Are you here for the pigs?

If you’re a new reader, here because you saw my story in the Washington Post, welcome!  You can find a list of all the pig posts, as well as the feed from the StyCam, on the Pig Page.  (Be warned that you need Chrome or Firefox to see the video, and the camera sometimes maxes out if a lot of people visit.)   If you want to get a feel for Starving, there’s a little bit about how we landed here on our About page.  

Some of the most popular posts, as well as some of my personal favorites, are under Best Of, and all the individual categories — from chickens and turkeys to trucks and death — are in the sidebar.

I hope you’ll stick around and follow the story of the pigs, and help keep the conversation live in the comments.  And thanks for coming.

20 people are having a conversation about “Are you here for the pigs?

  1. Dear Tamar,

    this is my 5th visit to the pigs page without seeing even a glimpse of them. I think I need you to herd them towards the camera so I know they are real!


  2. Paula — They grow up so fast!

    Karen — I’m sorry you’ve missed them! The weather’s been so hot that they tend to nap under trees at the other side of the pen. We’ll try and get them some snacks to leave in camera view.

  3. Man oh man are the “Meat is Murder” crowd out in force over on WaPo’s comment page. I am kind of nervous for you since you list your full names and hometown in the article.

    But I also admire you, would like to one day do the same. Enjoy your pigs, have a really hard day (you and the pigs), enjoy your pork.

    The woman who writes at Cold Antler Farm had a traveling butcher from VT come to her farm – you may be able to convince her to come to yours for a price.

    Good luck!

  4. I’ve been a vegetarian for years, partly because I think the only way you really should eat meat is the way you are doing it Tamar. At the very least knowing your meat source is clean and humane or hunting/fishing it yourself. What’s wrong with meat is the industry and gluttony, people want cheap meat and so they get factory farms. They should be celebrating you for showing that it can be done right.

  5. Tamar, I think what you are doing can be a lesson to us all. Even those who are vegan/vegetarian. What you are doing is both old and new. You take your lessons from people who have been doing this a long time, and alter it to fit what you see as fair, just, and right for you and Kevin. My husband and I differ wildly with food preferences (he is a firefighter who loves meat, and I can go days/months without it). We both agree on teaching our daughter where her food comes from, raising as much as we have time for ourselves (chickens and turkeys are doing well!), we eat some of the fish we catch (big proponents of catch and release of native trout), and he hunts deer, and pig.

    The thing I find interesting, reading quite a few of the comments about the article is they essentially down what you are doing. What you are writing seems to not down what they do, it is just your and Kevin’s experience. I personally condone what you are doing, and my husband and I are in the process of trying to move to a place where we can do more of it. What I would never do is try and shame somebody into feeling less, or what they are doing is wrong. That is one of the things I like most about your posts. You tell your story. And never seem to try and inflict your beliefs on us. Your humor, style, wit, and ability to tell us even the most gritty things are what seem to attract us. It is honest.

    And there is fidelity in what you do as far as I am concerned.

  6. Rowan — Thanks for the moral support. I’m used to having the vegan contingent come out whenever I write about meat, and the WaPo comments were more toned down than some of what I get on the Huffington Post.

    I read Cold Antler Farm, and when Jenna wrote about the travelling butcher, I had hopes I could find one in my area. I have yet to commence a full-scale search, but I will soon.

    Karen — It’s always good to hear from a vegetarian! I agree that industrial animal farming is a very big problem, and one of the reasons we’re doing this is to provide a counterpoint.

    Brooke — What a lovely thing to say. Thanks. But I don’t want you to get the wrong impression — I have lots of ideas about how food should or shouldn’t be raised. In fact, I just finished writing about how I think factory farming is a very bad thing. But I also think there is a very wide range of perfectly reasonable ways to do things, and I only object to what other people are doing if I think it’s causing harm. And that, to be fair, is what the commenters who take me to task are doing. They believe I am doing something morally wrong, and they say so. I just wish there was more about the moral reasoning and a little less invective.

    Elizabeth — Well, you know what they say. One woman’s carefully considered moral position is another woman’s rationalization.

    • BTW Tamar, I think factory farming is vile, disgusting, and I am behind you there. I think we all get that you are against it just by the life you are living. That seems inherent. I think the average person would benefit from seeing what you do, as well as the many small farms that do similar things. I think the thing that seems wrong about the naysayers is that its like the ugly side of religion. The “this is the only way, and without it you are doomed” sort of thinking. I greatly appreciate that you are unabashed, reasonable, and seem to me (from this many miles away) so honest.

    • Tamar,

      One of the things I love about you and your writing is you are balanced and open to other opinions. The world would be a better place if people could handle others having different opinions and values.

      We live in a time when the ability to engage in a healthy exchange of ideas is rare. Most of the debates we see are not a true exploration of different views, but instead attempts to discredit, bully and, when all else fails, shout over the other parties loudly enough that they will not be heard. I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to read someone who put her beliefs and “grand scheme for living” out there, unapologetically, and then listens to and respects people who disagree.

