Food vs Ethics

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I was a vegetarian for over 20 years. I started on the road as a pre-teen with the brilliant reasoning that some movie star was one. A lover of animals, I slowly gave up all animal protein. I was always and consistently a vegetarian, and often, would drift into veganism, and back to vegetarianism.

Within the last 3 years, a host of health problems arose. I couldn’t digest anything properly, a tumultuous affair began, and my honey moved in and my soy and wheat gluten consumption went up from once a week to twice a day. I worked at a bakery one summer, and had access to all sorts of free to me wheat products. An ill-fated tumble with poison oak left me with an aggressive systemic reaction. I was on Prednisone for almost 6 months. My body was done. My systems were overloaded.

I went to an herbalist to try and recover some balance. We cut out dairy, gluten, and nightshades. Still, no real difference. We cut out legumes. No help. We added herbs, supplements, nutritious broths that took trips to 4 stores to obtain the ingredients for, and hours of simmering. We tried an endless variety of things, and one day, she looked at me, took my hand and said:

“It may be time for us to re-introduce some animal protein into your diet.’

I cried.

I think that humans eating other animals is wrong. I think me eating animals is unthinkably wrong. But when my fiance came home with the same news, due to a host of different issues, all his own, we bought our first free-range, free of anti-biotics chicken.

We kinda looked at it a while. And because we felt it’s life was sacred, we didn’t want to waste it. We were going to eat it all. We were going to pray over it with fervor and grace. we were going to cry, ok I was.

It sucked. It wasn’t yummy. I didn’t like it, didn’t like the smell or the taste, didn’t like how viscerally I was picking this sweet, innocent bird to pieces. Didn’t like that later it would be a waste product.

There was nothing I liked about it.

It will be a year in June that I am eating animals again. Mostly poultry and a tiny bit of seafood. I can’t stomach pigs or cows nor imagine trying unusual things like venison or buffalo. I feel bad that birds are basically feeling the wrath of my diet, but that’s the truth.

Imagine my dismay when I have discovered, (finally) that my most ideal diet seems to be a grain-free, high protein, heavy on the vegetables and fruit diet.  I feel better, have more energy, eat less, function better, and digest better. My cat is on a grain free, high protein diet  (I find this amusing).

Spiritually, since I’ve recently become far more attuned with my cat totem, it’s come down, that even if I were physically able to forgo meat, I couldn’t because I need to feed the cat within me. Cats cannot safely be vegetarians.

Depressing.

In my heart, I had hoped that I could in time adopt a meat free diet. I knew that this might mean high protein smoothies that tasted like ground up aspirin, and a pound of kale a day, but I didn’t care.  Learning that it is a body and spirit no-no has been really devastating.

I can’t make myself feel better about it. A dead bird is a dead bird, and a dead bird that’s dead to feed me is even worse. I know that “Harm to none” includes myself, and that not eating meat was harming myself, but making myself feel (physically) better at the expense of the lives of others seems like a very flawed plan. It’s also hard for me to grasp that animal protein is necessary for the health of this body.

Everyone says to me, “Even the Dalai Lama eats meat.” This does not make me feel better. *I* am not the Dalai Lama. He makes his choices and I make mine. I do not have to live with his choices, I have to live with mine.

So, I eat the kindest, gentlest, meat that I can. I but from farmers directly when I can, and when I can’t I buy the most natural and humane meat that is available to me. I pray over it, I thank it for it’s life and it’s sacrifice.

I mostly avoid dairy, feeling that my use of animal products have increased in one arena, so I can try and balance it out by reducing it in another.

Do I still push forward pro-animal, pro-vegetarian legislature and ideals? Certainly. Vegetarian Times and Veg News magazines still find their way into my home. I still vote with a vegetarian’s ideals. I still want to be a vegetarian, and I want the animals I do (must?) consume to be treated with kindness and respect, to have their needs met properly *before* they unfortunately and eventually end up on my plate.

This continues to be a difficult path, and a painful choice for me. I understand how people can feel that their bodies have betrayed them. mine has betrayed my ideals and my heart.

