Thanksgiving Compassion

thanksgiving Something to ponder. Like many if not most of you I grew up in a meat and potatoes home. Entrees and mains were almost always meat with the occasional exception of pasta. We ate the I assume standard assortment of dead things – roasts, hamburger, pork chops, bologna, bacon, ham, hot dogs.. all of which have their names changed. Mom didn’t say “kids, time for dinner, we’re having cow butt, ground cow flesh, pig belly, pig butt, and ground and pressed every part that could not be labeled as anything else. Luckily for me in retrospect, my parents never ate organs or parts like – brains, hearts, kidneys, stomachs livers, tongues, etc. Though as flesh is flesh I guess it would not have really mattered. I also found it curious that birds were still called by their bird name, turkey, chicken, pheasant etc., when consumed.  Indeed, this was the norm, at least in America and I ate what was put in front of me and trusted that this was all healthy and wonderful.

Hell I even remember my parents sneaking my sister Kim’s and mines pet rabbits unto the dinner table and telling us it was chicken. Imagine the horror and suspect when we noticed the empty bunny hutch in our backyard. Eeee-gads! Children rarely make the connection as to what their dinner actually is, nor do many adults.They look at the packaged cuts of “meat” as an item of food on the shelf in the store, somehow removing the origins of the blob of flesh before them.

As a young person I relied heavily on my parents to teach me what they felt was right at no fault of their own. It can take generations to break old mindless habits and adopt new ones… creating new habits and traditions are what make up lasting family memories.

I even had the daily glasses of milk to which the TV commercials, my parents and teachers all assured me was needed for strong teeth and bones. We now know this to be a fallacy of course but the dairy industry is still working hard at maintaining that 1950’s Leave it to Beaver household. I remember loving going to the barn on my grandparents farm and being curious with the milking process. It was a small independent farm so it was super tame compared to today’s large or factory farms girls as they stood in stalls as the suction cups sucked their milk out. By the time I was 10 I was suspicious of drinking the bodily fluid that came out of the “teat/breast” of another mammal. Isn’t that what their babies drink? I also discovered that we are the only mammal on the planet to continue to drink this wonder liquid after weening and the only mammal to drink the milk of a different species. Yes, I was a wise and precocious child and had an intense love for all animals early on… becoming a voice for the voiceless was a natural occurrence.

My dad came from a line of “hunters” and was one for much of his life. I remember the hoopla involved every year around Thanksgiving time… my dad packing up tons of orange and camo clothing and gear, loading heaps of guns and ammo, round butt-warmers to sit on, other “hunting” devices: binoculars, a flask of brandy, etc. Yup, then the long car ride up North for the T-day gathering and opening day of the HUNT. They would wake well before dawn and disappear into the woods returning just before the holiday meal usually with the bloody dead corpse hanging off the pickup with their tongue out and stiff. Even as a child I never understood this frenzy of kill mentality. Lot’s of talk about how many “points” on the antlers and often full descriptions of the kill. Looking out the window as my cousins gathered to witness the display of the dead deer being strung up from a tree and the bright red growing stain on the white snow left me sick. Surely there was plenty of food already on the table, they hardly needed to fill the freezer with dead deer they called “venison” for future chomping? Even then I wondered why they masked the name by calling it venison instead of deer meat? Then there was the puzzlement of the severed and stuffed heads with the eery glass eyeballs that would hang on the wall in a menacing fashion. These displays of death always disgusted and frightened me. As occurred in “hunters” households my dad would pound the hell out of the flesh, salt & pepper it then roll it in flour before tossing it in a pan of hot Crisco. He seemed to go to great lengths to disguise what he referred to as “gamey” in flavor. It smelled odd and tasted odd and it puzzled my mind.

Jump ahead to age 16. One sunny afternoon in the comfort of my home I had just opened up a warm steaming bag of my fav fast food McDonalds Big Mac, fries and a chocolate shake. As I bit into the tasty morsel of burger I noticed my Collie & German Shepard staring at me and licking their lips with frenzy. I can’t really explain what happened next other than in that very moment my entire way of looking at meat changed. Seriously, it was like a lightning bolt of awareness and for the very first time I realized where what was now in my mouth came from, the bloody inside of what was a warm living breathing feeling cow. I spit it out, gave the remains to the pups and became a vegetarian on the spot! For the next 35 years I was a non-meat eater and never looked back. Then another spark hit me four years ago and I realized that I was only part of the way there. My heart was pulling me in the direction of veganism. I truly started wondering why I thought dairy and eggs were somehow ok to put in my mouth and I stopped doing it. I now love being 100% vegan!

So you see, I understand the concept and reality when I hear the standard answers why people eat animals or “hunt,” they are predictable…”I have always done it, that’s what they are here for,” “God gave us the animals to eat,”and “if we didn’t do this, they would starve, we have to kill them for population control,” plus “I need protein and eating animals is healthy.” I get it, I grew up with that mindset too. As a child I also picked my scabs, told little lies, played outside all summer, played in mud, ate glue, pulled my sisters hair, and played in mud. As a teen and young adult I toilet papered houses, smoked ciggys, drank too much, was a Republican, etc., point being, I experimented, learned things, pondered new ideas, changed my mind and habits and GREW to be the me I am today. Your upbringing and old habits or traditions need not reflect who you are now in your grown up and conscious self!

We have options, and opportunities to create what feels correct for us as individuals and I also believe responsibility to do the research and genuinely look at what is in the best interest of animals and the planet we ALL live on. In this wondrous day & age NOT eating animals is easy and economical and NOT chasing down animals armed with weapons is NEVER needed. To tell oneself they are needed or nessesary is an excuse NOT a truth. Perhaps if we can all step outside of ourselves and observe that entire picture, while not sitting in our personal desires of what is comfortable, we can at least try to use empathy towards our fellow creatures in some if not all  of our life choices. It’s a painless en-devour and who knows, you may end up making it your new normal. The animals, the planet, and future generations thank you in advance.

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