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The Holiday Meat Dilemma: A Message from a Reader in the UK on Thanksgiving Day Opens This Meat Eate

On Thanksgiving Day NYGA got a message from Sabrina Ceol in the UK wishing us a very happy holiday and asking if we might post a piece she wrote about meat and the meat industry's effect on our bodies and the environment.

Thanks Sabrina for reaching out! I love the internet even when "it" tells me something I might not want to dwell on at the moment.

I have to admit (as I told Sabrina in our email exchange) that I am not a vegan or even vegetarian. I eat meat. I do lots of things I consider sustainable. I compost. Have a kitchen garden. Drive an old but fuel efficient car. Take public transportation when I can. Recycle almost everything. Dry clothes in the sun and never use an energy guzzling clothes dryer. Keep the heat low in winter.

But yes, sorry, still eat meat. Have vegan friends who ate Tofurkey on Thanksgiving. But I ate turkey yesterday. Will eat it again today as part of this omnivore's holiday routine of sandwiches the day after Turkey day. Yes, so I am a cliche.

Tasty meat will one day be grown in labs so there's hope for me yet.

Below is Sabrina's post about the meat dilemma along with some pics she sent me to use as illustration. (I added the text descriptions to the photos.)

Earlier this month, late night host Stephen Colbert went on air – albeit with a characteristically opaque level of seriousness – and heralded the ‘meatpocalypse’. That same week Time magazine ran a front cover featuring two rashers of bacon and the headline: ‘The War on Delicious’. These two events struck me as slightly surreal because stories about meat don’t usually feature so prominently in the media. Up until now the press has been wildly unrepresentative when it comes to the politics of food, cultivating a blinkered approach to nutrition that filters into society and vice versa. When I adopted a predominantly meat-free diet a few years ago I thought I was making a dietary choice - in fact I was assigned a whole new identity. Come lunchtime co-workers now smile benignly like I’m a Buzzfeed article on ‘Llamas Who Think They Are Better Than You’. Quirky but firmly marginalised.

If my life were a romantic comedy I would play the supporting female lead who eats kale salads, primly smoothes collars, and has an emotional attachment to throw pillows – eventually getting passed over for the soul mate who rams hot dogs into her mouth with gusto.

My Kingdom for a burger!

So front-page bacon is a win and much needed but also draws attention to the fact it usually never happens. Since the advent of factory farming in the 1920s the amount of meat we consume has risen drastically and yet concerns over this sharp rise have been cordoned off into a small cultural subset. This massive corporate industry is comfortably removed from the news unless we’ve accidentally digested a leg of horse or an undesirable ratio of animal to human DNA – as was the case a few weeks ago. But there are three reasons why this wall of silence is curious. 1) Our favourite meat products end up on our plate because we pour dollars into an industry that, according to the United Nations, does more damage to the environment than all of the travel industry combined. In other words more than every fossil fuel powered plane, train, boat, tram, truck and car put together.

United Nations in NYC

2) We all know meat poses numerous health risks including cancer and heart disease, which is why many doctors will advise cancer patients to adopt a plant-based diet. 3) The conditions in which farm animals are bred (cue eye roll) is a moral ‘grey area’. A moral grey area is a euphemism we’ve come to lean on increasingly in the modern world for an activity which is aggressively unethical but which we want to know as little as possible about. Like government surveillance or foreign policy. In short, our wings, fingers, nuggets, burgers, balls and breasts form the basis for a debate that more than a handful of us should probably be having. So why aren’t we? Is it purely the “Delicious” factor or were the cute barnyard nursery rhymes we sang as children in fact legally binding? If a free and independent press represents the focal point of our collective consciousness, reflecting what we care about as an abstract whole, how is it possible that enormous global issues like this one get shut out in the cold?

Sorry, Climate Change not my fault

Are there really no important perspectives surrounding the meat industry that deserved to be major mass media stories? As primal beings geared towards survival, it’s natural that our instinct is to focus our attention on a limited number of agendas: the issues we collectively perceive as posing the greatest danger, or holding the most power to renegotiate our current state of wellbeing. These form a list of primacies that is, by definition, exclusive rather than inclusive. But this system of swimming in a narrow pool of accepted ideas is not foolproof. ‘Obvious’ concerns can overshadow more nuanced threats. Up until the last few years there was nothing one could do to convince the majority of people that climate change was more than pseudoscience. And yet today, with the exception of the GOP’s presidential candidates, we have begun the process of revising that stance. Humans are fallible. We’re like the Greek mathematician Pythagoras who came up with the Pythagorean theorem but also founded his own religion based on the premise that beans are evil. So bring on the meatpocalypse, because I think we can all handle a more inclusive conversation.

Above text copyright 2015 Sabrina Ceol. Sabrina is a freelance writer in London, England. Thanks again for emailing NYGA. We are happy to continue the dialog.

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