Introduction: Meat - How I Started Doing Without
9 months & 23 days. That's the time passed since I decided to quit eating meat. Almost one year gone, since I decided to eat no more steak, filets, bacon, saucages, pastries, ribs and all those things that were partially responsible for my daily dosis happiness during the past 39 years.
No, there's been nobody telling me that I was going to die if I continued. I didn't develop a kind of dirty allergy, neither and I'm not being hypnotised. I still love meat, really.
'You don't eat meat anymore, so what?!' - I don't blame anyone posting this type of comment in the section below. It's not 'not nice' and so there's no problem. It's not really 'nice' either, but whatever. Feel free to 'so-what' along.
Disclaimer: this instructuble will get quite personal, since I'll talk very open about things I'll insert in my body, and precisely about things I don't insert in my body anymore. This instructable is not really a howto, but a subjective writing about the events that drove me to take one particular decision in my life. It's not my intention to convince anyone or to get anyone in 'my' camp. I don't care, in fact - we're all grown up persons and everyone's free to decide.
No more meat, so. 9 months & 23 days later.
Step 1: So You're a Vegetarian?
Before I start to talk about points & commas, it's necessary to answer the question 'why'.
'Why would someone stop eating meat? Meat is good, no?'
Yes it is. For almost 40 years I enjoyed meat in all its glory. Raw, cooked, smoked, baked & carbonised. I did it all. And I enjoyed it. A lot.
'So why would someone who loves something just want to stop it, from one day to another?!'
Because it's better to stop something while it's still good than hàving to stop it because it's getting boring.
Just one way to see it.
No, seriously, because I don't want to take the lives of mammals & birds anymore.
No more than that. Besides a whole bunch of other arguments - see later - this is definitely the baseline in the whole story.
I don't want to be responsible for the death of another cow, pig, horse, chicken or whatever. Not anymore. They only have one life - unless you believe in incarnation- and it's not bart who's going to take that away from them. And it's not bart who'll pay someone else to do it.
So far so good.
'Do you still eat fish?' - Yes, I do.
'And mussles, crabs & lobsters?' - Yes, I do.
'So, their life is less important than the life of those cows & chickens?' - No, it's not. But everyone's drawing the line somewhere. Mine stops at mammals & birds. And reptiles, if you want.
Yes, I'm more sensitive to the death of a cow or pig than to the death of a fish. Sorry about that.
Whatever the definitions may say - they're only invented to put things in boxes - I'll never say that I'm a 'vegetarian'. For me a 'vegetarian' is someone who doesn't consume parts of animals - or whole animals. We can discuss about this untill the skie turns brown with yellow dots, but since this will lead us far beyond the purpose of this Ible I'll leave that to the purists.
I don't eat mammals. I don't eat birds. And reptiles - birds àre transformed reptiles, in fact. Point at the line.
Step 2: Knowing You're Hypocrite Is Only the Beginning
I lied, in fact, when I said 'from one day to another'.
Like all love-stories, the thruth is just a bit more complicated than that.
I didn't take the decision of becoming that-no-meat-guy at once. I didn't woke up, one crazy morning, jelling 'I'm stopping it!'.
Not at all.
You know, before I met my wife I was like most people: hypocrite to the bone. I ate cows, pigs, sheep & chickens by the dozen, but I didn't eat horses, for example. Why? Probably because in my western mind horses were 'more noble' than other mammals.
I know this is nonsense, because there's no scientific evidence of horses being more 'noble' than other species. 'Noble' is even not a scientific concept.
Whatever, I limited my meat-source to chickens, pigs, cows and sheep.
Of course, I heard about the terrible conditions in which those animals were grown up, transported & killed.
But I prefered looking the other side. 'I'm born on the top of the food-pyramid, you know, and I enjoy it'. Bart, 20 years back in time.
But then I met my wife...
Step 3: The Ethical Issue Thing
My wife is 'vegetarian' since she was 12 years old. Already 4 years, so. Yes in Belgium we marry very young.
She never, ever, tried to convince me to stop doing this or to start doing that. She did it the viscious way. Women, you know. Kidding, bis.
Since we were definitely not at the same side of the field discussions & civilised conversations became inevitable.
A lot of discussions, in fact. We talked seriously about what really happened in the industrial farms, where thousands of pigs were packed together and fed untill they were just fat enough to enter into the standards. 6 or 8 months to raise a pig, about two years for a cow, 6 months for a chicken, the antibiotics, the collateral damage, the stress, the transport, the beating & the punching, the blood on the floor of the slaughterhouses, the nicely packed pieces of rosy flesh in the markets.
I don't want to play the emotional string - you're sensitive to it or you're not. Look on the net & you'll know.
I'm sure you know it already, in fact.
And you're just looking the other side. Just like I did, many years in a row...
Step 4: That Quality & Taste Thing
The base of wisdom is knowledge. I tried to soften my hypocrite behaviour by starting to pay attention to whàt kind of meat I bought.
Cheap is never good. Buy cheap, buy wrong.
Quality has a price. I thought that it would be better to buy meat from animals who'd had a decent life, at least. 'Better having a good life untill you die than a bad life'. Quite simple as idea, and a hughe step in the right direction.
