The pigs’ last days

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11/26 Update: We’ve turned off the StyCam, but you can still read all the pig posts on the Pig page.


It’s time. This is the week we slaughter the pigs. After looking at all the options, we decided to go with what was our first choice from the beginning: we’re doing it at home.

It’s encouraging that everything, up until now, has gone well. Doc, Spot, and Tiny give every indication of being happy pigs. They’ve had no health problems. They’ve grown from about twenty pounds to over ten times that – Doc’s probably past optimal weight, at 280, with Spot coming in second at 260 and Tiny bringing up the rear at about 230.

They’ve eaten 2500 pounds of feed, supplemented by kitchen scraps, a couple hundred pounds of acorns and, in their last few weeks, one to two gallons of milk a day – a donation from a local farmer who’s starting up a dairy but isn’t yet fully licensed.

They’ve completely cleared the 2200 square feet they live in, which was filled with underbrush and poison ivy when they moved in. They seem to have enjoyed the company of each other, of us, and of anyone else who brought them food or scratched their backs.

They have been happy pigs.

It’s grim, planning for their death. There’s a knot in my stomach. We are doing everything in our power to make sure slaughter goes smoothly. We’ve gotten detailed advice and fortifying encouragement  from Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm. We’ve got a team of people lined up to help us, three of whom either are now or have been farmers.  We’re ready.

We’ll be turning off the StyCam on Monday night. Go visit one last time.

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Comments

  1. Tamar and Kevin– I can only imagine how difficult this is. I understand why you have to do it: I understand, I think, how it makes you feel. While I have killed a mammal to eat it, I did not raise that creature nor become attached to it. You are very brave.
    But most important:
    You are showing us what it is like to truly take responsibility for what we eat.

  2. Stephen Andrew says:

    I echo Marge’s thoughts. Im so thankful to have a window onto this process. I think in this age of bucolic idealism and Williams-Sonoma chicken coops (which are admittedly very cute) some of the harder realities of animal husbandry are glossed over. Also I’ve learned I’m a huge wuss and would rather pay the premium with money for responsibly-raised meat and poultry than with my emotions. That sounds ignorant, I know…but I also think paying customers are an important part of the cycle. Good luck and thank you for sharing all the way along.

  3. My brother, who is a solar physicist at Stanford, has a theory of conservation of hardness. The theory goes that every situation, process or relationship has a given level of difficulty. Like conservation of energy, difficulty can change form, but will never disappear. Those who worked with computers back when you booted up from a C:> prompt know how much of the difficulty of operating computers has been shifted from the user to programmers, because now users do not have to know much of anything about how software and hardware works in order to operate a computer – designers and programmers have moved most of the operating behind the scenes where it is invisible to the user. This same process has happened with meat production in the US, and much of the difficulty has been forced on to the animals by the factory farms.

    Tamar, by shifting the difficulty from Doc and Spot and Tiny to yourself, they have had a happy, piggy life. It has been more difficult for you to give them this life, but also more rewarding.

    Now you have the greatest shift of difficulty ahead of you – killing the animals that you have a personal relationship with – but it seems to me that this shift is right. The animals have to suffer the end of their lives, but must not suffer miserable living conditions, and that requires that we have a personal relationship with them. I know this will not be easy for you. All I can do is send you my support from the West Coast and my admiration for your commitment and dedication.

  4. Marge, thanks for the words of support. Any killing, whether you know the animal or not, is difficult, and so you probably have a really good idea of what we’ll be going through.

    SA, that is absolutely not ignorant. In fact, it’s the crux of the matter. Most people aren’t going to go out and kill their food, and I don’t think there’s any reason they should. What they need to do, I think, is exactly what you’re doing — be willing to pay more for well-raised meat. It is not wussy to prefer not to kill. It’s wussy to deliberately insulate yourself from how the animals you eat are treated.

    Laura, that’s a very interesting theory, and I like thinking about the pigs in those terms. When we first got them, and people warned us not to name them, I made a similar argument, although not quite that way. I thought then, and think now, that trying to insulate yourself from the difficulty of slaughter by keeping your pigs at arm’s length was wrong — it was shifting the difficulty to the pigs.

