I have decided to start an experimental diet. The defining general rule is that I shall not eat any meat that I shall have not myself hunted or caught or raised, and killed.
This will involve ceasing all consumption of farm-raised meat, and greatly reducing meat intake overall. There are several reasons that I have decided to give this a shot, and although I was tempted to simply respond to questions about it with a smug and concise Mary Poppins answer (which I still reserve the right to do in conversation), I decided to enumerate them here. In no particular order they are:
1) Health. If not a lack of credible doubt, there is at least an abundance of evidence suggesting that eating typical quantities of meat, especially industrial farm raised meat, is physiologically bad for you. Notably, it increases risk of heart disease and cancer. Anecdotes and personal experience also suggest that eating less meat makes you smell (and taste) better, and upon simple reflection this makes sense.
2) Separation from the industrial meat farming system. The processes and conditions of raising and slaughtering most of the meat our society consumes are revolting. Most people that I have encountered can only enjoy eating meat if they put out of their minds where it came from, and this does not even require appealing to a sense of “animal rights”. Something about the image of an industrial feedlot strikes us as inherently unsanitary and unhealthy, and I don’t think we should attempt to ignore this. We should not eat things that we find revolting. This should be intuitive.
3) Moral accountability. If the prevalence of negativity toward hunting is any indication, I suspect that there would be far more vegetarians in the western world if people had to kill the animals that provided their meals themselves. This may be simply because they find the mechanics of slaughter unpleasant, much as I find cleaning toilets unpleasant, but most omnivorous types handle bloody raw meat on a regular basis so I doubt this is the real issue. More likely, they imagine themselves feeling sentimental (and probably guilty) about taking the life of an animal with two eyes and a brain. This is no-doubt related to the disconnect that exists in the popular imagination between our food and its sources. People see cuts of meat as food. They do not see animals as cuts of meat. So when a guiltless meat-eating individual expresses shock or disgust at the idea of hunting or fishing, it is either because they do not mentally connect the concepts of killing and eating, or because they are raging hypocrites. With the dots forcibly connected, I wonder whether more people would change their views on killing for food, or their views on eating meat.
For my part, I do not believe that I should have other people do violence on my behalf that I would not be willing to do myself, whether that be dropping a bomb, throwing a switch, or pulling a trigger while looking a man or animal straight in the eye.
4) Incentive to hunt and fish. There are two main parts to this. First, I think it is prudent for everyone, man, woman, rural, or urban, to know how to survive without the umbilical of civilization supplying one’s needs. Health and moral issues aside, fish and game are invaluable resources in a survival situation, and knowing how to utilize them simply makes you a more robust organism.
The second part is somewhat more visceral. Fight Club illustrates some of the psychology involved, as does “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Birthright: Part II (wherein Worf teaches a group of young Klingons raised by benevolent Romulan captors how to be self-reliant and proud of their cultural and biological heritage). In short, modern society provides very limited exercise for men’s traditional (and I believe instinctive) roles as hunters and warriors, and even attempts to cast shame upon them. Some may see this as a positive step forward for society, but I see it as damaging. In an age where we possess atomic weapons and the means to exploit entire ecosystems into extinction with relative ease, discretion and conservation are of paramount importance. However, the industrial revolution did not undo the entire evolutionary history of masculine psychology. Violence is as deeply rooted in the male psyche as it is in nature itself, and to deny that is to sell men out of their cultural and biological heritage. Sitting in front of an X-Box is quickly becoming the only acceptable way for gen-Y males to indulge these impulses, to the point that the most common relationship complaint I hear from women is that their men seem almost more interested in video games than they are in them. I have to ask, in the context of the world they live in, is it any damn wonder? Video games are to the emasculation of the American male as antibiotics are to feedlot husbandry. They’re a substitute for something that we aren’t getting, and they’re a poor one. “Educated” society insists that violence is inherently bad and that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for desiring to partake in it (even as we consume more meat than at any point in our national history, and continue to condone a state of perpetual overseas warfare). But as we turn out generations of men, each less self-actualized than the one before it, at what point do we re-evaluate our progressive ideas about boys and girls and the behaviors that we are encouraging and suppressing. Men’s sense of identity, self-worth, and confidence are wrapped up in this. Their minds are deficient in some essential nutrient that has been eschewed by civilization, and Tyler Durden and Worf think they know what it is. I think they’re right.
5) Entertainment value. Also known as kicks, grins, and why-the-hell-not? I enjoy conducting lifestyle experiments, and it gives me an excuse to do fun things like make comprehensive spreadsheets of my carb, fat, and protein intake. Also, my mother had the audacity to say that she once again liked my haircut, so I had to adopt a freaky new-age diet to make up for it. It was either that or pierce my lip.
Verbal discussions about this diet plan so far have involved challenges to individual points, as any one of these goals alone (except perhaps number 3) would not necessarily indicate this plan as the best means to accomplish it. This is why I wanted to set forth all of my motivations in one place, and hopefully, it will be apparent that this plan is the most appropriate solution overall.
At present, I am comfortable with the idea of killing for food, but only in an intellectual sense. I have never had to kill my own food, so what do I really know about it? I have enough first hand experience to know where I stand on the issue of killing for pure sport versus practical purpose, however, so I’m not expecting any particular surprises or reversals of opinion, but I’m open to the possibility.
Let’s see how this all goes.