A Taste For Cruelty
In that wide gap between what I know I should do and what I actually do lies a love of meat. Okay, love is not remotely accurate: I don't know that I love meat. I love bread. I'm quite fond of cheese. I ADORE a good sauce.
I eat a lot of meat. But it rarely feels like a choice. Meat eating is a thing that just keeps happening to me. I'm the first to admit I am not a very disciplined person; this is something I imagine myself to be working to correct, but it often feels like 3 steps forward, 3 steps back for the creation of better habits.
But I'm particularly troubled that I'm not really even trying to LIMIT my meat consumption. It seems like every meal centers around meat, and now of course at restaurants meat has become a condiment to be added to more meat. I notice it, and I do nothing to steer out of it.
In college I tried to be vegetarian, briefly, and mostly actually really enjoyed it. I was surprised how little I missed meat. It was hard to find meals that didn't involve meat sometimes, but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.
The only exception was, about once a month, I'd wake up immediately NEEDING beef. Fast, convenient, cheap beef you can cleanly hold in your hands. Before my feet hit the floor, all I could think about was obtaining a burger.
This perplexed me. Was one burger enough to protein to last me a few weeks, but then I required more? I briefly considered my family history of anemia and wondered if it was the iron I craved. Or was it simply more of an emotional hunger, that trying new foods could distract me, but when I felt down, burgers were my comfort food?
I got veggie burgers and went nuts with sauces and fresh tomatoes and grilled onions and various cheeses and just the right brioche buns, each sandwich more delectable than the next. But still I craved my fix.
I considered the iconography, the bold graphics of the fast food packaging, the side of fries and a Coke. Maybe it was convenience of not even having to leave my vehicle to have a ready meal in my hands? But no combination seemed to satisfy the way a simple beef patty could.
I know this process was far from scientific, but in the intervening years, I've developed a theory that perhaps the thing I miss, the taste I've developed, is for cruelty.
The idea that we ingest all the suffering of the animals we eat isn't new, but it is poetic. What would it look like if I limited my meat consumption to animals that were raised cruelty-free? Would it make a non-placebo, noticeable difference? Would I be what I eat, and thus be less cruel?
For now, I've just cut out bacon as a condiment, and I pause when making a sandwich at home and sometimes skip the meat altogether (lettuce, tomato, cheddar is a new favorite, and of course the old standby PB&J is a classic for a reason.) I'm trying to retrain myself to consider it a meal when it contains a vegetable. But generally, I'm mean as ever, and change is slow going.