    Our goal for the slaughter is that pigs shouldn’t suffer at all. Not one iota. If all goes well, they will drop instantly, without ever knowing what hit them.

  5. Accidental Mick says:

    Tamar, Kevin.

    You’ve got a difficuly few days ahead and we will all be thinking of you. Take strenth from the fact that you have done right by the pigs all along and that you will be doing your best to continue that to the end.

    Good luck.

  6. Dear Tamar and Husband and workers: My heart goes out to you with this brave deed of killing animals more like dogs than other animals. A friend of mine processes his own animals and says you are wise to keep them there. He says all should be dispatched simultaneously so they don’t know what is happening to their fellow pig or that they should be taken to entire separate parts of the property so they have no idea, sound, smell, etc. what is happening to their stymates. Thanks for giving them a good, albeit short life.

  7. Thinking of you during this time. I REALLY appreciate what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. You’re an inspiration and a source of education for those of us who would like to do what you’re doing.

    Thank you for sharing your journey.

    ☮ + ♥,
    Ashley

  8. Jonathan in Korea says:

    I’m sure we’re all curious as to the process that is about to occur. I imagine you’ll tell us all about it. I look forward to that post. As far as Wendy’s comment about simultaneous dispatchment: I don’t know how they could do that short of 3 shooters with 3 guns.

    Anyway, Tamar and Kevin, I wish you the best of luck on the day. I hope everything goes well and smoothly, and that you have enough help available to get the job done efficiently and everything.

    • I wouldn’t worry too much about simultaneous dispatchment. First of all, attempting to do that would create a situation that would more likely result in an error and inhumane kill. Second of all, the pigs don’t really care. Perhaps they simply don’t understand. You might be interested in reading this post about “The Second Pig”:

      http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2010/02/15/the-second-pig/

      Tamara, you have done well. It is good to connect to your food. It is a journey not for everyone but good for those who do it. I personally feel I should be willing to do and know how to do all that is necessary for my survival and thriving. Thus I do kill. Carrots to potatoes to pigs. But I also don’t feel it is necessary for everyone to do that. So, Stephen, it is fine for you to appreciate the act of others and to benefit from it without doing it yourself. It is a personal choice.

      Meat eating is a part of nature. We are part of nature unless we choose to distance ourselves from it which is a futile and unsuccessful exercise. We don’t photosynthesize. The reality is that even vegans kill billions of animals yearly through the destruction wrought by farming vegetables and fruits. Like the wolf I eat meat as part of my diet. And like with my brother wolf, my prey benefits from this relationship.

  9. Wendy, Ashley, and JinK, thanks for your good wishes. Wendy, all evidence is that pigs don’t seem to care when one of their fellows is killed. From what I’ve read, and heard from experienced pig people, dismemberment, but not death itself, can spook them. We’ve watched many videos in which a pig is killed in a pen, and the other pigs just go about their business, and we find that encouraging. Jonathan is correct that simultaneous dispatching isn’t really possible — and would be more dangerous to participants anyway. We’ll be doing it one at a time. Carefully.

  10. Wendy wrote, “My heart goes out to you with this brave deed of killing animals more like dogs than other animals.” I don’t stop by the blog very often anymore, but seeing this comment today really struck me. I understand you’re going to do what you’re going to do. If I couldn’t talk you into more humane solutions vis a vis the wild raccoons, I realize that my comment on this post will have no bearing on the outcome with the young pigs.

    But, I just can’t accept the current trend in thinking which conflates killing with courage and honor. It may be what you feel you have to do for whatever reasons you’ve outlined, but to those of us who’ve spent our lives working with and intimately connected to nonhuman animals, understanding who they are, what emotions and complexities they exhibit, it’s perverse reasoning to suggest that taking a life with blood on the hands somehow renders a person more honorable.

