The six-week experiment: A meat lover goes vegetarian

Deluxe Bacon Double Butterburger® (macro style)

Photo by El Negro Magnifico (Allan Lorde) via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Sarah Miller at Grist has been detailing her effort to go meat-free for a month and a half. As she describes in the first piece,

I can’t undertake this six-week thing pretending it’s the beginning of forever. Maybe I will have some kind of vegetarian conversion experience. Maybe I won’t. But the last times I decided to stop eating meat, I didn’t provide myself with any continuing education that might have helped me to, well, not really want to eat meat.

So this time I am not only not going to eat meat, I am also simultaneously going to read a lot about meat and what it takes resource-wise to produce it — so that this information is doing more than lurking in the back of my mind in some half-remembered Granta article or image of a pigeon-pecked turkey carcass. I’m going to learn about slaughterhouses. I’m going to look at pictures of dead animals and read books about them. I’m going to try to watch someone kill an animal. I’m going to find out about what industrial farming does to animals and to the planet…. [I]t’s my sneaking suspicion that the more you know about meat, the less you actually want to put it in your mouth.

With Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals as her primary guide, she examines many of the practices at the core of factory farming. So, the descriptions (and occasionally photos) can be pretty stomach-turning. What’s most appealing to me about her posts is her attempt to confront the harsh realities of not only raising and killing vast numbers of animals for food but also our own human weaknesses. As she describes in her third post,

I am, so far, not succeeding in squelching my desire to eat meat. The stuff still appeals to me, obviously, or I wouldn’t have put that piece of bacon in my mouth. Yes, I did so before I’d read the pig chapters [of Eating Animals] very closely. But the idea of bacon, even though I haven’t eaten it again, is still far from disgusting to me. Even after reading all that.

And I was feeling so good about being so quickly grossed out by chicken and fish! It occurs to me that maybe I just don’t like chicken and fish as much as I like bacon.

It is dawning on me that for now, no matter what I know, or how much I learn, if I can stick to not eating meat it is probably going to have to be a decision, something I force on myself. The thing is, I think eating factory-farmed meat is wrong, and that is a long way from where I was when I started this. But my desire to eat meat has not gone away, either.

So now I say I despise cruelty against animals, and insist that I am affected by it; what does it mean that I could still feasibly eat them?

Check out the homepage of Miller’s series here, where you can currently find the first, second, and third entries.

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