if you can't kill it, don't eat it

Submitted by Susan Miller on Thu, 03/12/2009 - 12:42.

Those are the words my influential older brother delivered to me about 35 years ago. I may have been consuming a hamburger or some such at the time. I decided on vegetarian eating during the months when my leg was in a cast - I was 16. I was reading through the pages of Gray's Anatomy and helping my mother prepare dinner. As we boned a chicken breast, I had a more visceral experience of my own anatomy - the filmy stuff between the skin and muscle is called fascia. I was able to inspect the muscle becoming tendon and ligament - it's attachment to the bone. It is fascia that becomes "stuck" and continues misalignment leading to injury in athletes and dancers at an alarming rate. (It works on non-athletes and non-dancers too, just not with such severe consequences for their careers). All these things fascinated me as I waited for the knee injury to heal, but it also made me squeamish. When my brother delivered that wallop of a challenge - you should be able to kill what you eat - that was it. No more meat for me - I just couldn't bring myself to think of watching the life go out of an animal - even a fish. Call me a wimp.

So when I read about the benefits of a vegetarian diet (and believe me it is not always a "healthy" one), I am encouraged, but I am not a smug vegetarian. I am no purist, I'm just a squeamish, no thanks kind of vegetarian. I fall off the strictness wagon, too. What's in that milk, eh? Cheese with animal rennet, some things have gelatin unbeknownst to me, but I swallow anyway.

So this morning when I read this, Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health, I thought, well at least I don't have to worry about getting this rash from bacon. I'll die another way. Maybe it'll be my arts and culture supporting cigarette habit or some other unavoidable carcinogen in my environment. It might be a poorly handled vegetable from my grocer. Maybe I'll stress myself to death with worry (my parents did). But maybe it won't be a sinus infection that does me in. One thing I do know about antibiotics is that I have an immediate reaction to them - take an antibiotic get a yeast infection. I might as well be drinking bleach. Within hours my system seems to be ridding itself of all bacteria - all of it, good and bad. I haven't had many antibiotics which may be good for me, maybe not. But I wonder about our resistance to disease when big ag meat eaters are consuming vast quantities of antibiotics daily. Can it be good for you? I think that if I was going to resume meat eating, I'd like to know the farm and the farmer as intimately as I know my home's pathways in the dark.

These are just some of the things I think might be challenging in our new world when the advent of the 3,000 mile caesar salad is over - local food, food from a farmer you know. It could be a healthier way of life... maybe.

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Eating and the Environment, Making a Sensible Choice

Susan,

I too am a vegetarian, and all that you say makes good sense...absolutely.  We are interconnected.  All things are.  There is no escaping this.  So perhaps its time we embraced this notion, seeking fun, new innovative ways to nurture our economy, to feed ourselves and create a life-long, sustainable agricultural and health care system that benefits the whole.

Van Jones, author of "The Green Collar Economy", articulates this well, and as such, has been drafted to be President Obama's Green Jobs Adviser.

For most of my life, I witnessed my father dying a long, horrific death; plagued with a litany of diseases, almost all related to environmental toxicity, stress and poor food choices.  That experience had a sobering impact on me, as a boy and as a man.  I have three brothers, all of whom are obese and have diabetes. However I, a vegetarian (occasionally eating fish) who does not smoke or drink coffee, but walks 5 miles per day, am  not obese and do not have diabetes.  All of my brothers and I, are in our 40's.

To live is to experience pain.  Still, we have a choice, and what pain we choose decides our fate.  Will we choose the pain of disciplined consumption, environmental stewardship and exercise, or will we choose to defer this discipline, only to experience the exponential pain of self-deception and gluttony...horror coming home to roost.

Max Eternity