    In this climate of foodism and bacon-worship, the truly courageous and honorable stance would be one that questions this whole paradigm to begin with, the one we’ve constructed around the utilitarian use of such beautiful, intelligent and feeling beings. There are so many reasons to reduce meat consumption, from the simple angle of compassion and consideration toward animals, to the broader concern of climate change and sustainability, where livestock production is not inherently sustainable for a multitude of reasons including greenhouse gas emissions, habitat needs and damages, pollution, water usage, resources and the impossibility of ecologically supplying meat for a bloated human population.

    While it might be argued that some people couldn’t subsist on the plant-based diet some of us eat, it can also easily be argued that no human being needs to eat pork specifically, except in the most dire of subsistence circumstances. As such, the relative luxury of this type of endeavor just rings hollow and makes me feel nothing but deep sadness for these animals and for the self-interest that guides so many of our lifestyle and food choices these days, without nearly enough deep thought about what constitutes “need,” and at what moral cost our culinary desires.

    • Ingrid, I don’t use words like courage or honor in this context; I agree with you there. But this idea that people who eat animals just don’t think give it “deep thought,” and are guided by “self-interest,” is another version of the idea that someone one disagrees with you must not truly understand the issues. There, I obviously disagree.

      • Sadly Tamar, you do use words like the following from your blog, in that context:

        “There’s nothing like a willingness to be matter-of-fact about killing adorable creatures to establish strength and substance.”

        I could not agree with Ingrid more about the tragic and unnecessary fate that you are delivering to the intelligent and feeling beings who have come to trust you and want to live. There is a sanctuary that had room for your animals had you decided to do what some had suggested to you – let the pigs go there.
        You wrote, “Is it really better to keep three pets that will keep eating — and growing — until, together, they weigh as much as a car? What’s the endgame there?” But when people suggested using one of the sanctuaries, you did not respond, even though that was the obvious answer to the question you pondered and asked as you grew to appreciate and care more for the pigs than you had imagined you would. It’s still an answer.

        • I do not see Tamar eating her pigs as any different than a snake eating a mouse or a pack of wolves eating a moose. In this world the vast majority of living creatures eat other living creatures. Prey animals like pigs and chickens and rabbits and mice produce big litters of young because some will find the purpose of their existence in being food for predators, and often that predator is human.

          • Laura — We certainly evolved as predators, but I do think there is a difference between what we do and what other predators do. Unlike other species, we have the capacity for sophisticated moral reasoning, and I think we’re obligated to use it. I eat animals because I think a world in which humans do that (assuming they do it humanely and responsibly, which of course they generally don’t) is a better world than one in which we don’t. More on that later …

          • Laura, the real issue is that we do not have to eat animals to live healthy lives – the real issue is that we each have a choice to make about what we want to eat. There are many experts now who believe that not eating animals is the much healthier choice. I understand what you’re thinking, but I’m sure that you don’t make other very important choices for yourself based on what everyone else does – especially when it comes to your own well being and the well being of others. So why would you base your choice to eat animals or not eat animals based on what some animals do? It comes down to just this one fact – we all have a choice in this issue every day. If you make the choice to have animals killed for your diet and to eat them, that is a choice you make instead of
            the alternative that is there for you to select again each new day.
            The choice that is there for you to make every new dawn is – what will you choose to eat given all the real facts about the two choices available to you?

        • Jm — As you know, since you clearly read the post, the snippet is about how the writers of “The Heiress” used the context of killing to telegraph to the audience the fact that they were dealing with a strong woman. And strength is, indeed, required for killing animals. I do not use words like courage and honor because they seem to me to be ennobling, and that strikes me as the wrong tone for the discussion. Which is not to say that courage and honor don’t sometimes come into play — they do, as they do in most serious enterprises.

          As for the sanctuary — do you have any idea how much a pig eats? Our three, averaging about 250 pounds each, could go through 50 pounds of feed in a day and a half. When they’re three times that size, they’ll eat commensurately more. But even at 30 pounds per day, about 1000 pounds per month, that’s 120,000 pounds of feed over their lifespan. It doesn’t strike me as a prudent use of resources.

