The column from a couple of months back, "Meet the Meat," has generated the most feedback of any article to date. Many site visitors point to it as their favorite article, while others write message to debate some of the points I raised. There's something about vegetarianism that seems to bring out the extreme in people.
This is great. My goal in penning these essays is to provoke thought and stimulate discussion, and "Meet the Meat" not only has done that but also seems to have sent shockwaves through the readership. The magnitude of the response has entirely exceeded my expectations.
Boiled down to its essence, "Meet the Meat" is a look at vegetarianism from a humane perspective. Most of us like animals in general and have no desire to kill them or hurt them, but at the same time we also consume vast quantities of neatly packaged meat cuts available from any supermarket. In our minds, the association between lovable animals and a prime rib entree is tenuous, to say the least.
If and when we do make the connection at an emotional level, the natural result is revulsion and a drastic reduction in our appetite for meat. This is exactly what happened to Paul and Linda McCartney. They were eating lamb stew at their ranch while watching their sheep grazing outside, when the sudden realization hit them that they were consuming the flesh of animals they adored. This single instant of enlightenment was all it took for the entire McCartney family to go vegetarian and never look back.
To follow up on the humane perspective of "Meet the Meat," in this installment I would like to discuss another perspective, one that involves our perception of meat versus its true reality. When I eat meat I do so with full awareness of what it really is, and this awareness is all it takes for me to lose most of my craving. So, if you don't want to lose your taste for meat, you should stop here and read no further. Be forewarned that what we talk about here will change you irrevocably; it may be better for you to continue living in ignorance.
Still with me? Very well then. Let us begin by pausing for a moment and visualize now a slab of thick, juicy steak. Bring to mind its tenderness, its flavor, its aroma. Imagine sticking your fork in it and cutting it with your knife. Mmm...
(You're probably thinking this isn't such a great start for a tirade against eating meat. Hang in there and follow along.)
Some people, upon hearing the story of how the McCartneys became vegetarian, would automatically assume that it was Linda who influenced her husband into vegetarianism, when in fact it was Paul who initiated this drastic change in their lives. This assumption probably comes from the deeply ingrained perception in our culture that links eating meat with strength and masculinity. Ladies are supposedly the delicate ones who watch their weight and dine on leaves and petals and dew, while men are supposedly the incorrigible meat lovers who gorge themselves on sirloin and filet mignon. Somehow, eating lots of red meat has come to represent manhood. How the heck did that happen?
You see signs of this all over the place. In recent years callers to radio talk shows have started to describe themselves by their preference for meat. It is no longer enough for such callers to identify themselves as conservative or patriotic or gun-owning or pro-death-penalty. Nowadays they have to throw in "meat-eating" also in order to emphasize their manly stance against all things New Age and politically correct.
When you stop and think about it though, what bearing does eating meat really have on masculinity? Last time I checked, regular consumption of pork chops and fried chicken lead usually to clogged arteries and never to sexual virility. Where did such an absurd notion come from anyway? What kind of guys buy into this concept that eating meat makes them more macho? Are they capable of thinking for themselves?
Once, when we ordered vegetarian food at a restaurant, our waiter stated that if he went more than a few days without meat he would feel "weak in the knees." After he went away my dining companion remarked on the irony that obviously I could overpower him with ease, and yet I had gone without meat for months.
Self-improvement guru Anthony Robbins is no sissy. He is a giant of a man, with a powerful and fit physique. In his seminars he projects a forceful personality and a seemingly endless store of energy. In his spare time he flies helicopters and practices martial arts - surely not the typical pursuits of a weakling!
Robbins happens to be a full-on Vegan. His diet is much more strict my own, in that he does completely away with the meat dishes and dairy products I still indulge myself once in a while. Here's something he wrote about meat from his book, Unlimited Power:
Let's think about this for a moment. When an animal is still alive, blood circulates through its body continuously, delivering nutrients to all the cells in its muscles and removing the waste products. These waste products move through the body and eventually exit the body as urine. Because this is a never-ending process in a living organism, it's entirely accurate to say that at any given moment in time the flesh of an animal is permeated with its own bodily wastes. Even though the accumulated waste periodically makes its way out when the animal urinates, the production of cellular waste in every part of the body keeps creating more and more every second.
This is certainly no rocket science. It makes perfect sense. Even though most of us don't really think about this consciously, when you check your own understanding of biological processes you'll see that what we've described is the only way it can be.
When you kill an animal, you terminate this biological process. Blood circulation stops, and there's no more waste production or removal in the body. Now let's make the connection and face reality: every piece of meat you've ever consumed is suffused with cellular waste destined for the animal's bladder. Brace yourself for the stark realization, ladies and gentlemen, and let's not mince words: by its very nature, meat is literally marinated in piss.
There's no getting around it. This is the cold, hard fact of exactly what meat is. And even as you recoil in disgust, you know to the core of your being that this is the truth. It is one of the reasons why we must use condiments, seasoning and herbs when cooking meat. Think about it: much of our modern cuisine is essentially the art of covering up the negative aspect of meat's true taste. Have you ever tried eating raw, uncooked chicken or pork? You would probably gag on it.
Now let's consider once again that thick, juicy slab of steak we visualized, and ask the inevitable questions...
Where exactly does that yummy juiciness come from? And is it really so yummy after all?
When the chef cooks meat "in its own juice," is that really such a great thing?
If you are not already a vegetarian, this article has already changed you in a subtle way. From this moment on, when you eat meat you will do so with full awareness of what the meat really is, and that awareness is all it will take for you to lose some of your appetite. There's probably a part of you that is not real happy about this prospect, but another part of you knows knowledge of the truth is always a good thing, and once you've gained this bit of enlightenment, you will never want to go back to your former state of ignorance.
Don't say I didn't warn ya!