      Don’t let the shouters get you down. We need more people like you in the world to bring balance.

      • Laura & Brooke — Thanks. Although I certainly try to be reasonable, I don’t want you to give me too much credit!

        I think I was about 5 years old when I learned what an ad hominem attack is — an attack on the person, rather than the issue. Argument was one of the basic food groups in our house when I was a kid, but I internalized the idea that it was the issue we were arguing about, not the person making the argument.

        The only reason I seem so tolerant and accepting is that I firmly believe that ad hominem attacks are bad form. At heart, I’m judgmental as all get-out.

  7. Lisa Petrie says:

    Hello, all!

    I originally posted my thoughts in the comments section of Tamar’s WaPo article, but wanted to share them here. Have a great weekend!


    Comments from the meat-lovers and anti-meat eaters alike leave me with two questions:

    1. When, exactly, did it become unethical for man to eat meat?
    2. When, exactly, did our bodies evolve away from needing the fatty acids & nutrients found in an animal-based diet, and adapt to a diet composed primarily of plants?

    I daresay there are few here who would suggest that it was unethical for the Plains Indians to kill buffalo, the Spokane Indians to fish for salmon, the Inuit to slaughter seals, or the Masai to herd and kill cattle, etc. Most of us would probably agree that these people were living their natural, aboriginal lives killing and consuming meat in order to survive, just like early Paleo man. So if it was – and still is – ethical for my Inuit brother to eat whale meat, when did it become unethical for a city girl like me to eat pork? When I bought a Subaru and started shopping in malls?

    If meat & fish (and eventually dairy) kept my ancestors alive and healthy for millions of years, doesn’t it stand to reason that I, as a Paleo ancestor, am healthiest if I eat meat, fish and diary? Anyone who understands the science of evolution would know that I can’t possibly have evolved away from needing a meat-based diet in just the last 200 years.

    The fact of the matter is, Homo sapiens (literally, “thinking man”) are meat eaters, and have been for over 99% of our evolutionary past. For over two million years), man has been hunting, fishing and killing animals for food. Initially, we were foragers, but only for a short period of time on that evolutionary timeline. When our ancestors learned to hunt and started consuming meat, our brains began to rapidly develop. The Paleo brain craved healthy fats from meat and fish, and their bodies functioned best when they ate these foods. For millions of years, man ate this way. As a result, we ancestors of Paleo man still need healthy amounts of omega fatty acids in order for our brains and bodies to develop properly, and to stay active, alert and healthy. We can’t possibly have evolved away from this type of diet in the 12,000 or so years we’ve been cultivating plants! Evolution simply doesn’t happen that quickly. These are scientific facts, and I don’t believe that anyone here can provide scientific evidence suggesting that plant-based nutrients and omega fatty acids are an adequate substitute for those acquired from animals. Omega 3’s from flaxseed oil? Awesome, but not enough. Omega 3’s from salmon? Better.

    I would agree that modern agricultural & animal husbandry methods are inhumane, unhealthy (for animals, people & the environment), and largely unethical. Our modern industrial diet is literally killing us, and in most cases, is tortuous to animals. We’ve upset the balance of healthy fats we now get from meat by confining animals and feeding them an unnatural diet (cows have no business eating corn), and we’re getting sick as a result. But go back even 150 years to the way our great-grandparents ate. There’s no recorded case of heart disease as we know it prior to 1912. Obesity and Diabetes are modern-day epidemics. My great-great-grandma may have died in childbirth, but she didn’t die because she ate raw dairy or chicken soup. In fact, these were likely the only things she had going for her. Early man (and my grandma) had the cards stacked against him for many reasons, but eating meat wasn’t one of them.

    The Humane Society of the United States sends its members a bi-monthly publication titled, “All Animals”. The current issue has a picture of a happy pig on the front, and the HSUS applauds farmers like Tamar who are attempting to keep animals for meat in their most natural state. (The HSUS would also be *horrified* to hear that some of you want to feed your cats and dogs a vegetarian diet. Cats are carnivores. They should eat no plants. Yes, they all go outside and eat grass in order to hock up a hairball, but they are carnivores. Dogs are omnivores, but eat mostly a meat-based diet. You will kill your pets by feeding them a diet derived solely from plants.)

    The very best we could do for ourselves and the planet is hunt for our own meat, and perhaps keep a cow and a few chickens for raw dairy (not the modern, pasteurized, homogenized, low-fat dairy that we consume today), and eggs. Until we’re willing to do this, as Tamar is doing, we should eat zero processed foods (no processed sugar, white flour, or most vegetable oils), and buy our meat from farmers who adhere to sound animal husbandry practices. This can be challenging, indeed! But our bodies need animal fats, and I believe that consumer demand for grass-fed meat & dairy, and pastured chicken & pork will drive industry change. And I believe that it’s possible for small farms like this to feed our planet.