          • Tamar, I know that you related that the character of Catherine was a strong woman. I remember how you equated Catherine’s killing of animals and your killing of animals, and that you wrote:

            “The fact that I remember the scene is a testament to its effectiveness. There’s nothing like a willingness to be matter-of-fact about killing adorable creatures to establish strength and substance. Pigs, I’m here to tell you, are adorable creatures. As of two days ago, we have three: one for us and two for friends. They are, all three, adorable. We are going to raise them until they’re something north of 200 pounds, and then we are going to kill them and eat them.”

            I disagree with you. I don’t believe that “There’s nothing like a willingness to be matter-of-fact about killing adorable creatures to establish strength and substance.” I don’t think that act establishes a person’s strength and substance, and I certainly don’t think that act is high on the list of things that humans do in this life to establish strength and substance. I don’t believe I’ve ever known anyone, regardless of their varied beliefs about animals or their professions who would agree with what you wrote. I do understand that you say that killing animals or adorable creatures makes you feel this way.

            I know how much pigs eat, and that is one of the wise and understandable reasons that you didn’t want to keep them as pets. Sanctuaries, one of which takes pigs & is relatively near to your location, take on the care of pigs for life because they are equipped to do that. I made reference to an article you wrote saying that you had grown unexpectedly fond of the pigs, found them to be more enjoyable to be around, playful, and intelligent than you had expected, and that given that, you thought through the idea of them staying alive, but wrote of the obvious burden of caring for and feeding “pet” pigs. People commented on what you wrote and suggested that a bonafide sanctuary would take them and could handle the burden as they’re equipped to do that. You didn’t respond to any of the commenters who made that suggestion.

          • Jm, at the risk of beating a dead horse, I fully expected to like the pigs. We all of us, whether we’ve raised pigs or not, know that pigs are smart and charming; it’s not a secret. I fully expected this to be difficult. I killed them because I believe it to be right. I understand that you disagree.

          • Tamar, you never answered the sanctuary question when people raised it, and you twice ignored it here. You’ve ignored a lot of questions and conversation that people respectfully raised in the comment sections of your articles.
            Those particular commenters were not attacking of you, they raised tough questions for you but they did so respectfully, as I have done here. It is your right to ignore respectful questions and everyone understands that. But ignoring respectful questions speaks volumes for most people.

          • Jm — Lots of people raised all kinds of questions, but the vast majority had one thing in common — they were grounded in a disagreement about first principles. I believe it is moral to eat animals, and you (and they) believe it is not. Having long discussions about the ancillary issues seems to me to be missing the point. We can discuss sanctuaries til we’re both blue in the face, but the reason I didn’t send the pigs there is that I believe it is moral to eat animals. I also think it’s not a prudent use of resources, but that kind of pales in comparison. It’s silly to to pretend that all the questions you ask are about anything other than the morality of eating animals.

            If you (or any other reader) chooses to believe that I don’t answer questions online because I’m stumped, and can’t bring myself to admit the essential fallacy of my position, there’s nothing I can do about that.

          • Tamar, you answered questions and remarks from people who agree with you in your thinking, just as you say. You do want to discuss the morality, the practicality, the pros and cons of the issue as long as you don’t have to answer thoughtful, respectful questions from people in the comment sections who are genuinely interested in your answers to questions that they raise. You’re not really educating anyone about your ideas or explaining your beliefs if you take a stand, as you have, that you will not answer thoughtful respectful questions from your readers if they are not already in line with your thinking.
            You have already written articles about why you believe that what you are doing is the more prudent use of resources, and people responded to those articles with thoughtful, respectful questions, which again, you did not answer. I don’t believe that you are stumped about any of the answers, and I don’t think anyone else believes that. I also don’t think that you were trying to avoid “admitting the essential fallacy of” your position by not answering, and I don’t believe that anyone else believes that either.

  11. Jonathan in Korea says:

    Whether or not your decision to raise and and slaughter these pigs is courageous or honorable, I would at least credit you with honesty. One could go on and on about absolute ideas and gray areas and ideal worlds, but, having decided to consume pork (or turkeys or ducks or bluefish), at least you have that intimate and visceral knowledge of its true cost, be it paid with coin or conscience or effort or emotion.

