I’d like to say a few words about this impeachment.
KIDDING! I promised no politics, except of course for the occasional sideways, snide-yet-subtle comment about what’s-his-face. And I’m going to stick to that part of the Kleimansays mission statement.
And so, for today, let’s tackle another controversial topic: MEAT. Okay, yes, meat can be a little political, but my take on meat is more philosophical. And there will be no puns or allusions to the naughty uses of the word meat.
Do you like cows? I mean, as people. I do. I like who cows are. They seem very nice. Calm. A little sedentary, although they will go to great lengths for some good grass, if you know what I’m saying. They have nice big eyes that look very kind and thoughtful. They tend to be liberals.
Do you moo out the window when you pass cows grazing? You should. Mooing is great. It feels good to moo, like a meditative mantra. And baby cows, er, calves? You don’t get much cuter than a little cow walking up to the fence and letting you pet her on the nose.
Yet, we eat them. Oh, maybe not you, but a lot of us, including yours truly, although I do have certain standards, which we will discuss anon. But first, my basic premise about meat, specifically beef (although it could easily apply to most poultry), which is a theory that I came up with, which is mine, this theory, and not anyone else’s. So here it is, my theory, which is by me:
If people didn’t eat cows or drink and eat products made by cows, then cows, those lovely, peaceful, big-eyed animals that are so top-heavy that they can be tipped over by someone 1/10th their weight, would cease to be, like the Norwegian Blue in the parrot sketch (M. Python). That’s right. No more cows. Sad. (Side note: don’t you wish you could sleep standing up?)
Cows do not exist in nature. Bison do. Cows were genetically engineered, if you will, by some very prescient (about burgers and cheese) and persistent European herders centuries ago, from wild bison into these tame, quiet animals who roam around eating grass and mooing, and giving us milk, butter, cheese and sometimes, involuntarily… meat.
So there’s that. If you really like cows, you want to keep them around and so you need to let people eat them and their produce even if you don’t, or they will die out and cease to exist. Even if there were some wild cows left, those gun people would hunt them into extinction. Imagine hunting a slow-moving animal the size of a barn door. Too easy.
Now, as mentioned, standards are important. The way these cows are handled is for the most part reprehensible. But you can make sure you get your meat, milk and cheese from farms and ranches where the animals are treated humanely. You know, gently raised, allowed to roam the fields.
If you get expensive Kobe beef, no relation to the basketball player, you know that in addition to the above, the cow or steer got regular massages to keep the meat tender. Aren’t the Japanese great? They massage everything! And that poor cow just thought the people really liked her. Or is the beef from a he-cow? Yes, this is a lot of bull.
Okay, so if you’re out with friends at Applebee’s (that’s definitely you, not me. I’m a food snob.) and you get a burger, you can’t really know where it came from and my guess is that cow didn’t get a lot of spa treatments. And in most normal restaurants, you’re not going to know the source. Me? I like a thick, juicy, bone-in ribeye, and I want it to be expensive. Not because I can afford it, but because I know it’s coming from a good cow who was treated like a queen. Marie Antoinette, to be precise.
I feel sorry for cows who end up as Big Masc. They deserve better. Is that elitist? So sue me.
Vegans can get a little feisty about their cause, and some of them might even be a little preachy and look down upon us omnivores. They don’t want us to eat cows, not just for health (and again, a lot of vegans and vegetarians have really bad eating habits, although generally speaking veganism done right seems to be very beneficial for many people), but for moral and ethical reasons.
Okay so there is an ethical problem with meat, especially in how the animals raised, fed, treated, and yes, slaughtered. There is a lot to think about and we all know there are documentaries on the subject that have made people swear off meat. I don’t watch them. (I’m also avoiding the book on the life of an octopus for much the same reason.) I try not to support those kinds of meat factories, but you can’t be 100% sure when you dine out.
The thing is, humans are animals and animals eat other animals, on land, in the sea, and in the air. Although usually they will land before digging in. So some of us have an animal instinct to eat meat. Others are gatherers, which is great. The point is, there is no point in telling an animal that eats other animals that it’s not natural to eat other animals. And seriously, if God didn’t intend for us to eat meat, she wouldn’t have given us steak knives.
Many vegetarians eat some milk products, at least here and there, or use butter, or put cheese on their zucchini noodles, but vegans don’t even like that. Health wise, or again, morally, in that the cow is being made to give milk not to feed calves, but to be used by humans, and on top of that they are not generally treated well.
For a beautiful poem about a pig, not a cow, here’s something by my former teacher Galway Kinnell, well worth reading – and short: St. Francis and the Sow – Galway Kinnell. I read it like 35 years ago and it’s stuck with me. Great poem for vegans.
Which brings up my hypothetical cow, Elsie. Sure, she’s a cow, but she’s not too fat or anything. She’s beautiful. She has big brown eyes and long eyelashes and she’s brown and white all over. Her moo is like music to my ears.
Elsie grazes in our hypothetical pasture next to our house in the hills. She has all the fresh grass she could ever want, and I save by not hiring a guy to cut the grass. I like to rub Elsie’s nose and sometimes pat her long, solid sides like a wall with bristly hair on them.
Elsie lives in a comfortable barn. It’s a small barn because I only have one cow. She’s got some hay in there to lie down on and eat. Yes, she eats her bed on occasion.
Elsie loves us. She is happy to see us and she comes right over, mooing, and nuzzles our hands to pet her. Elsie seems to enjoy being milked, which makes sense. Doesn’t everyone? And so we get our cream, milk, butter and cheese from Elsie. (Yeah, we make our own cheese. You got a problem with that, pal?)
So, if Elsie is treated well, is happy, and doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on anything in life, can I eat the cheese that comes from the milk from Elsie and still be a good person? Only the vegans know.
Have we learned anything? Do we ever? I’m watching this impeachment and think probably not. But hey, at least we’re not cows.
No cows in Smoking in Bed. I think I need to put a cow in my next novel, An Honorable Death, but probably just a token cow in a minor role. Thanks for reading and have a great week, and a wonderful Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanzaa, whether or not it’s meatless. I know! Latkes!