 

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About tanisharose

Priestess of Love and Beauty, Witch of the East, Tarot and Rune Reader, Spirit Worker
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14 Responses to Food vs Ethics

  1. Setjataset says:

    Been through the same thing – was a vego for 5 years and a vegan for 3 and got quite ill…I was educated in nutrition and no matter what supplements I took, or herbs , or how much food combining was done nothing worked except going back to eating meat. Like yourself I predominately each chicken and fish with small amounts of lamb or beef and dont touch any other kinds of meat but the meat I do eat is ethically sourced and that makes me feel a whole lot better as does me using thankful prayers.

  2. EmberVoices says:

    *Hugs* Ouch. You are the last person I ever thought I’d see needing to eat meat. I know we’ve never been on the same page about this, but if there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.

    This makes me wonder if it’s part of what Freyja was trying to teach you with the hearts some while back.

    I suspect it will get easier in time, as you connect more with what Cat has to teach you.

    I have more thoughts on this, but I suspect now is not the time.

    -E-

    • tanishal says:

      Thanks, Ember for everything, I will keep it in mind. Yeah, I had that “dead animals everywhere” period last Spring.
      I’m sure it will get easier…but now it’s very much a challenge.

      • EmberVoices says:

        It may not seem like it, but I had to make similar decisions when I realized I would never be able to not wear shoes made of leather – no other material was sufficient for my particular needs, because of the shape of my feet.

        I concluded that if I didn’t have the option of not being a consumer of animal parts, I needed to figure out what my obligation was as someone who interacts with fellow living beings on those terms.

        One of the starker lessons Freyja ever showed me was the value of Death. I can’t keep it in my head, it’s so outside what our culture teaches us. But I was reminded that life feeds on life no matter what we do – it’s not optional. At most we can decide how much suffering we inflict in the process, but ultimately for us to live, other things must die, and vice versa.

        I would say the world is not a wholly beautiful place because for every joy their is sorrow, and for every life there is death, but that’s not what Freyja has taught me. She’s taught me to find the beauty in the death and the sorrow, and recognize that it’s not possible for only half the cycle to be beautiful. Either it all is, or none of it is, and since it does exist, it all is.

        But that doesn’t make it any easier to see when I’m crying my eyes out again.

        –Ember–

  3. Sindr says:

    I eat meat now for the same reasons – I literally have to. Everything dies to feed things. Animals die to feed plants, plants die to feed animals. Because I have a Native American background (along with many other cultures!), venison and bison isn’t unusual to me – it is sacred, and therefore when I can get these so easily (in England of all places, the only bison farm in the UK, if not Europe, is within 2 miles of my house). I am grateful and I am blessed; obviously my P.T.B are looking out for me to allow me to eat food which is from another continent, which even my DNA welcomes from my very being.

    Let me say this (because I am a stranger and perhaps I can get away with it) – the Dali Lama has made a choice to eat meat. You do NOT have a choice now – like me, it is either eat or get ill and die. My Powers That Be wouldn’t be pleased with that, and I’d be letting them down. Speak with your own P.T.B on this, and heed them.

    You have shared your journey of forgiveness. Allow yourself the forgiveness of not being able to live up to an ideal you set yourself. Explore other foods ethically and mindfully, and try not to beat yourself up about this.

    Blessings

    • EmberVoices says:

      Actually, the Dalai Lama was ordered by his doctors to go back to eating meat. He was not entirely pleased with it, but has apparently said things along the lines of it helping him be more compassionate with other humans who are limited in their ethics by their circumstances. Or something along those lines. -E-

  4. tanishal says:

    Thanks, Sindr. I really need the permission not to beat myself up about it, because I’m so disappointed.
    And The Dali Lama eats meat because he has some sort of blood issue that he needs the nutrients for.Of course you’re right carrots are every bit as dead as the chicken. once they’re on the plate.
    Thank you for your elegant insights.
    Tanisha

    • EmberVoices says:

      Yes, that plants are alive and have souls and insights too is one of the things that has gone a long way towards informing my values on this topic.

      –Ember–

  5. EmberVoices says:

    Reblogged this on EmberVoices and commented:
    Tanisha is a Freyjaswoman who has been my friend since I began my journey with the Vanir. She has held me while I have laid, shaking, unable to rise after possession trance left me exhausted and weeping. She is one of the most caring people I have ever met.