  12. Janet Krill says:

    I beg to differ with you JM. Those questions were not respectful but rather obvious attacks. You may choose to not eat meat but leave other people’s life choices alone. You are out of line and hiding behind your cloak of the web. How rude you are.

    • Janet, I have not been attacking, rude, or out of line. People’s life choices are still up to them no matter what anyone else’s opinion is, and that doesn’t change when we are all in discussion about our varying beliefs. I have not hidden anything.

  13. JM, in response to your comments directed to me, I find two errors in your assumptions:

    1. You assume that I do not understand that I have choices and have not given thought to the ramifications of my choices. I assure you that rather than being the thoughtless person you assume me to be, I in fact tend to be almost obsessive in considering philosophical debates. For your edification, I believe that each person is solely responsible for his/her own choices and the consequences thereof. I know there is no way for you to know this because the likelihood of our ever meeting is small, but I want to assure you that you are wrong in your assumptions about me.

    I do understand that all choices have consequences, including the choice to eat vegetables that are produced be destroying the environment of many species and that are bathed in the blood of all of the creatures that are brutally killed by machinery, shot or poisoned by the farmers to protect the crops, or poisoned or trapped by the storage facilities, by the stores or outlets. Before you believe your hands to be clean, ponder on whether in fact the suffering and deaths resulting from your food chain may be even more deceptive than cellophane wrapped meat.

    2. You ask “why would you base your choice to eat animals or not eat animals based on what some animals do?” The answer is because I do not live in a sterile sphere with no other influences. You would have me make choices based on how you choose to behave, and you are an animal. So, in fact, you just want me to be selective in the animals I choose to consider in making my choices.

    Here what it comes down to: I like meat, and I am at peace with the fact that other living, breathing, caring animals have to die for me to have it. Part of this inner peace comes from my understanding that no living creature gets out of this life alive — death comes for all of us. Given that death is an essential and inescapable part of life, then I am not acting counter to nature by eating other creatures, but with it. I get that people have a very different relationship with their prey than any other predator and this means that our choices are much more complicated, but I still come back to feeling in my heart that there is nothing wrong with eating meat. This is where you and I are never going to agree or find common ground because I understand that in your heart my meat eating is an abomination, but never, ever believe that I an uninformed about what choices are available to me or that I am ignorant of the consequences.

    If we shadows have offended,
    Think but this, and all is mended,
    That you have but slumber’d here
    While these visions did appear.
    And this weak and idle theme,
    No more yielding but a dream…

    • Laura, I responded to the comment you wrote that you saw no difference between humans eating animals and animals eating animals, and that in this world the vast majority of animals eat other animals. I wrote that humans have a choice about that. I did not assume or write that you do not know that you have choices, nor did I assume or write that you are thoughtless. I don’t believe anyone’s hands to be clean. I would not have you or anyone else ever make choices based on how I choose to behave regarding any subject. People do things based on beliefs and facts, not based on what I do or don’t do.

  14. janet Krill says:

    Jm, you’re arrogant and abusive. Go away.

  15. Janet and Mick, I appreciate your support. While JM’s questioning seems a bit hostile, I’m OK with that. He (or she) disagrees, and has not, I think, been abusive.

    JM, as for answering questions — it’s a legitimate issue, but not the one that is at the heart of our disagreement. Some of the pieces I’ve written have gotten hundreds of comments, and it isn’t feasible for me to answer all. I pick some of the ones I think are most interesting and compelling. I’m sure you’d choose other ones. But I don’t see the point of quibbling about that when what we really disagree about is the eating of animals.

