Thursday, April 19, 2012

Vegetarians Are Weird

Like most Americans, I was born in a family who considered meat a normal and healthy food. So later, when I had my own children, I raised them to eat meat as well.

Over the years I had only met one or two vegetarians. I thought the idea of not eating meat was unhealthy and that vegetarians were slightly odd people, a little weird even.

Although I enjoyed eating meat, there was one aspect I didn't like. Preparing the raw flesh for cooking grossed me out. Later, when I learned about the germs in that bloody mess, it not only grossed me out, but it worried me too.  Every time I cut up a raw chicken, sliced a uncooked hunk of bovine or pork, I wondered would this be the meal of E. coli/salmonella/staph infected meat that would make us sick?  (A fear I seldom have anymore, by the way).

When we ate out I also wondered about the sanitary food preparation of restaurants we visited. How careful were they with all that blood and guts and cross contamination? I tried not to think about it too much.

We all know denial can be a powerful tool. So, for most of my life, I ignored the dangers and grossness and enjoyed my meat consumption.

Then one day, my son, now a grown man, returned home after living out of state for a couple of years. He had changed in a lot of ways. I was shocked to learn he no longer ate meat and in fact, he totally rejected the concept, the idea and the practice of eating meat.

It was a radical thing for me to wrap my brain around at the time. His rejection of meat eating was more than a dietary switch, it was a major shift in his personal, political and social philosophy.  My son had stopped believing in the Human-as-top-of-the-food-chain and Master-of-the-Planet justification for how we use and view other species. He had embraced a new lifestyle, that of the moral vegetarian.

After several in-depth discussions with him, I soon began to see things differently. I likewise started to doubt my "right" and need to eat other animals. It wasn't long until I also became a vegetarian.

Now, 13 years later, I still don't eat meat but, I am no Saint. While I eat meatless meals 98% of the time, to my shame, I do occasionally eat a few water species. Perhaps two or three times a month, I eat a serving of salmon, tilapia, canned oysters, crab, sardines or clam chowder.

Right or wrong, I still consider myself to be primarily a vegetarian or more correctly a Pescetarian. Still, each time I eat fish I feel a little guilty. 

However, I don't eat cows or chickens or other land species. Therefore, until I started writing this blog I had ignored most meat related issues. Now I realize the meat eater's world has become a little more dangerous and all around uglier.
For example, on April 27, 2012 the USDA released an updated statement which said the "USDA confirmed the nation's 4th case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in an animal that was sampled for the disease at a rendering facility in central California. This animal was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States." Just in case your wondering, BSE is Mad Cow Disease, which is transferable to humans. But the USDA says not to worry, it wasn't a cow for eating, it was merely  "10 years and 7 months old and came from a dairy farm in Tulare County, Calif."  It was a dairy cow, so humans only drank its milk, not ate its meat.  For some reason, I don't find the USDA and the Dairy Industry assurances very comforting.

The L.A. Times published a recent article (April 15, 2011) titled Meat Contaminated with Resistant Bacteria which states that "47% of the samples — contained S. aureus, the researchers reported Friday in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Of those bacteria, 52% were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics." Another article by The Translational Genomic Research Institute reports more on this issue in the article,  Nationwide study finds U.S. meat and poultry is widely contaminated.

The FDA has reported that chicken feed laced with a chemical called Roxarsone contains arsenic. The arsenic was absorbed by the birds which ate the feed. The FDA (and Pfizer Inc) have decided to take Roxarsone off the market even though they claim it is safe. This statement is not reasonable or true. If the drug were "safe" it would not be recalled, obviously. Additionally, the results of studies done by the FDA state that the type of arsenic (which is "safe") changes to the non-safe type of arsenic once absorbed by the chickens.