The knights are restless and for good reason.

Pig Out

About 12 years ago, I decided to eliminate pork (as well as all other mammals) from my diet. The decision was done for several reasons, not the least of which was the inhumane keeping of factory farm animals.

We now know (or should) that the cost to maintain animals to feed humans is unsustainable. As populations rise and attain affluence, people, unsurprisingly, want what the wealthiest societies have enjoyed for years. The problem is that the world is becoming a very different place than it was only a few years back.

When it became common for people to purchase meat from butchers and grocery stores, the Earth’s population was under two billion people, staying relatively consistent for about a century. As this graph shows, population took a meteoric rise, and now is estimated to have reached seven billion. world-population-1820-to-2010

As increases in population continue, people begin to replace arable land, further restricting food growing possibilities.  It takes acre upon acre of land, not to mention scarce water, to produce the feed for the animals humans consume. Based on the inevitable outcome of continuing this practice, wouldn’t to make so much more sense to focus on vegetables (and others – see below)?

What prompted me to write this post was the restless night I had after listening to an interview on Terry Gross’ Fresh Air. I was already aware of most of the things that were discussed on the subject of cruelty to factory-farmed pigs. What I did not realize is that pigs are highly sensitive and intelligent animals (which is more than we can say for many Americans). The next time you call someone a pig, it could be considered a compliment.

I’m supplying a link to this podcast, which might be painful for some to listen to. But it might just cure you of your desire to consume pork, and even make you think about giving up, or at least reducing, your consumption of animals.

There are still places where animals are farmed humanely, and certainly organics eliminate the fear of additives like hormones and antibiotics that are routinely fed to factory farmed animals.  But when meat is ordered in a restaurant, in most cases the public has no idea of the conditions the animal they’re about to consume has had to endure, or what’s  been put into their feed. This makes a further case for reduction of those sources of protein in your diet.

I alluded to other forms of protein which are already showing up in restaurants, on grocery shelves and mail order. If I had made the suggestion that we should become insectivores a few years back, you would have laughed me out of the room. But entomophagy is emerging. The consumption of tarantulas and centipedes has existed in other places in the world for centuries. according to the website shown in the above link, there are almost 1,500 species of edible insects in the world. Their consumption has many advantages over traditional meat-eating, without most of the drawbacks:
A. It takes a minuscule amount of water to raise a pound of crickets, vs the hundreds of liters for all mammals
B. Insects have a huge protein to fat ratio, which cannot be said of mammals
C. It doesn’t seem quite as cruel to kill those creatures as it does the pig or others (listen to that podcast!)
D. No additives that could actually harm you and your children are needed to add insects to our food supply
E. A decent cook could easily add the flavorings needed to make this a gourmet meal.

Another industry of the near future is protein made in a laboratory, cloned from mammals. No pig, cow or goat is forced to live in a cell barely large enough to hold it. Once the texture and flavor of your favorite hamburger can transferred to you lab-burger, you will become a fan. As the cost of this process becomes competitive with traditional meat-rearing, you may never want some corporate farmer to torture another animal again.

My dad was raised as a vegetarian from birth, something that was quite rare in the early part of the twentieth century. When I was growing up, I never realized what wonderful thing he was doing for his own health, and the animal population. Dad, I know you can’t hear me now, but I think you would be proud of this stand that I take.

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2 thoughts on “Pig Out

  1. Judy Helgager on said:

    Barry, interesting to hear about your father’s choices and their influence on you. Kudos. I am not sure I could ever go the insect route but lab food might be OK. I am not a foodie and only eat so I can continue to live but I do care how animals are treated in this food chain of ours. Hope you get a lot of readers. Your words need to get out there.

  2. Joyce portnoy on said:

    Read last week in a Swiss newsletter for expats that California has passed a law regarding how much space must be allowed for each hen to stretch her wings and move about in agrobusiness egg production factories. We need more laws to protect animals used for food and prohibit the growth hormones and antibiotics with which they are dosed. Not as ideal a solution as you would advocate, but perhaps just as difficult to achieve. Now I shall call you the Knight in Shining Armour.

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