    If you want to learn more, I recommend you read “Real Food”, by Nina Planck, “Why We Get Fat”, by Gary Taubes, and “The Vegetarian Myth”, by Lierre Keith, for starters. I’m sure there are others.


    • Lisa, thanks for posting this here. I read your comments at WaPo, and thought them cogent and compelling.

      While I think it’s possible to eat a vegetarian diet that’s, if not optimally healthful, healthful enough, I strongly suspect humans are better off with small amounts of animal protein, and most certainly with fish.

      That said, there are some populations (African, primarily) that evolved to survive almost exclusively on plants, and the more of those genes you have, the better suited you may be to a vegetarian diet. Air travel and intermarriage have meant that almost all of us are a mix of things, and the way we respond to particular diets varies tremendously.

      I’ve been writing about nutrition for some 20 years, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the most healthful diet consists mostly of a wide variety of plants, with some animal and lots of fish thrown in. Ideally, animals are grown in lots of space, eating at least some things that humans don’t eat, in such a way that their manure can be used as fertilizer. And we have to treat them well.

      The response I’ve seen to the “when did it become unethical?” question is “when we finally figured out it was wrong.” The example usually cited is slavery — up until recently, everyone on the planet who could, kept slaves. Now we know better. But of course there are lots of other things we’ve been doing since time began that no one has any problem with.

      I very much appreciate your thoughtful and well-informed take on this. I hope you’ll stay with me here, and continue to contribute.

  8. Lisa Petrie says:

    Yes, fish! I grew up land-locked on the dry Montana/Dakota plains, and ate fish only when my dad brought it home after an occasional fishing trip. But the reading I’ve done tells me that it is probably the most healthy animal protein we can eat. I really need to eat more of it, but am concerned about the state of Atlantic (local) fisheries. It’s only been a few days that I’ve been following you here, so need to read your blog posts on fishing more closely. But if you have any further thoughts on how the general population — especially those not living near the sea — might go about acquiring adequate amounts of uncontaminated and non-threatened sources of fish & seafood, I would greatly appreciate hearing them.

    Also, I appreciate your comments about human populations that evolved to survive primarily on plants. I’ve read this, but in my current emotional state of defending meat-eaters, completely fail to acknowledge that point. It’s also interesting to hear you point out how air travel and intermarriage have influenced our genetic makeup.

    I think the discussion you and others have started online is so important, especially considering the rapidly declining health of the American population, and the impact industrial farming has on animals and the environment. Thank you so much for keeping this blog! 🙂

    • Accidental Mick says:

      Lisa and Tamar,
      This is anecdotal but it emphasises what you have just said.

      My daughter and I are a 2 man evangelical team about “Know where youre food comes from”. Tamsin (my daughter) has a friend, Janet, who was a Veggie.

      Janet was diagnosed as needing a hip replacement – at 38! Six months after the operation, Janet was still unable to stand unsupported let alone walk. She was reccomended to a new phisiotherapist who takes a more holistic approach. After a long examination and lots of questions the phisio. gave his recomendations.

      “I can do nothing for you untill you eat some red meat.” He went on to explain that while beeing a vegaterian could enable one to MAINTAIN bodymass one needed animal protein to REBUILD bodymass after a major trauma and she did not have enough muscle mass to heal properly. “And you tendons are like cotton threads.”

      Janet reported this to Tamsin wailing that “I don’t like the taste of meat”. Tamsin invited her to supper the next day. Tamsin bnought 2 steaks, one from a supermarket and one from a favorite local butcher who is also a grasier. Tamsin cooked the steaks in the same way so that Janet could taste them both side-by-side. Apparently, the look on Janet’s face when she tried the local meat was a joy to behold.

      Another vonvert.

      Keep the faith 🙂

  9. Lisa and Mick — Most humans have been eating animals for most of history, and it would make evolutionary sense that our bodies are optimized for some meat consumption. As I mentioned, I do believe it’s possible to eat a complete and healthful vegetarian diet (and vegetarians are most certainly healthier than Americans as a whole), but it has to be managed carefully. Without supplementation, it is missing long-chain omega-3 fats and some B vitamins.

    It’s the omega-3s that would worry me, since they’re critical to brain function. Although some algae do contain those fats, it’s much easier and more appetizing to get them from fish.

    Lisa, if you’re interested, I did a long science piece for the Washington Post on fish and contaminants. It’s here:

    • Lisa Petrie says:

      Thanks so much, Tamar! This article is really helpful. About the only fish I eat now is wild Alaskan Salmon, but it makes sense to mix up species, as you say. Sounds like I’m going to have to get myself a fishing rod and drop a line into one of our beautiful New Hampshire ponds! I was out picking wild blueberries today (they are plentiful and delicious!), and went for a swim afterward to cool off. A couple of older gentlemen in a canoe had just come in with a mess of rainbow trout. Maybe they’ll show me the ropes!

Converstion is closed.