The Carnivore’s Conundrum

For most of my life I have been a vegetarian. For a long time there I was a vegan. I have had my moments of meat eating but then my spiritual sense that all animals are sacred beings has sent me back to the veggies and pulses.

Living on the farm has changed me, and I waver more and end up sitting on the fence a lot! It was all very clear cut for me before I had Ben. I wondered and worried whether he would want to eat meat, whether I would know if he did, whether I would let him and cook it for him etc . . . (I have to admit that I have turned Mother Worry and Guilt into an art form!) But one day, I looked across at my toddler sitting eating at the dining table and I realised ‘that boy needs meat’ . . the next day his career as a carnivore began.

And this has changed me. Keeping his diet balanced with meat and veg and being determined that he eats the very best meat money can buy – which, of course, means not buying meat at all but slaughtering our own. Now he’s almost 5 and happily eating Harry, our lovely chestnut steer out of Honey, and beautiful farm bred and reared lamb (the sheep don’t have names . . .)

I cried when Harry went and as I witnessed his terror and resignation in the trailer. He knew exactly where he was going. On the one hand he accepted that this was the ultimate gift he gave to us and humankind, but on the other he had the natural terror we all feel when facing death and bucking (literally) against that unknown abyss.

But I have cried over the natural losses we face as well – unexplained illness and death or deformity. The waste of a life and the cruelty of nature. The randomness of Mother Nature’s scythe across the swathe of our livestock. Is it better just to die or to be killed and used and appreciated? I have tasted and enjoyed the lamb, but I balk at sampling Harry.

We bought our first pigs last year so we could have a house full of ham and bacon, but of course they have stolen our hearts and are off to the boar tomorrow for some fun and frolicking and to birth our pig population to fill a few local freezers. Two more fatteners arrive tomorrow and they need to be called Ham and Bacon so we keep the end in mind and not fall in love with them. I have hatched a plan for pigs and chooks to live together in harmony so later in the year we should be able to fill the freezer with lots of roast chicken dinners and I am looking forward to hanging hams, making salami etc.

My body really appreciates meat but in my grief over my beloved horse and friend, Baby, and my clear realisation that she was my Mother in another life in India when I died as a child, my belief in reincarnation has become ever stronger (although I have never wavered in that). I have come to understand that far from common belief that animals are somehow lower on the spiritual scale than us, that they are, in fact, higher.

I have always said that people who think animals are stupid are wrong – after all you don’t see any animals on the relentless wheel of work, mortgage, motor and power payments – they live peacefully with what they have and can forage. Cuddle a cow, alpaca, horse, pig or sheep and you can feel the palpable sense of peace they exude. They are happier than us humans, far more content. Serene in their sense of spirit and where they stand in the grand scheme of things.

I began to think that they gave of themselves in the ultimate sacrifice as an act of service. Now I think they are accepting of our insistence in slaughtering and eating them. Perhaps this is the human dilemma – whether to serve the base needs of the body or the higher mind and spiritual consciousness. Maybe this that I wrestle with is the ultimate human question. The idea of eating flesh and blood feels so much like cannibalism to me and yet faced with a plate of pork sausages, roast lamb or chicken, I am often hard pressed not to sample some, though the texture can often revolt me.

How can it be right to kill another, whether human or animal? Is it ok to kill a wild dog who is stalking our livestock? Or to end the suffering of an animal or human in pain? Does our quest for flesh make it easier to countenance the demise of another human in a war or other? These are all big questions with no easy or right answers . . . the Bible purportedly says ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and yet globally Christians eat meat with relish.

Tales of cannibalism relay how addictive it is to eat the flesh of another and I do believe that eating meat is addictive. Perhaps we are all trapped in a spiral of addiction to flesh? I don’t know what the answer is, and I wish for a finite solution.

Meanwhile I continue on my path on the land of raising healthy, happy livestock for my family and friends to enjoy . . . I guess what I have learned is to have enormous respect and love for the animals we eat, to know where they have come from, what they have eaten, how they have lived and died. And to rest easy in that, at least.

For the animals’ sake, I wish for every carnivore to ask themselves the same hard questions, and to make sure that the meat they eat is raised ethically, organically and killed peacefully, if it is possible for any of us to go gently into that final goodbye . . .

Posted in Life Matters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

13 Responses to The Carnivore’s Conundrum

  1. Mary Finelli says:

    Dear Sophie,

    There is no need for Ben or anyone to eat meat or any animal products. See:

    Please do not delude yourself into thinking that animals want to die for us. You, yourself, noted Harry’s “terror and resignation” in knowing “exactly where he was going.” We don’t need to kill them, there is no valid justification for doing so, it is plainly wrong.

    Please consider that Ben could, in fact, be much better off with a diet free of animal products and their physical and spiritual taint.

