a-hardcore-band among the hip set in Brooklyn.
posted by acb at 4:34 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Bit of an aside from the core of this discussion, but this image:

Do you think I’m snapping the necks of chicken and thinking “fuck vegans!!!” while I do it?

Is literally LOL funny. Like, I had to close my office door for a sec. (And I'm vegan.)
posted by booksarelame at 10:19 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I understand that no one wants to litigate issues that comes up with strangers on the internet, especially if they feel that they are settled for them in their personal lives; it is hard to talk about this kind of stuff. It's hard to talk about this with people who seem so ethically sure of themselves and uncompromising when you've made a different decision and you a) feel like they are not right and b) feel like they are attacking you.

However this is an article and a discussion thread about people stopping being vegetarians and vegans and becoming butchers and slaughtering livestock, and so it's interesting that they've done this. I want to make a few claims clearly then:

On eating meat
1. Eating meat is not necessary to maintain a good diet (many people do not eat meat at all)
2. People who don't eat meat can have as good of lives as those who do eat meat.
3. Eating meat is a preferential choice

On killing animals
1. Animals can experience pleasure and pain, and can experience more pleasure and have good lives if we don't kill them
2. Animal agriculture contributes in a large and real way to the destruction of the natural world

So if we accept those, and I'm curious if people would dispute them, then we reach a point where we have to weigh them against each other. And the question everyone asks themselves (if they care to truly consider it) is:

Does my preference for meat outweigh the animals potential pleasure?

Does my preference for meat outweigh an animal's desire to live (if we believe in that)?

Does my preference for meat outweigh my desire to stop the destruction that animal agriculture does to the environment?


The article makes no attempt, however, at getting it's subjects to really talk about that - instead it allows its subjects to, basically, sidestep this serious question entirely, sometimes through outright deception. The subjects had a nice trip to Europe. The subjects read some articles about soybean production that lied to them. The subjects felt that they could raise the animals and give them good lives and then kill them. But, in all this, none of the subjects really grapple with the central questions that you have to answer when you eat meat.

Disagree with this assessment? Heard it all before? Feel I'm being too harsh? I'm sorry you feel that way. And just to be clear, I am making moral judgments. This is a moral shift and a loss of morals. If you decide to put a preference aside so other creatures can live, and then you decide that actually, your preferences are more important, that is a loss of morals. This is an incredibly important issue to me, as I hope people here can understand, and I hope that my treating it with importance is not interpreted as maliciousness.

Finally - and this is a personal belief that comes from my ideology - as a response to the points raised here, that are around eating meat raised by a farmer on a farm where the animals had a nice life. Does that make a difference? Of course it does, to the animal. But to the eater, this point only works as a justification. It does not combat factory farming. At most it makes no difference at all. If your demand to the world and yourself in the face of the unending slaughter of billions of animals in inhumane conditions every year stops at "if only we could make the conditions a bit more humane", then what use are your convictions, really, to the animals? What bold action do you hope to engender? What rallying cry do you hope to get people to follow your cause? There won't be one. There is not a cause to be had there. Animals deserve liberation from the tyranny of human preferences.
posted by durandal at 3:33 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


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