    Our paths with Freyja have often been strangely different, even while parallel. One of our most obvious differences has always been that she is devoted to animal rights, where I am more focused on the land, and thus the ecosystem as a whole. She has been vegetarian, and even vegan, while I’ve always been an omnivore, though rarely as ethical an omnivore in practice as I would like.

    In this post she bares her heartbreak over discovering that her health will not allow her to be vegetarian anymore – her omnivorous human body is asserting its need for meat, and she can no longer deny it.

    I have expressed support in comments there, but I have many more thoughts that I wanted to offer here, that she may read when she is ready.

    As a child, when I was first introduced to the concept of Vegetarianism for the sake of ethics, I was excited. It sounded like such a good way to be ethical, and so consistent. But I realized that it’s no use not eating cows if I have to wear their skins on my feet.

    It had been made clear to me very early on that modern, mass-produced shoes would never accommodate my extra-wide, high-arch, high-instep feet unless they were made of leather. Anything else would be either insufficiently stretchy, or insufficiently supportive. (Doctors and shoe salespeople alike admonished us repeatedly not to try, but I tried anyway for fashion’s sake, or to save money. As an adult, I even developed cripling plantar fasciitis from trying to wear something other than the ergonomic leather shoes that my feet require. Now I go ahead and shell out the money, and just do my best to make them last as long as possible.)

    Having been raised by hippie mystics, ignoring the land was never an option for me, even well before I became a polytheist or discovered my path with the Vanir. As a child I was fascinated with American Indian culture, mostly because they were the people of the land I loved, and I wanted to know everything I could about the land I loved, but also because the romanticized portraits that were painted for me by my schools and the media made them seem like people who knew so much better than I did how to interact peacefully with the other living beings in my environment, and that was important to me.

    So when the visiting speakers who came to teach my class about American Indian history and culture told us how, after hunting buffalo, the people made a point of not only eating all the meat they could, and tanning the skin, but also using all the bones and horn, and absolutely any part of the animal they could make any use of, because anything less would be a disgraceful waste, and thus show disrespect to the buffalo that offered itself to them in sacrifice so that they could continue to live.

    I concluded then that if I had to wear leather shoes, I would continue to eat meat from the same kinds of animals that gave me leather shoes, and that I would learn what I could to make use of as much of the animals as possible. Granted, I may not be a farmer or rancher myself, but I can at the least learn the skills.

    Since then, Freyja has taught me that I am responsible for learning all the skills necessary to take any animal I consume the parts of from alive to fully useful. I am not expected to already know all these skills, but if I don’t know them already, I must never stop striving to learn them. If I don’t use any part of an animal, then I do not need to take any responsibility for that kind of animal’s life – but I’d better look very hard and close before I assume that I don’t use any part of an animal, given how we humans consume their habitats.

    So I go about learning to tan leather, to spin wool, to butcher and cook, to find crafting uses for all the parts of animals that I can, and to give the rest back to nature to consume and redistribute. Someday perhaps I will be required to learn how to raise and care for such domesticated animals as I’m able, but I don’t see how we’ll fit that into this lifetime, given the rest of what’s on my plate.

    Stag imparted to me in a dream once the rules of fair consumption of animals:
    Animals are owed a good life and a fair death. If we supply them directly with an easy life, then we may take them in an easy death. If we leave them to take their chances living wild and free, then they deserve the chance to escape freely in a sacred hunt. We must not cheat the wild animals out of their fair hunt, and we are obliged to provide any animal that we domesticate with a good life, and a death with minimal suffering.

    This is the least Stag told me we must do. The plants are owed similar respect. Both know quite well that life feeds on life, and that Their survival as a group is intertwined with ours, and each others. They are far more at peace with this than I will ever be, than most humans ever even attempt to be.

    I know damned well we don’t uphold Stag’s law for either the plants or the animals we carelessly consume en mass.

    I wish, dearly, that I could afford to be the kind of person who lives out in a fully sustainable nature compound, eating only food I can be sure lived a good life and died without suffering, but I don’t have that option, nor do I have the first idea how I would even go about arranging for such.