    I am glad you are at least considering these issues. I believe the film Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home will be of great interest and benefit to you:
    I implore you to watch it, for everyone’s sake.

    Please, do the right thing, be a model of kindness and compassion for your son and for the world.

  2. john says:

    are you f’ing kidding me?

    it’s so overly proven that the %of animal products a human needs to thrive is zero. are you kidding me? this child needs meat? sounds like my parents trying to talk me out of being Vegan when I wad four years old. well – meaning, but so- misguided. what a dis service to your young one to taint them with this unchosen horror. peace to all beings, your children, and the animals who don’ t have to die for them to thrive. -j

  3. Sophie, I followed a link from James McWilliams’ blog to this piece. Mary is correct. You imagined, somehow, or perhaps, like the rest of us, have an elaborate system of self-justification for what we do, no matter how wrong. No one needs meat, eggs from birds, or calf’s milk in this country. No one. The empathy that you feel is real because you know already what is true. It begs for compassion and for not being brought into this world for the express purpose of being killed—at a young age, betrayed by the people you had come to trust. No matter how elaborate your explanation, it does not change the facts about what these beings feel and the science of nutrition. In fact, you are destroying the children of the impoverished people of Earth and Earth’s ecosystems that we all need to survive. Empathy seems to be at the core of who you are. Your sense that you betrayed every one of those individuals from other species—and the deepest core of who you are—is your guiding light. Follow it.

  4. Maria says:

    What made you decide ‘that boy needs meat’? I am genuinely interested given all the evidence that says humans don’t need meat and actually thrive much better on a plant-based diet.

  5. Olivia says:

    I agree with Mary Finelli that watching “Peaceable Kingdom” could set you free, Sophie Love, from the self-doubt you suffer. Here’s a brief peek at the reception given to the film by an enthusiastic audience in Melbourne earlier this year:

    I sense that you’ll very much identify with cow-whisperer Harold and goat-whisperer Cheri in the film. I hope their stories move you to search for and find your buried treasure: compassion.

    May I respectfully submit: it’s obvious to any ethical vegan that you were being subtly but relentlessly influenced by our carnistic culture and by animal farming’s exploitive mentality when you gave in to the aggressive suggestion — the out-and-out lie, really — that Ben needs to eat animals’ flesh.

    May I also respectfully say that I sense you have, deep down, the moral courage to defy that lie.

    Too, I sense you already know: upon that lie is founded your false feeling of superiority over animals, which allows you to turn away after watching them tremble in terror and then excuse your betrayal of their trust.

    In other words, Sophie Love, I believe you’re better than these awful actions. I also believe that your addiction to meat is the least of your worries. It will cease when you break free of your addiction to coercion and control, to self-deception, and to killing those you claim to “love.”

  6. sophie says:

    Can we just be clear – I was a vegan for 20 something years, have been ovo lacto for 10 years (I am 47) and am now beginning to wrestle with this relationship with animals and meat as my son has communicated to me in all ways (I am a psychic and spiritual healer as well) that he wants to eat meat at this time (and I have to respect his choices and not impose my own on him – we are all beings of choice). He may well later choose not to eat meat. He respects the fact that I don’t. But yes, sometimes in the past 6 months I have tasted very minute amounts of meat (not any of the animals I have myself raised and fed, but those we have swapped or bartered) and it has led me back to my own conviction of vegetarianism, but I am flexible and not rigid like I used to be in my holier than thou vegan days (thank yoga for that!) and I am wrestling with these big questions every day on the farm with the animals I adore. I thank you all for the links and the respectful suggestions and ideas, but can we please be clear that I am a vegetarian? Thanks

  7. Gypsy says:

    Sophie…this thinking out loud article you have written reveals that you already have an answer to this dilemma. How can love ever harm the thing that it loves? You, like so many have been conditioned into believing that meat is necessary for health, particularly when it comes to children. Robyn Chuter is an Australian naturopath. ( She has two of the most vibrant, energetic and healthy vegan children you could set eyes on. If you go to this link on my website you can download an article that gives you the information on which she based her decision:
    No animal needs to die that we might live. And those we have loved don’t need or deserve to be sacrificed simply because they taste good.

  8. Boe Devi says:

    There are about a billion people in India. Many of them have never eaten meat.

    The Meat Industry Complex Egg Dairy (MICKEY D) businesses want every person to think they need their products to live.

    Read about raising vegan children and the protein mythe here by the Physians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine.