Turning my concern into action, I started buying chickens directly from the farm - a few times I even catched them myself and did the whole thing at home - and I started looking for 'labeled' meat. Get the info in the country where you live. If the animals have grown up in open air it'll be marked on the package. If those cows or sheep have eaten real grass it'll be mentioned. If those pigs have seen real sunlight you'll see it at the price.
Eat better, eat less.
Taste the difference, between a cow that has grazed on pastures on the border of the sea and one that's passed her short life on a concrete floor with pellets of weird origin in her bucket.
Your tongue won't lie, believe me.
Step 5: The Ecological Footprint Issue Thing
Besides ethical questions I also started thinking about the crazyness of the whole thing.
You know, 3/4 of the open space in Flanders is used to produce cereals & vegetable proteins to raise cattle & pigs.
Also, thousands of tons of vegetable proteins (soya pellets, for example) are imported to feed these animals. Turning proteins into other proteins, something like that.
15 kilo of vegetable protein to have 1 kilo of beef.
7 kilo of vegetable protein to have 1 kilo of pig.
Only numbers, maybe. The system, you know.
Ironic detail: the manure isn't shipped back and has led to a complete ecological disaster since it's easy to spoil it on the fields when it's raining. Eutrophication of our whole water-system has it's source somewhere. Not one natural water source is safe, since more then 30 years. Nitrates are everywhere.
Yes I looked the other way, again & again.
Step 6: The Last Drop
Last year I joined a friend who's having a farm in the mountains. We brought hundreds of sheep down to the valley, fed the cows, caressed the calves of the year & fed the chickens. We had a wonderful time, enjoying all this life.
80% of all this life is gone, by now. Taken away and flushed into the system. Replaced by other life.
People need meat, you know.
Enjoying those last beams of sunlight in the mountains I decided to make an end to it. Definitively. I called my wife, just to tell her that I'd rounded the cape.
I left the system. Or at least, this part of the system.
I still wear leather boots, wear a leather jacket and wear leather gloves at work.
Byproducts, you know.
There's still work to do...
Step 7: Changing Attitudes
Leaving the meat path is one thing, but what's next?
Since I quit consuming meat I didn't loose one kilo. I lost fat, a bit, but I gained muscle. Ironic, no?
People who don't eat meat aren't skelets. Really. That myth has been crushed a thousands of years ago. And they're not unhealthy, eiter. In contrary, btw, there's a direct correlation between vascular deseases and the consumption of animal products.
Our grandparents ate meat maybe one or two times a week. And they did hard, manual, work. It's only after WWII that meat became a daily issue. Industrialisation, you know. Marshall-plans to rebuild Europe, you know. American soya-excess shipped overseas, you know. Since we didn't really know what that to do with it some genius decided to feed the animals with it. Vegetable protein turning into animal protein. The biggest magic tric ever.
Since past year I changed my way of life. I'm eating more diversified than before. Beans, lentils, nuts, peas and 'veggy' stuff. But also cheese, eggs & insects. Replacement proteins are easy to find. And a lot cheaper, btw. You'll fart just a bit more.
UPDATE: About that 'veggy' stuff. You know, living in Belgium or the Netherlands has not only disadvantages. For people with a 'vegetarian' lifestyle it's heaven - contrary to France, for example, where it's a pain, but that has everything to do with their self-protecting meat based culture & traditions.
Whatever, in Belgium there's plenty of no-meat stuff available in the regular market circuit. Time's gone someone had to go to a specialised (bio)shop 200km away just to find some non-animal proteins. Whole veggy-sections in every supermarket, since a few years we're used to it. The veggies are out of the grey zone, over here.
Just an example: there are a few very nice brands who propose products made from mushroom-proteins. Steaks, saucages, filets, cordon-blue, burgers etc. You can't imagine a meat-ish product or there's a nice alternative for it. And it tastes great, also. Here's a link: http://www.quorn.com/ Check out if this is available where you live.
For what it's worth: I'm a very actif guy. I've got a busy (manual) job, running from worksite to worksite, I love mountain trekkings and I often march 60 or 100 km in once shot. Endurance training. I feel great, really. Energy for the dozen, and no meat in my motor. Don't believe what those media try to do believe you.
Changing cape is simple. Once you've turned the helm you only need to hold it.
If I don't miss those ribs on the barbecue? Nope. You can eat a meat-filled plate in front of me, I won't even drool. I know I've been privileged to enjoy all this for almost 40 years and that I had more in one average week than some whole families in one month.
So no, I don't miss it. Turning the page, you know.
Step 8: Yes, But
In fact, past months I quit I did eat meat, in fact...
Let me explain.
This winter I was driving home at night and I found a freshly hit hare on the road - still rigor mortis.
Of course I took it home. Of course I ate it a week later and it wàs delicious, btw. Onions, potatoes & brown beer, hours on the stove, a pure fest.
Of course this is not cheating. This animal wasn't killed intentionally to end in my stomach. Accidents happen.
In fact, this is the same pragmatic attitude my budhist friends in Nepal had, almost twenty years ago. They didn't eat yak meat, for example, unless it came from one who'd stucked off a cliff.
No problem with that. Accidents happen, and it's better to use those accidental natural resourses than to waste them.
So, living without it?
Of course it's possible. Easily.