A vegetarian confession: Today I ate a bite of lamb sausage. It was an emotional moment for me, a self proclaimed vegetarian for the last 20 years of my life, though it is never that simple. With the exception of a few attempts at veganism, I have always consumed dairy products. These dairy products include the life and death of farm animals, but it was easy to distance myself from this fact. In the last few years I have been eating seafood. I have never caught a fish myself, nor have I ever lived near an active fishery. I know fish are animals, yet I still consider myself a vegetarian. They seem so foreign, again this distancing.
But here I am in a place that is far from the ocean. In this region, animal agriculture is a part of the landscape. Sustainable animal production benefits our soils and our economy.
A lovingly and locally produced package of lamb sausage was given to us as a gift from the farmer who raised the animals, slaughtered them, and processed the meat. His farm is down the valley from here. It’s a truly inspirational farm, one that gives me hope for the future. Our current American culture is built on fossil fuels and endless growth, neither of which are healthy for any living creature (humans included). Farms like this show us another way forward.
I take a bite and I think. I feel sad and inquisitive and shameful. I am doing something that I thought was wrong, but all the evidence points to the contrary. Grass-based agriculture is a perennial polyculture. It is pesticide free and soil building. It supports local farmers, who are improving the landscape. In this world where humans are so often the destroyers of ecological integrity, it is something to give one pause. The lamb who was slaughtered for this food had a good life of green grass and open fields and loving caretakers.
I’m caught up in the messiness of eating in the real world. I hope you will join me on this exploration into the inherent imperfections of feeding ourselves in a global world. What animal products do you eat? Have your values and your practices around animal products changed over time?