“Now I can look at you in peace…”

Eggs & Bacon by Dana Ellyn

Eggs & Bacon by Dana Ellyn

Food is tasty! It’s the basis of our life, comforting and at the center of our social, cultural and religious events: holidays, weddings, parties. But what do we know about our food and why don’t we know it?

For instance, tomatoes. Whether you have grown tomato plants or not, you know that a tomato seed germinates and grows into a plant bearing fruit (scientifically speaking, tomato is a fruit). It is a beautiful and magical progression. Even if you haven’t seen it, you would not object to watching a video of it, nor would you think that anything about tomato growing is appalling, horrifying or disgusting. You put a slice of tomato in your mouth and you can envision the plant in the warmth of the sun, or the fruit being picked off the plant, and still enjoy eating it.

Now, think about any food product that comes from non-human animals: cheese, a piece of meat, chicken breast, turkey, bacon, eggs; what do you know about the entire process of how non-human animals are made into food? Would you like to know more about it, see it, watch a video of the process? Would you like to envision it while you eat for example a piece of bacon? Do you think it’s as beautiful and magical as a tomato growing? Can you put a slice of ham in your mouth, visualize a female pig trapped in a gestation crate, not big enough for her even to turn around, and still enjoy eating her flesh?

Most of us never see how non-human animals are turned into food, from beginning to the end, and we prefer not to see, hear, or know about it. No one wants to imagine the whole process of how the egg or bacon, which he/she ate for breakfast, arrived onto their plate. The opposite, we are angry and/or extremely uncomfortable if anyone wants to tell us about it, or show us a video.

The simple reason is, we know the process is appalling, horrifying and disgusting. For example, most of us would rather not hear about, or see, the standard procedure in the egg industry in which the little male chicks are shredded alive, suffocated in plastic bags, or killed by other, no less, horrific methods.[1] I’ve read, and seen pictures and videos of the grinding and suffocation, taken in the U.S. and other Western countries, and there are no words to describe the horror. Every time I see an egg, those bloody or suffocated chicks pictures come back to me.

We know that making food out of animals is an ugly, cruel, and violent process. However, most people do not think or consider the extreme physical and mental abuse we are taking part in. And even when we do (we know that an animal is slaughtered in order for he/she to be turned into “meat”), we compartmentalize, ignoring what we hold dear to our hearts: peace and nonviolence, justice, and the right to be free from harm and exploitation. All of those values are blatantly disregarded when it comes to our taste buds.

For the new year, I wish we can reflect on our choices and align our actions with what we say our morals are. When you wish peace, you can’t make that happen for all the humans you wish it for. However, you sure can for non-human animals, by removing sentient creatures from your plate. And by doing so, you too will find serenity, in the words of Franz Kafka, commenting to a fish, after becoming a vegetarian (p. 74), “Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you anymore.”

I wish you, and all beings, Peace and Joy in the New Year!

Picture courtesy of Dana Ellyn, danaellyn.com

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick_culling

 

 

 

 

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6 Responses

  1. Rita Anderson says:

    THANK YOU, Zahava, for putting this very horrific, but very important, issue in such an excellent way. Your gentleness and compassion shows in every word you speak. I do hope others will pay attention and savor tomatoes instead of butchered animals. This may very well be my favorite of your blog posts to date.

  2. Naomi Granoff says:

    Very well put – lots of material for contemplating, if we dare. There is no excuse for hiding from the ugly facts that describe where some of our food comes from and how that happens. I think most of us are afraid of the changes we’d have to make if we really thought about it for more than a few seconds. As someone who is not a vegetarian, I understand this and am committed to getting closer to it. And that’s a start. We can all do a little more, even if we can’t go all the way.

    • Rita Anderson says:

      Naomi, I would very respectfully like to respond to your post. The changes you fear are not as dramatic as you think they might be. And while it is good to “do a little more,” you CAN “go all the way.” Please take some time to contemplate what it means to that animal when he/she is brutalized, then killed, so you can put a slice of him/her on your plate. Satisfying your palate with that flesh is nothing compared to their suffering. It’s all about what is most important. Good luck to you on your journey!

      • Rita Anderson says:

        It’s all about choices, and only humans can make the choice to quit brutalizing other species. One way to make a dramatic change all on your own is to go vegan.

  3. janet says:

    And even when we do (we know that an animal is slaughtered in order for he/she to be turned into “meat”), we compartmentalize, ignoring what we hold dear to our hearts: peace and nonviolence, justice, and the right to be free from harm and exploitation. All of those values are blatantly disregarded when it comes to our taste buds.

    For the new year, I wish we can reflect on our choices and align our actions with what we say our morals are. When you wish peace, you can’t make that happen for all the humans you wish it for. However, you sure can for non-human animals, by removing sentient creatures from your plate. And by doing so, you too will find serenity, in the words of Franz Kafka, commenting to a fish, after becoming a vegetarian (p. 74), “Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you anymore.”

    Beautifully written and the ‘picture worth a thousand words’ – woman with platters – you’ve really said it all. NOW – just to get people to (at least) read it – LET ALONE (age-old problem) comprehend. B U T – it’s people like yourself with picturesque speech and illustration that are changing our world. Thank You. HAPPY NEW year!!

  4. Robin says:

    Rita, Naomi, and Janet, fantastic comments about Zahava’s necessary and profound piece on the unequivocal horror of eating animals and the rationale behind the choice to do so. Despite the knowledge in this day and age of the pain and agony and appalling cruelty occurring on a daily basis to animals who will be eaten (there is an abundance of videos showing what happens to animals on factory farms), many still prefer to look the other way, even if, as Jonathan Safran Foer writes in his book, Eating Animals, “every factory-farmed animal is, as a practice, treated in ways that would be illegal if it were a dog or a cat. Turkeys have been so genetically modified they are incapable of natural reproduction. To acknowledge that these things matter is not sentimental. It is a confrontation with the facts about animals and ourselves. We know these things matter.” In the book, Foer tells extraordinary stories about his grandmother, who survived World War II, including this “vital lesson”:

    “During the war it was hell on earth, and I had nothing. I left my family, you know. I was always running, day and night, because the Germans were always right behind me. If you stopped, you died. There was never enough food. I became sicker and sicker from not eating, and I’m not just talking about being skin and bones. I had sores all over my body. It became difficult to move. I wasn’t too good to eat from a garbage can. I ate the parts others wouldn’t eat. If you helped yourself, you could survive. I took whatever I could find. I ate things I wouldn’t tell you about.

    “Even at the worst times, there were good people, too. Someone taught me to tie the ends of my pants so I could fill the legs with any potatoes I was able to steal. I walked miles and miles like that, because you never knew when you would be lucky again. Someone gave me a little rice, once, and I traveled two days to a market and traded it for some soap, and then traveled to another market and traded the soap for some beans. You had to have luck and intuition.

    “The worst it got was near the end. A lot of people died right at the end, and I didn’t know if I could make it another day. A farmer, a Russian, God bless him, he saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me.”

    “He saved your life.”

    “I didn’t eat it.”

    “You didn’t eat it?”

    “It was pork. I wouldn’t eat pork.”

    “Why?”

    “What do you mean why?”

    “What, because it wasn’t kosher?”

    “Of course.”

    “But not even to save your life?”

    “If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.”