    • Tamar, I think that being hostile is displaying intense ill will, and I haven’t written comments that way. I agree with you that answering all of the comments you receive is too much – I wouldn’t do that either, and I don’t blame you one bit for not answering the ones I’ve seen which truly are hostile. Where we are sincerely missing each other here, is that this is not about people trying to reach an agreement about anything. Putting beliefs out there doesn’t mean that everyone is going to agree, it’s just putting them out there, and people will decide on their own what they think about each other’s views and beliefs.
      You’ve written some of your views in your articles, but people have asked questions that aren’t addressed in the articles. Your articles are written in an educational way, and you even include questions that you ponder, like the pigs as pets issue. Whether people agree with you or not, the respectful questions have been about the topics, beliefs, and questions that you raise. As it stands, without answering those questions, people don’t learn what you believe about the things they ask after reading your articles. I don’t agree with what you’re doing, and I’ve been clear about that. You don’t agree with me, at least about some things, and you’ve been clear about that too. That’s not the issue, and our coming to a common belief (or anyone else doing that) is not the issue.

      The issue I’m raising is that when those questions go unanswered, they leave a lot of your views and beliefs and some of their details, unspoken. It’s a chance for varying views and beliefs to be written, and to be thought about by all the readers and the commenters. I think that you and I are in agreement that nothing anyone writes will dictate what anyone else does — everyone chooses that for themselves. As I said, I know you can’t answer everything, no writer can do that. But you open the door in your articles for people to think through these issues for themselves, and the questions are opportunities for both your beliefs and the beliefs of others to be written. I think you and I are also in agreement about these issues being an important part of life, and that there are decisions to be made about them. There are always people who choose to make comment sections a free-for-all slug fest. I don’t think they contribute anything helpful. But the thoughtful questions and answers do contribute something helpful. The irony of this situation is that I’m saying let’s put it all out there and let people reading and writing decide for themselves, rather than withholding answers to our beliefs and views in regard to respectful questions.

  16. One of the things that bothers me about the fad of veganism and vegetarianism is that its more cultish followers seem to feel they must convert everyone to their religion. Fine if they want to eat a plant based diet but leave the rest of us alone. They should live by example and stop proselytizing. Their tirades and dull arguments are a real turn off.

    • Sara, I don’t eat meat and I often make points about what I believe is the more compassionate or humane stance when it comes to wildlife in particular. (I was trained as a wildlife rehabilitator.) But I object to your characterization of vegetarians for several reasons. First, vegetarianism is not a fad. It’s been a philosophical and dietary choice for millenia, often in response to social injustice that transcends even animal issues (Gandhi, Cora Scott King, etc.).

      Second, although I don’t speak for all veggies, and although Tamar and I often disagree, I rarely talk about my diet, let alone in religious terms. I have more understanding for gray areas in life than most people do, having endured innumerable sufferings in my own. I eat this way because I cannot abide the suffering caused to others in our traditional meat-based food systems. I believe that is, as you say, living by example or walking my talk.

      At the same time, when you live by example as a vegetarian, you’re often confronted for merely making a different choice, without even inviting debate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been ridiculed for working with animals or for making the choices I do, based on the interest of nonhuman animals. So, there is a counterpart among the meat-eating public which wants to marginalize vegetarian choices that, by their nature, tend to shine a light on the facets of meat eating that many prefer remain unchallenged or unconscious.

      I don’t deny that there are vegetarians who have great difficulty retaining their equanimity and civility in the face of the abuse and suffering they witness among animals. It’s incessant. You never get a break from it. There is a syndrome you may or may not be familiar with, but it’s a type of secondary post-traumatic stress that affects care and trauma workers like animal rescuers. After a point, you see so much horror, it’s a challenge to engage life at all, let alone remain “detached” about issues that involve such extreme suffering. I believe that’s what takes hold in the hearts and minds of the people you label cultish. It’s very difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t been there, but the way I personally experience it is as utter despondency. You have to work like hell to get yourself out of it, and then, when faced with snarky comments or callousness that many people exhibit toward animals, it’s a genuine test of character not to give into the emotions that overtake your heart. I do my best not to externalize those feelings, but I’m not sure I was as composed when I was a newly-minted 20-year-old vegan.

