Last week, as my husband and father-in-law got the walls up on our new cozy cabin, I delivered 6 of our first pastured pork shares of the year. We have been raising 16 pigs in a 2 acre paddock in the woods, and the 3 we had harvested had been literally hogging all the feed- they were the enormous “boss hogs” of the herd. At over 300 pounds, they were indeed ready to harvest and finally contribute to the cash flow on our farm. We have been spending a small fortune feeding our pigs this year! The second that those three big hogs (Philomena, Sheerah and Goldie) were out of the herd, the remaining 13 pigs were eating like crazy- we need them to be able to bulk up too, as all of our other customers are eagerly waiting for their pork shares!
After a long, glorious day delivering pork, meeting up with our customers, hauling heavy coolers into their homes and helping unload some of the most ethical and gorgeous pork, cut and wrapped beautifully by our butcher Mike, I stopped at my previous workplace to get some bulk whole wheat pastry four and polenta meal before heading home. One of my old co-worker friends was there working, and as I dug out my coins she asked what I’d been up to that day. I told her with a huge proud smile that I had been distributing our first pork shares, and wow, wasn’t that amazing?! I forgot though, that she was a vegetarian, and exactly the kind I used to be- a rather self-righteous one. She held her face in a stoic grimace while I explained what a great life these pigs had lived, and how they were providing an alternative to all the pork that would have been eaten. I told her how they’d been harvested on the farm, peacefully. They didn’t even see it coming and were instantly dead. I think I said that’s how I’d want to go. And then she said, “so what did the other pigs do, just stand there and watch their friends get killed?” I told her no, indeed they had gone off to eat because there was now more room at their feed trough. This isn’t Charlotte’s Web. They didn’t sit there and wimper and cry about their buddies being gone. Pigs are not people, as much as vegetarians like to anthropomorphize animals’ behaviors. Pigs are opportunists.
But talk about an buzzkill. Here I had spent the day with people who were so grateful for what we do, and in that moment, she kind of just wrecked my glow. I wanted to be sensitive to her opinions, but I also didn’t feel I needed to defend myself either. She’s a cashier at a store where she rings up all kinds of ethically-borderline “natural” meat all day long. Our customers went out of their way to buy an entire half hog directly from a farmer they know and trust. They watched the pigs grow virtually on facebook and on our website; saw how they romped and played in the woods and enjoyed belly rubs and forest walk abouts with us. Some of them even came to meet the pigs in person. I just felt like I deserved a bit more credit than the condescending vegetarian was giving me.
To her credit, at the end of our awkward interaction, she said she still admired what we do, and appreciated that we were trying to make a difference in our animals’ lives. But she still chose being a vegetarian because , you know, it’s got a lower environmental impact, and is better. What is it with vegetarians who are so sure of themselves and quick to point out they believe that their choice is superior? And why does she think she is impacting the environment more positively? All crops need fertility, and even organic fields of vegetables rely on factory farmed animal waste to supply that. All industrial crops require immense amounts of tillage and cultivation, organic crops even more so because they can’t use the “easy solution” of spraying herbicides to control weeds. Yes, eating lower on the food chain may be more immediately ethical because you are not eating flesh from a living being, but how do you measure the loss of habitat in 1,000s of acres of organic soybeans for your tofu? Let alone how many creatures are killed to cultivate the soil around the soybean plants?
I understand the vegetarian stance that people should eat the crops, not feed the crops to animals and then eat the animals. I get it. But what they don’t know is that ethically raised meat is just so delicious. I was a vegan for over 6 years, and I did just fine with my veggie scrambles, tofu sandwiches, seitan stir-fries. However, when I had my first bite of roast pork from our first pig Roxy, I didn’t know how I had ever lived more fully. So perhaps, in choosing to not be a vegetarian and go the complete opposite route, I am having a much more meaningful and religious experience every time time I eat. I have an actual relationship with the animals and with the meals that they provide. I’ll take that any day over a faceless tofu sandwich. It just tastes and feels better.