  9. tobias leenaert says:

    dear sophie,

    going by your last comment, it seems that the main issue here is: can i withhold meat from my child if he asks for it?

    i think the fact that this question is (implicitly) raised, show that indeed you are not as sure about veg*ism as you may be about other issues – i’m sure that there would be other things that you would indeed forbid your child, even if that means going against his freedom of choice.

    i think freedom of choice is not at issue here. i think you have the right to impose some things on a child. things that you really believe in. i would turn things around: feed him veggie now (at least don’t raise and kill animals for him) and he may still choose to be a meat eater later.

    you wrote: “Perhaps this is the human dilemma – whether to serve the base needs of the body or the higher mind and spiritual consciousness.”
    I think you are confusing a need with a want here 🙂 That may be the key to your conundrum.

    good luck in finding your path 🙂

  10. I’m also puzzled by your ‘that boy needs meat’ realization when there’s so much evidence that no one does. Seems to me that it was a choice made by you, not by your son. And why is it so important for a 5-year old to make culinary choices that don’t even benefit anyone?

    Vegans are often accused of anthropomorphizing, but the idea that animals give up their lives as an ultimate sacrifice is surely attributing human motives that they don’t share. Witness Harry’s terror. Doesn’t sound like a willing sacrifice to me! And at the risk of being rude, eating animals when they don’t want to be eaten (why aren’t you concerned about respecting THEIR choice?) shows zero respect and love. In fact, it may even demonstrate a holier-than-thou attitude — I don’t care if you don’t want to be eaten, I will because I can.

    Sorry, but I don’t understand the confusion or the conundrum. What I do see are rationalizations, and conflicted values being passed on to your son.

    Also, I sometimes wonder if letting another sentient being learn to trust and form relationships with humans only to then be objectified and killed, isn’t ultimately more cruel than for an animal to know that they aren’t valued from the get go. At least factory-farmed animals have likely no illusions that humans care.

  11. Nichole says:

    “He knew exactly where he was going. On the one hand he accepted that this was the ultimate gift he gave to us and humankind,”

    This is ridiculous. I’m sorry, trying to be compassionate here but this is trivializing the life you just took. I don’t consider an “ultimate gift” to be a plate of tasty lamb chops. The lamb isn’t curing cancer or sacrificing himself to save hundreds of orphaned children – he’s being slaughtered by you so you can feed your kid meat that he doesn’t need. The “acceptance” you see is likely the lamb’s trust and love for you from having lived peaceably and happily with you until you decided to end it’s life. The bucking and fighting is exactly that – a living, conscious creature fighting to stay alive because that’s what it wants to do. Animals aren’t standing around happy that they’ll be needlessly slaughtered. The peace in service you see is animals just being happy, social creatures. The service part of it is in your head to justify your actions.

    And if a lamb is so complex and intelligent of a creature in your mind that it can understand that you are killing it for (unnecessary) sustenance, than don’t you think it is a living being worthy of not being killed for (unnecessary) sustenance?

    If your heart is telling you something is wrong and you get your hands dirty with that very thing, you are doing a huge dishonor to your soul and your conscious mind, the two things that humans regularly use to excuse slaughtering other beings for taste and pleasure.

    In my eyes, the better life you provide an animal, the more of a betrayal your murder of it is. Those animals trust you, they know you, they consider you part of their lives. Pigs are as smart as dolphins and apes, and have been shown to be self-aware. You are killing self-aware animals. You know what the right thing is, I hope for your sake you become strong enough to do it.

  12. Becky A says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this personal topic. What I see around me are parents who see their child wanting something and the parents often giving in to it. This may not be you, but children are full of wants. It can seem like a need for a child who wants a sugary product. It can seem like a need for a child who calls out, “I want meat”. There is so much evidence that humans don’t need meat, enough for me. Then I ask that questions, would a child “kill the bunny” to get to eat it? I think not. Would he prefer to know later that you let him participate in eating of animals or waited until he was older to decide? I don’t know. I only have nieces and nephews and children at school and church. Best of luck to you.

  13. Bea Elliott says:

    Hello Sophie – I too am here from following the link on the Eating Plants blog. And because I am 2 days tardy most of the excellent points have been made in previous comments. I echo them all.

    I can only add a personal view about letting a child have a voice in the killing of another being. While this is still a child I don’t believe he is fully aware of the entire consequences of life-taking. It is up to a responsible parent to direct their kids in a way that reflects their own values. Surely if you do indeed believe that “we are all beings of choice” how could you ever condone taking away the choice of life for someone else?

    More importantly – How can you explain that to child who’s world view is still forming? The short answer (but wrong one) is that might makes right. It’s a terrible conflict to put upon any child. In their purity they can read right through the lie… But because they are bound with paternal loyalty they will bury that lie sometimes for their entire lives. I know from personal experience.

    As all have said before there is no jeopardy in a healthy plant based diet. Surely with so much trauma to be avoided isn’t it better to error on the side of compassion and let the boy come to his own conclusions as an adult?

    Thanks you for keeping an open mind and heart concerning the needless blood spilling that you’re contemplating.

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