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Dealing with being carnivorous

Posted on 2010.10.25 at 11:08

I spent a good portion of yesterday at the synagogue, at a program called “Jewish Tradition and Ethical Food Choices.” Much of it featured a shochet, the guy who runs Grow and Behold foods, a small kosher meat company, who sources all their meat from small farmers who let the chickens roam in a pasture, and feed them properly, etc. The harsh part was that the presentation was structured around a coop-to-kosher experience, so we watched while he ritually slaughtered three hens, which we then all helped to pluck. That was actually the most difficult part, since they reminded me of Iggy. He then cleaned them, soaked them, after the appropriate time salted them, and then dipped them, rendering them actual kosher chickens. While waiting for the soaking and salting to complete, we had some provocative discussions in which the shochet gave his opinions about meat production and sustainability, and how the whole issue was extremely complicated, and any “side” simplifying it did an injustice to the whole problem. Particular scorn was heaped on those who are ethically-based vegetarians, who still eat dairy, since the production of milk is invariably tied in our system to the production of veal. The real problem, he opined, was the desire and demand of people for cheap meat, which is what necessitates the current factory farm system. Check out his web page for some interesting Jewish values and how they square with eating meat.


sunflower_sky at 2010-10-25 16:38 (UTC) (Link)
Fascinating. Thanks for the link.

sputnik5 at 2010-10-25 16:57 (UTC) (Link)
Do you happen to know whether most cows/chickens/etc that are slaughter by a shochet come from the general population if you will, or from specific farms? Because I can imagine making an argument that the way a majority of livestock is kept in the US right now is cruel, inconsistent with Jewish values, and should not be supported.

As for the cheap meat issue, I think there is a mindset in the US that a meal without meat is not a meal. If meat consumption went down, it would be better for everyone - the health of the US population, the livestock that could be raised at less density, and the environment(greenhouse gases, etc).
theservant at 2010-10-25 17:34 (UTC) (Link)
Interestingly enough, this guy also advocated eating less meat, but better quality and more sustainably raised.

Most kosher meat comes from huge kosher processing plants; the only difference is in how the animals are killed, and that they are inspected to see that they didn't have perforated intestines. Everything else is the same.
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delerium69 at 2010-10-25 21:01 (UTC) (Link)
Oh and if you're in a developing country, you'll notice attitudes towards meat consumption is very different. This is mostly due to the notion that not eating meat equals poverty. Vegetarianism is almost viewed as an odd, Western quirk. And if you're in and around non-urban environments, farming that includes raising cattle, fowl and goats and animal slaughter is just a way of life.

I'm not saying folks in developing countries think little about non-human life, it just that you often have different priorities. Organic and compassionate farming is, depending on who and where you are, generally a luxury.
theservant at 2010-10-25 21:02 (UTC) (Link)
Except for the hindus and buddhists, of course.
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delerium69 at 2010-10-26 02:46 (UTC) (Link)
Well, some of them, at least. It's a bit complex.
sputnik5 at 2010-10-25 21:53 (UTC) (Link)
Unfortunately, since the Ashkenazi Jews living in shtetls also saw meat as a luxury, there is now a tradition of eating meat to celebrate. To the point where I've had people trying to argue that not eating meat on Shabbat is a sin.

And hey, people who have one cow and 4 goats to their name are generally a hell of a lot nicer to them than a factory farm.
Release the Kraken!
delerium69 at 2010-10-26 02:49 (UTC) (Link)
Well, yes, because their herds often represent their currency. So it's important to keep them safe.
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eyelid at 2010-10-25 18:16 (UTC) (Link)
Particular scorn was heaped on those who are ethically-based vegetarians, who still eat dairy, since the production of milk is invariably tied in our system to the production of veal.

well, doing something is still worthwhile, even if you don't do everything.

also, you can get dairy from non-factory-farms.
theservant at 2010-10-25 18:25 (UTC) (Link)
True, but his point was that in order for a cow to produce milk, she has to give birth every year. The female calves are raised to become milk cows themselves, while the male calves are generally raised to become veal. That's sort of how it's done, since male milk cows aren't going to be raised as beef cattle- it's not as economical. Even if they are treated better than many veal calves are, they are still going to be killed for food, so there is no way of untangling the two.
He was more enthusiastic about vegans, and said that that was a fine choice with him. His main point was that the whole thing is very very complex.
Release the Kraken!
delerium69 at 2010-10-25 20:53 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I've fretted over this issue for a while, and a very close friend pointed it out when she decided to become vegan for ethical reasons. I've tried to be vegan, but I've found it oddly emotionally difficult to give up dairy when I don't have as much of problem giving up meat and eating substitutes for it. And I generally don't drink milk (never been overly fond of it); I drink fortified soy milk. But giving up ice cream and cheese drove me bat-shit. And even if I totally gave up meat, I'd still continue to eat seafood.
theservant at 2010-10-25 21:01 (UTC) (Link)
I am having a hard time with it, for purely emotional reasons. I don't like eating chicken or turkey so much, partly because they still LOOK like what they are, more or less. Especially when you buy them. I mean, cows are all cute with big eyes and they go MOO, but a steak doesn't REMIND me of them so much. Plus, beef tastes really good. So I don't know. I don't eat that much meat, but every once in a while it is really darn satisfying. :-(
Just one of the things that will get sorted out by Moshiach, I guess.
Release the Kraken!
delerium69 at 2010-10-26 03:01 (UTC) (Link)
"...cows are all cute with big eyes and they go MOO..."

Tee-hee, you're so adorable!

Hmm, now you're making think of what I noticed the last time I visited the (National) Zoo here in town. One snack bar is located around the corner from the Kids Farm exhibit, which features two donated dairy cows (a Holstein and Hereford, Tulip & Rose). At the snack bar, they sell hamburgers and hot dogs. Even I thought that was a little disconcerting, and it takes a lot to disturb me. I'm wondering where the Zoo gets their meat for their take-aways?

I dunno. Humans have been practicing animal husbandry for thousands of years. It's the factory-farming that ruins the environment and makes me angry. I think we're omnivorous enough that there is no reason to eat as much as we do, at least in some cultures.
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