January 22, 2012

One Is Not Like The Other: Part 1

This is what's wrong.

Let's get this straight right at the beginning: animal activism does not equal veganism.

Surprisingly, it is actually possible to eat meat and animal products and still support animal rights and welfare. I know, right? Now, this will involve educating yourself on your meat and animal choices and reevaluating where your food comes from and exactly how far you're willing to go to meet yourself in the middle. But it's really not hard, especially if animal activism is important to you.

Up until my preteen years I was an avid meat eater. In a way I identified with predators (my cat and dog, the hawks and owls I watched around my house, even the way my rat ate bugs), and meat was tasty. Especially sausage. Mmmmm, sausage. My tastes have changed over the years and although I eat very limited amounts of meat now I don't like the notion that you have to be vegan in order to support animal welfare.

I come across websites that imply (or outright state) that the only way to be a real animal activist is to adopt a vegan lifestyle. While I fully support those who are vegan and sometimes wish I had the courage and tastebuds there's just no way I could do that. And that's because I love cheese. Cream cheese with salsa or cottage cheese and tomatoes for breakfast, potatoes with eggs and cheddar in a burrito, mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, grilled cheese sandwiches, pepper jack or gouda with crackers and apple slices, rice and beans with cheese... I love cheese. The only meatless things I can order when eating out have cheese. And I'm OK with that.

But here's the thing: I love animals. Animals will always be around, and not having a pet in 2008 was the most depressing time in my life. Seeing wildlife every day at the Wild Animal Park made my year in 2009, I vote for animal rights when they're on the ballot. I make choices based on how it will affect animals and their environments and choose the meats I do eat carefully. But I also love food. Like, really love food. Cooking, creating new dishes, sharing food with people, grocery shopping, and eating. I love eating. I will never be one of those skinny twigs because I love food. 

Probably 90% of my grocery shopping is done at Trader Joe's and Sprouts, which is about as local as it can get without going to a farmer's market (which is great, just a bit out of my budget for most things). I support local hunting and fishing and don't believe that eating animals is inherently wrong. It's the way we get our meat that's wrong, but that's in another post. It's also the idea that we must be eating meat for our meal to be "real"or for us to be healthy that's wrong.

Eating meat does not make a person an opponent of animal welfare just like not eating meat does not make a person a supporter of animal welfare. There are plenty of people who eat meat and support animal rights, people who want to see the way our animals are raised change, people who acknowledge their place as an omnivore who also believe animals we eat deserve a better quality of life and death. Suggesting otherwise is a little closed minded.

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