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Trials and Tribulations with Morals

After seeing the ball drop in New York January 1 1995, we stopped in the Poconos on our drive back home to Chicago. As we went into our cabin in the Poconos, another guest’s cat (even wearing their owner’s neon collar) walked up to our door and pretty much invited itself in. We actually played with this cat for almost an hour, knowing it was someone else’s cat, and I started thinking about this cat as it played in out hotel room.
I looked at this cat and thought, ‘You know, in other parts of the world you’re considered a delicacy.’
I sat for a second, and then I thought, ‘And in some parts of the world, the cow is sacred.’
This was probably about the time when we decided that we had to let the cat out of our hotel room so it could get back to it’s owners. And I thought for a minute, and I knew that, well, I could never kill a cow or a chicken or a turkey or anything. But then I quickly reminded myself that that was the beauty of capitalism, that we can work on what we want to do, and pay other people do to everything else.
And after a second, I thought, well, maybe I don’t want to pay someone else to kill the animals for me.
And that’s when I decided to become a vegetarian.
Why did I tell that story? Well, because when I tell people I’m a vegetarian, people ask me, “Can you eat eggs or milk or cheese?” And I respond by saying, “Ah, I’m all for the animal’s torture, just not their death.” Translation: although they don’t treat cows well to get milk and make cheese, and they don’t treat chickens well to get eggs, I am willing to have that. I just can’t tolerate letting animals die so I can have a roast beef sandwich or a Chicken McNugget from McDonald’s (which, by the way, is made with all the remnants from parts of the chicken you’d never eat unless it was fast-cooked and lost all of it’s flavor, and then mashed back together and have spices added to it so it would taste like meat again).
So this is how I have lived, as a vegetarian, for almost ten years, by having a stir fry and adding an egg to the mix to hold flavors together there, or by enjoying a good deep-dish pizza with extra cheese (but no meat), and maybe adding a topping, like a good amount of garlic.
And yeah, just under the ten-year mark I learned of some more bad news for us vegetarians. I thought we were in the clear on this test, but the majority of cheeses that are produced (like Kraft cheese), use rennet to help process the materials that end of making cheese.
Oh, and rennet is an enzyme derived from calf’s stomach lining.
Yeah, I know they could be getting the enzyme from the calf (you know, the baby cows they keep restrained so the baby cow meat will stay tender) they’re killing for veal, so...
Wait, I don’t want them making veal either.
The thing is, cheese can be made with vegetarian products, and it actually costs less to make it that way. I think big name companies just use the products they’re used to in making cheese, and it doesn’t matter to them that a vegetarian option not only costs less, but is also more moral.
Why bother being more moral when you could spend more money, and help contribute to more animal deaths?
So in the last few months (well, since right before Thanksgiving 2004), I’ve been trying to remove most cheeses from my diet as well.
But adding a good slice of Farmer’s cheese to a vegetarian sandwich makes it taste so much better. And I know that having some of the animal derivatives in dairy products can be helpful for the human dietary needs (if they don’t eat a highly specific diet as a vegan), so I’ve tried to figure out if there is a way I could continue to being moral and still eat well.
My husband John took me to the store Trader Joe’s, where they have listings of what kinds of cheese don’t have rennet in them. Found some fresh mozzarella, and since John eats meat, he had no problem with eating the rennet-derived fresh mozzarella in our fridge, so we could have caprice salads. And we bought shredded rennet-free cheese, so that we could go to our favorite local pizza parlor and ask them to use our own cheese when making their pizza (which, by the way, tasted great, and our cheese when reheated melted better than their original cheese). And it was nice to know that where we went to get sliced Farmer’s cheese, they didn’t use rennet in the production, so it was safe for me too.
And I know to the meat eater it sounds like I’m whining, but... But I guess that’s what you get when you have to be moral like this.
Sorry, that was blunt and rude of me. It’s just hard.
It’s just hard when I can’t eat Cheese Doritos or Cheese Pringles, or eat nacho cheese at a bar. Or have cheese fries. Or if a place happens to serve a veggie patty hamburger, you have to make sure they don’t add cheese to the burger. And don’t get focaccia bread or Asiago cheese bagels because of the cheese. And remember, pesto sauce uses cheese in it. And Parmesan cheese is right out, which people add to spices and mixes. And the Brie and hard cheese my husband and I had for a romantic evening are foods I can no longer eat.

