Why I Cannot Stand Preachy Vegetarians: A Rant

I’ve gotten a fair amount of feedback concerning my photo essay regarding the origins of great bacon, which is the post located just below this one. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and only slightly negative. Of course, many of the positive responses include the reactions from many of the chefs whom I know (being a chef myself). Some of these chefs even have Michelin stars here in the Napa Valley. But to answer the handful of folks who bristled at the sight of a pig slaughter, I can only state the following:

• If you choose to eat meat, then you really have no right to complain about seeing where that meat originates. Bacon is not created in the lab. An animal must die in order to provide meat for the table. This fact is not negotiable, and it never has been. By the same token, it’s troubling enough that the vast majority of America’s meat originates in factory farms. I would never glorify factory farming, nor do I support the current state of our broken food system. However, I will glorify the old ways. Two hundred years ago, before there were vegans in America, slaughters would have been a simple fact of life, and my post wouldn’t have shocked anybody.

Supermarket shopping has created a growing disconnect between people and their food, and the transparency of food production has been lost in the process. It’s easy to view meat as a commodity when it’s pre-packaged. Therefore, we should all be reminded that meat represents the loss of life, and that it should be respected and not wasted. If you consider yourself an omnivore, and yet you still take issue with my most recent post, then I truly hope you have never thrown away a single scrap of meat or fish. Otherwise, you’re nothing more than a finger-pointing hypocrite, and what you’ve done is actually far worse than what you think I’ve done, whether you realize it or not.

• If you don’t choose to eat meat, then you’re not part of America’s factory farm epidemic, which is a good thing. However, meat is a fact of life here in America, and the vegetarians will never become the majority. Should Americans eat less meat? Yes, certainly. But nonetheless, meat will remain a vital staple of our diet, even under the most ideal circumstances. That being said, we still have choices about where our meat originates, and what events lead up to the slaughter. Should animals be kept indoors, devoid of sunlight, and pumped full of antibiotics in order to prevent disease among an unnaturally dense population? No, and that’s what’s wrong with factory farms.

But to take issue with pasture-raised meat is like jousting at windmills (to paraphrase Miguel de Cervantes). You’re simply picking the wrong fight. The independent farmer who raises heritage breeds is helping to keep a species from extinction. In the process, these animals eat well and live well. They may not die of “natural” causes, but their last moments are quick, painless and peaceful. If you’re going to take issue with anyone, target the factory farms, where the animals still meet the same fate, but live in abject misery every day of their lives.

Anyhow, for those who took the two minutes to object to my most recent post, I sincerely hope you’ve already spent hours and hours to petition against factory farming. Because if the slaughtering of a heritage, pasture-raised hog is what finally inspired you to speak out, you really need to stop soap-boxing and become better educated. But thanks for reading!

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