      I agree that some forms of discussion are not at all conducive to forming empathy for the animal side of the equation. I’m as distressed as anyone when I see someone engaging in a totally unproductive or antagonistic conversation because the only ones being hurt in that case are the animals, whose legitimate welfare is being undermined. But meat eaters should be as distressed by the “dull arguments” put forth time and again to rationalize what are often indefensible practices. They’re made defensible by our meat-eating culture only because, 1) we’re talking about nonhuman animals, and 2) it’s the norm in our society to accept animal atrocities as a “normal” part of business as usual.

      I would argue that there is as much, if not more, of this cultish adherence to diet among meat eaters as there is among vegans. I truly wish I had a buck for every time my work with animals or my compassion for them was met with the type of religious fervor you describe, often with attendant vitriol and abusive comments about what they’d like to do to the animals I’m rescuing. It’s the interwebs.

      Lastly, I understand that people view discussions about becoming vegetarian as an uncomfortable challenge on their “choice.” I would just say that it’s not as simplistic as that because some choices cause harm that is questionable and are thus open to scrutiny. No reasonable person would argue that we can “choose” to do anything we like to anyone else … or even anyone else’s cat or dog. As such, with food choices that often result in untold amounts of cruelty to other beings, I believe there is a strong and rational argument for the idea that those choices can be morally wrong, and thus not immune from criticism. Tamar believes eating animals is morally right. But that doesn’t necessarily make it morally right and deserving of insularity.

  17. I never said it was new, Ingrid. It is a fad because the vast majority of vegenites go onto the diet and then go off it after a few months or years. During their on phase they are all too often unpleasantly evangelical, attempting to convert everyone around them to their new religion. It is unfortunate that these sort of joiner people are so disrespectful of other people’s choices and so closed minded. Vegans and vegetarians remind me of religious fanatic extremists. Likewise they often tend towards violence, both emotionally abusive, verbal and sometimes physically in their self-righteous hypocrisy. Fortunately most outgrow the phase and move on with their lives.

  18. As some of you know, I’m an ex-vegan and a hunter. Though I’m too busy this week to get into an extended conversation here, I want to acknowledge both Tamar and Ingrid for the civility (not to mention the intelligence) they bring to this discussion.

    Over the years, I have had long, thoughtful exchanges with both of you. I don’t see or do things in quite the same ways as either of you. But I have plenty of respect for both of you. Here, in this discussion on your blog, Tamar, I especially want to acknowledge you, Ingrid, for expressing your views and feelings with such heart, articulating them clearly and passionately while also acknowledging the “gray areas” and ambiguities of life. Thank you.

    • Tovar, I just now saw your response. Thank you for this generous assessment. I appreciate the historical perspective you provide. We have, indeed, debated on this topic — often fervently.

      I know that meat eaters often feel defensive when challenged on the whole idea of meat. There are some who are so at peace with the death of animals, they show what I think is actually a troubling lack of defensiveness, meaning it doesn’t matter to them. So, in reality, I see the emotions on both sides as indicative that we all do care about animals, at heart.

      I understand what it’s like to be confronted on a deeply-held belief or practice. I would argue that it’s us veggie people, vegans and vegetarians alike, who bear the brunt of the societal disparagement. The words we hear consistently are “wacko,” “extremist,” “Bambi lover,” “obnoxious,” “radical,” and the list goes way on.

      Right or wrong, we are the outliers in a system that rewards adherence to this paradigm of animal exploitation. And we are in a clear minority. On the wider spectrum, meat eaters only rarely face the types of marginalization that a vegan does, often simply for kindly and politely turning down a piece of meat at a meal. And Tovar, I think you might agree that ex-vegans are, for the most part, embraced by the mainstream for returning to the “norm.” So for meat eaters to say they are victimized by us is quite a stretch.

      I have maintained for some time that recognizing animal sentience, intelligence, consciousness and emotional and social sophistication is the most difficult moral cause we humans have encountered. Science is catching up to this notion, finally, but society has not yet. That’s because nearly every human is complicit in the exploitation of animals. When you consider almost every other justice movement, there were always people on the outside, calling for change in an external, exploitative model. It’s rarely those benefitting from exploitation who have the courage or desire from within, to change a system that benefits their own self interest.

