I have officially started my Summ-ester. So far one of my best friends is now living with me for a month, I have fallen in like with Walt Whitman’s writing, and I have become even more of an avid vegetarian.
Yesterday I visited the ISU farm, and let me tell you, it was quite the eye opener. I have never really been a crazy animal-rights activist (my reasons for being a vegetarian reach far back into a lot of different reasonings).
I suppose I should explain that last bit. Since I was younger, food has been a bit of a strange part of my life. My mother cooked it, I ate it, and sometimes I did or did not like the taste of it. But it goes deeper. I have always been “small” in the eyes of others, partly because it is currently still my last name, but also because I have been quiet and physically slight. I realized that it didn’t quite matter what I ate, I stayed around the same size. So I began eating for the fun of it, having lots of after school snacks and just anytime snacks….until all the sudden this began to disgust me. It was not that I was gaining weight, because I wasn’t, but I just began to become repulsed by certain foods and the image of myself eating them. The greatest of these was meat. I literally could not stomach the idea of a dead animal sitting inside of me. I tried not to think of this fact, and continued to eat the way I had been….sort of. Then a series of unfortunate events occurred in high school, which were probably not so unfortunate, but within the contexts of my dramatic little world, I thought them so. Theses feelings started emerging inside of me and I’m sure they stem back to the way I was raised or what I see on tv or my last name or my family history and genes or my current group of friends or whatever…. but the long and short of it is that I became bulimic. As in, I chose to become it, not as in I caught some weird disease. By this time I had subconsciously stopped eating meat, and then titled myself a Vegetarian so as not to be pressured to eat many foods. Both the bulimia, which morphed in and out of anorexia as well, and the Vegetarianism stuck with me for the past 5-6 years. Now I am currently a happy Vegetarian and a happy recovering-bulimic.
I want to stress that my seeming detachment from my eating disorder is probably more good than bad, although it may disturb some that I sound so nonchalant about it. If I were to express deep heartfelt pain about my struggle, it would only make it more a part of me- something I do not wish to entertain the possibility of.
But now…. despite my weird formation of the adoption of my vegetarian diet, it is something which, I believe, makes me more healthy than not. And a few past experiences with animals, most recently the ISU farm visit, I have become that much more convicted in my eating habits and their not harming any creature.
Perhaps it is my own warped relationship with food and “fattening” which makes this so disturbing to me. I cannot bare the thought of being judged by my size, mostly because I have been doing just that for far too long, and it needs to stop. Also, the way these cows look at people just makes me sad. All I can see when I’m looking back at them, as the farm owner explains how much they should weigh and how they artificially inseminate the females, while essentially castrating the males, is how many hamburgers this animal will be made into.
I have never really had this reaction to a live animal until now. My aversion to meat has always started with the dead and packaged, possible seasoned stuff and has not official extended into the living, breathing thing.
These are sheep. The class I went to look at them with thought they were adorable and oooed and ahhed at their observed cuteness. I asked if they were used for wool or for meat and was informed that wool was essentially worthless in Illinois, and these sheep were also artificially inseminated to birth twins so that more could be used.
Many of them had broken legs. They limped around, apparently unphased by their injury. To put it simply, they actually were really cute. But this did not add or subtract to how sad it was to know that they were all brought into the world to die. I suppose we all are….but usually we get to do some cool stuff in between. These sheep…not so much.
What was even more sad were the pigs. I did not get a picture of them, partly because the lighting in the pens was not good and mostly because I did not want to capture this particular level of what I consider cruelty.
They were locked up in small pens so they could only more forward and backward a few inches. They could not even turn around. They would be kept here for up to three months, then would be impregnated in a specified breeding room, and then put inside of another only slightly larger cage to have their babies. These cages would have sliding chutes where the piglets could get away from the mother, who often would sit down and unknowingly kill her children. This is because the pens are so small that they cannot see what is below them and cannot move out of the way of anything. The sow does not even get to raise her own babies before they are taken and separated by sex and size to be placed in similar pens and fed experimental feed (to see what makes them fattest).
These are the animals that live and die with no life. It made me so sad.
There is something different about being an individual farmer, raising livestock and growing crops for your family to live off of . You raise a pig naturally, feeding it a balanced diet, letting it run around, allowing it the chance to be clean (by the way pigs are clean if you let them be. They will go to the bathroom in one separate place so as not the dirty up the rest of their space, which cannot be said about cows or chickens or even sheep. However, if they are locked up in small pens, they are not given the chance to be clean, which is probably why they smell awful in most farms). But if you are a farmer and you do all of this, including killing the pig to feed your family, this is better than what commercial farms do. You allow the animals to have a life. You appreciate each one of them and take care of them during life so they can live, and then serve you after death. You are thankful for the life and service of the animal.
This is how it was meant to be.
I know that I have a long list of experiences and food particularities and peculiarities which have made me decide to keep my title and practice of “vegetarian”. I know that yesterday was one such experience. I think that my Agriculture class is forcing me to think a little differently about food…..I am sure I will have more musings on the matter later in this summ-ester, and you will no doubt be subjected to read about them as they occur. But for now, I believe that is all. Today I have read Whitman’s preface and had a tremendous amount of coffee. Now I must prepare my body for the pilates class I will teach at Noon, as I am quite sore from yesterday’s Total Body Conditioning. Then I have class, Power Yoga, and finally, CS Lewis Book Club.
What a meatless day today is.