Back when I was a kid (we'll say 20 to 30 years ago), vegetarians were few and far between and were often thought of as a little strange. Now, it seems, being a vegetarian or vegan is the "stylish" thing to do. More and more people of all ages are making the choice not to eat meat for reasons that make sense to them.
The majority of the population continues to eat meat because that's what they have always done, as their parents did before them. As our ancestors figured out, eating meat is an easy way to get protein, and most of it just tastes good.
I put myself in a different meat-eating category. I have a made a very conscious decision, and I "choose" to eat meat. I know it comes from animals, and I realize those animals' lives were cut short for my sustenance. This is something I think about each time I sit down to a meal, and I am grateful.
As a true lover of animals, I will admit that going meatless crossed my mind a couple times. I am the kind of person who never kills a spider, carefully removes creepy-crawlies from my home, and stops traffic to see a turtle or family of ducks safely cross the road. My taste buds and feeling of hunger satisfaction, however, quickly transformed me back into the omnivore that I am.
Now, one could ask how I can eat meat when animals are being mistreated (recent Conklin Dairy video would be a good example) or are forced to live in confined conditions. In my good opinion, acts of such mistreatment are few and far between, and I believe that anyone who abuses animals in this way should be punished as if they had assaulted a fellow human. Confinement, or as I like to think of it has a more controlled habitat, has become a necessary practice to meet demand. There are more people, less farmers and less land to produce these animals.
Do the animals like their confined conditions? Would they rather be running free? While I don't have cows or chickens at the moment, I do have horses. It has been 90 degrees or higher the last several days. They have free run of the barn and a five acre pasture with lots of shade trees. I CANNOT MAKE them leave the confinement of their stalls. Why? The barn has a large fan and is generally free of all the blood-sucking bugs. They also know that I come to feed them twice a day.
I also have to think about the many times I have watched the animal shows on TV. Prey animals are free game for the not-so-nice hunting practices of their predators. I have seen animals being eaten while they are still alive. If I were the prey, I'd say "sign me up for farm life any day!" And on the flip side, I wonder if animal activists want to tell lions, tigers, eagles, crocodiles, sharks, etc. that they should not eat other animals because it's not the "nice" thing to do.
And when I hear, "I don't want to eat anything with a face," or even most recently, "I don't like to eat things with eyelashes" (you've got to be kidding me), it saddens me. WARNING, I'M GOING INTO PHILOSOPHER MODE - Who is to say the cow with long eyelashes and a calf by her side is any more important than the clam that quietly crawls across the ocean floor, or the tomato plant. I don't think of even myself as more worthy of a life on earth than any other living creature, be it plant, animal or fungus. We all WANT to survive.
The fact is, if one organism eats, another organism is sacrificed for its survival. What we can do as humans is to provide the animals we consume with the utmost respect that we can. I truly believe that most all livestock farmers are doing this today. They have to... it is their livelihood.
While I think the ideal situation - the most natural situation for which we were born to do - would be for us to produce, raise or hunt for our own food, those days are long gone. A lot of us are more worried about getting to our air-conditioned home to view the latest episode of "Glee" while tweeting our tweeps and planning our island vacations. Therefore, I place the care of my food, be animal or vegetable, in the hands of our farmers. The farmers that produce with compassion and heart are my heroes. The animals that give their lives so that I can be a part of this world are my saviors.
My omnivore diet provides me and my family the nutrients we need without having to load up on supplements or come up with creative diet plans. As long as I recognize the fact that hamburgers don’t magically appear in the meat case, and our farmers are taking good, responsible care of their animals, I will continue to “choose” to eat meat.