      There are no outsiders to animal exploitation, although I would argue that vegans have the greatest grasp of what it means to live according to a value system that denies the coercive, mainstream and oppressive ethic toward animals and also toward humans … since all justice movements are often closely aligned in principle.

      What troubles me the most — and the reason I even posted here at all — is that there is a difference between facing one’s ambivalence over this complex issue … and rationalizing it to the point of making it an almost spiritual endeavor. I see this theme over and over in locavore literature. In fact, I linked out and read a blog post by someone who participated in animal slaughter here, and she described the whole experience as “intimate.” It’s a word I’ve seen used time and again, in hunting blogs, too — having an “intimate” connection to the animal by virtue of killing it. This is clearly a perversion of the word “intimacy” which implies mutuality.

      It is never intimate for the animal. It doesn’t matter to the animal that someone says a prayer or feels solicitude while she bleeds to death in a cone or lying in the dirt. Short of euthanasia by injection, an impossibility for food animals, slaughter is brutal, it’s violent and if that’s okay with people, there’s probably not much I can do to persuade. But I am deeply disturbed by the connotations of equating slaughter with moral or emotional transcendence or, worse, with a superior way of killing when, in fact, the animal lost it’s life in a way that none of us would choose, at a time and age none of us would choose, nor would the animal. All this rhetoric does, in my view, is numb people to the reality of what they are doing. And my personal belief is that is precisely why these words and interpretations are being used. They help separate individual killing from industrialized killing by applying a superior set of virtues on, essentially, the same act. It’s not honest. Especially to the animal.

  19. Thank you Tamara for sharing your trip from piglet to plate. I have enjoyed reading of your adventures with the little porkers or not so little it is amazing how fast they grow! I am dismayed at the intolerant attitude of the vegetarian crowd with their toxic talk but you seem to handle them well. Keep up the good work and enjoy your hard won dinners to come.

  20. JM you were quite hostile in your attacking Tamara about answering questions. Your whole tone is hostile. Unfortunately your arrogance makes it so you can’t see yourself clearly.

  21. I have enjoyed your series on the pigs and your adventures in having a hand in your food. Ignore the radical veggies. They are a very loud and somewhat obnoxious tiny minority. Keep doing what your doing and sharing your stories.

  22. Ingrid you are an emotional terrorist. You choose to marginalize yourself. This isn’t being done to you but rather you are doing it to yourself by your own dietary choices. Then you turn around and attack people for their continued choice to be a part of the natural world. The real world, the natural world, includes eating meat. Get real and stop using so much emotionally loaded terrorist talk to try to force your agenda on other people. I’m perfectly happy killing and eating animals. You kill and eat plants. That’s your guilty act. If you want to be so fine then stop killing plants. Research shows they have sentience too. In the mean tie stop being a hypocrite.

    Tamara thank you for sharing your journey and I don’t know why you put up with the emotional abuse of jm and ingrid. They are a loud, obnoxious self-inflicted minority.

  23. Okay, I think we should get down to the principles that are really at issue here (if anyone’s still paying attention). The question is not whether we do or don’t kill animals — existing on this earth is an animal-killing proposition. We kill them with our agriculture and with our construction. We take over their habitats and pollute their waters. Humans can’t exist on this earth without killing other species.

    Ingrid, when do you think it IS ok to kill an animal? I assume you’re vegan, since milk and eggs can exist only in a food system where animals are eaten for meat. But how do you feel about the mechanization of agriculture? Where do you draw the line between acceptable animal-killing and unacceptable animal-killing? The death of a rabbit who gets dismembered in a combine, and whose body rots in the ground is surely less acceptable than that of a pig who dies with a single shot to the head, and whose body feeds a family for a year.

    Human existence necessitates the death of other creatures. And the questions about when and why we kill are important. But the vegan stance — don’t eat the animals — doesn’t address the larger questions.

  24. Bravo, Tamara. Well said. Every thing any animal does involves killing other living beings, both animal, plant, fungal, bacterial, etc, etc. Death is a part of life. Consuming other species is also a part of life. “Don’t Eat Meat” is an arbitrary line in the sand and dishonest.

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