God, is this poor wench bitching. She’s complaining that she can’t eat the Brie has already has in her fridge.
Sniff sniff. Bitch moan.

I have to say that so I know how trivial this may sound to the meat eater. But when you decide to make a moral decision like this, these little things are a big deal when most of your diet is altered in this meat-eating country.
The United States is the country where fast food restaurants have decided over the years to make it expected to have French fries go with their Whoppers or Big Macs. Where over the years fast food places have decided to expand the amount of processed meat in their menus (consider things like the Bacon Double Cheese Burger). Consider the notion that all drinks and all orders of fries have been made larger and larger over the years (Hell, a man tried to eat only McDonald’s for one month straight, and whenever he placed an order, he had to answer “yes” whenever he was asked if he would like to “supersize” his meal).
This is the society we live in. A society that has gotten used to having an excess of everything, and when we in America don’t have to worry about killing the animal to get the prime rib steak on our plates, we have a much easier time forking over the cash and diving in.

There I go, ripping on people again.
Sorry, I get on my irritating moral high ground, &... well... I get snippy.
I mean, I have much less of a problem with meat eaters who understand the entire process of how this meat gets on their plate than I do for the average person. I’m married to a meat eater, but he was a hunter since he was a child, and has, after killing his animal, brought it back home, skinned it, cut it up and prepared it for food.
I’ve got to have some respect for that.
I understand that we have gotten to the top of the food chain, and we can kill animals for food if we need it. But I also remind myself that we’re at the top of the intellectual chain too, and we don’t have to kill others in order to eat.
So, I still have to say that if someone can understand the process of killing that animal for food, they have earned my respect.
And Hell, I wasn’t looking for this in my potential meat-eating husband when I was single, but I like thinking of this story of when John was hunting deer. He used a rifle, and was able to kill the deer. Then he heard that he could use a handgun, but he might not be able to aim as well with it. So he tried it, and when he was able to hit and kill every deer with one shot, he decided he would learn archery, to use a bow and arrow to hunt deer.
Which he did, and did wonderfully.
He did this because he didn’t want it to be too easy for him to just randomly kill an animal. He wanted the animal to have a chance in the struggle. So he restricted his abilities, until he could get better at his hunt.
I think of this, and then I think of my past, where I worked for a food magazine publishing company, where magazine editors would have meal tasteings (with meat) from different restaurants for reviews. An associate editor (whom I won’t name, you know, because I don’t like picking on people without giving them a chance to respond...) said that she would never eat rabbit for a meal tasting, in her words, “because a bunny is cute.”
And I thought, ‘Oh, so since cows and chickens are ugly, they’re okay to eat. Good philosophy.’
This is the mentality that kills me. This is the mentality that makes me sick of how people don’t keep a cohesive set of values in their lives. This makes me think of people who are whores, contracting Herpes from sleeping with the wrong men, who then later cover their lives up to get married in the Catholic church, and have the gall to wear a white dress.
And I’m afraid this is the mentality of a lot of people in today’s over-consumption society, where we don’t have to think about what we’re doing with out lives. We have become a people that thinks it’s okay to purchase things on credit cards, and just pay the minimum balance every month, just so we can have that second SUV (which in my book is a Sub Urban Vehicle, or something that is only for the people less than urban, or something lower than urban, or something below urban). There is a mentality that we can over-extend ourselves now, and we’ll somehow make up for it later. We won’t think about the consequences (I mean Hell, there will be a credit consolidation company to help us with our debt later, or worst-case scenario, we can declare bankruptcy and still keep our car so we can make the payments on the house we own).
We’ve decided to push ourselves too far, and we wonder why American has the highest rates of heart attacks (could it be the stress in our lives and our excess meat in our diets?). And we wonder why diseases strike us like AIDS (of course it has nothing to do with sharing needles with sick people when you’re taking illegal drugs, and it has nothing to do with having unprotected homosexual sex, both of which are habits we could change). And we wonder why people age and get osteoporosis (because we drink milk from another species, and we drink it after infancy, and we consume so much protein that it actually pulls the calcium from our bones, making it easier to make our bones weak as we get older).
We define our own problems with our actions. We work to solve our life-threatening diseases, when we give oursevles these problems with our behaviors. We accept the way things are, then work to try to solve their damaging habits, instead changing the habit that cause our downfall.

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