    The Vanir have made it quite clear that running away from society is not one of my options.

    So here I am, doing the best I can with what I have, and it’s nowhere near the best it should be. But I do not seek to kill animals needlessly, and I never shy away from using any part I can to honor Their sacrifices.

    Hail to the Landwights and Waterwights
    Hail to the Seawights and Skywights
    Hail Plantwights and Animalwights
    Thank you for sustaining us!
    We honor Your sacrifices.
    May Your next life be greater than Your last!

    –Ember–

  6. EmberVoices says:

    Good gracious, I didn’t know reblogging would put my entire post in your comments! I’m sorry! -E-

    • tanishal says:

      No worries. It’s beautiful, ethical and logical (which is lacking in many of these arguments). I was always an emotional vegetarian, and I’ll admit logic is hard to find when emotions are high.
      It is difficult, not to enjoy your meal- as you might imagine.
      I appreciate the steps you’re taking to be a more conscious consumer.
      Also, I’m very flattered.

      • EmberVoices says:

        *Hugs* You’re a wonderful person, and you deserve the best the world has to offer you. I’m sorry that’s not easier to guarantee you actually get.
        -E-

  7. I’m so sorry, Tanisha. By far, of all the vegan protein powders I’ve tried, SunWarrior Warrior Blend (that isn’t a typo) wins hands down for flavor and having absolutely no junk in it. If it is something you can afford, it may be an alternative for you for some of your protein requirements each day.

    Since November, because my CFS has been so severe and I haven’t had the energy to cook or to do anything (I’ve been close to bedbound and bedbound for certain after the accident), I haven’t been able to scrape by with beans and rice for getting enough protein so that my body was not screaming for it (I don’t know why… I suspect with everything else that’s wrong with me, receiving less than x amount of protein just will not do for my body, and managing x amount with beans and rice is just barely ‘okay,’ which amounts to a can of beans daily) and since my bills are much higher, I can’t afford to buy protein blends, and the government reduced everyone’s food stamps twice by significant amounts, so I can’t get organic, free range meat… I’ve been eating store brand tuna. I don’t like it. I don’t like my life when I’m this fatigued. I don’t like myself spiritually when I’m this fatigued and eating store brand tuna. Even though I am a Buddhist, so “the Dalai Lama eats meat” is more applicable to me, and my husband, of course, is famous for his love of pork, and pork-based offerings.

    Since the car accident, it’s been even harder to do anything, and sometimes, even though it costs much more, we’ve been eating pizza with pepperoni, which is either pork or beef. I wish it didn’t taste so good to me. At least tuna is extremely “meh.”

    The Dalai Lama eats meat because he has a medical condition that requires more protein than what the average Buddhist monk would receive in the two meals they eat each day. His doctor (many years ago) specifically told him, I think, that he had to eat red meat, so I think it may have been both protein and iron that he was deficient in. Things have changed since then — he could probably get what he needs with liquid iron supplements and protein shakes, or supplements and something like cottage cheese… or even soy, if he tolerates it. But I believe that for the majority of his health concerns, he prefers to follow traditional Tibetan medicine (and even founded the first school ever to teach it so that it does not die out in the diaspora) and they may not think like health-concerned western vegans.

    I can’t be vegan as most people define it: Freyr’s love of honey and requests that I eat raw honey push me out of the standard definition. But I know that for many beekeepers, they love their bees intensely and with colony collapse disorder being so very serious, I am glad to be supporting them in some way.

    Studying beekeeping in a very armchair fashion, I was surprised to learn how much beekeepers care for their bees and it doesn’t seem like a violation of vegan principles to me, because they are very, very careful to make sure the bees have plenty of food to overwinter on, and are very careful about pacifying the bees (beestings are fatal to bees) and giving them time to move off the combs, and so on… people had made it sound like terrible theft to me, before, and like beekeepers did not care if bees were injured or killed in the process of removing the honey, and did not care if the bees had enough food.

    I hope to make some local contacts who are beekeepers and procure raw honey from them, to support much smaller beekeepers, and most ideally one for whom beekeeping is sacred or spiritual in some fashion, even if not religious in any particular way. Though that may be hoping for too much.

    It’s all so complicated.

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