Blog of an aspiring foodie

Accepting the reality of being a carnivore (BACKPOST)

Posted by beer_chris on 16-October-2004

Part of what I enjoy about cooking is the disgusting carnivorous reality of the matter. When I am cooking meat, I am taking a dead animal carcass and turning it into a tasty meal. The former animal was killed for me to eat. And I'm OK with it. Really. In fact, that's the best part of the matter to me. It makes me feel like I'm part of a greater reality. I, just like any other creature on Earth, must eat, and in some cases, I choose to eat the animals around me. That's the way of the world, and even in our modern society you can't escape that base, fundamental reality of life.

I think that some people reconcile this fact (I'll call them the 'reconcilers') and some never do. The ones who never do are almost always the type that love eating meat – burgers, barbecue, chicken, pork – but can't stand the sight of any type of uncooked meat, even raw hamburger patties. The sight, or heavens forbid, the *touch* of raw meat turns their stomachs. These folks have an even harder time looking at a whole animal corpse – raw or cooked. They buy all their meat pre-cut and packaged so it looks absolutely nothing like a living thing (or the carcass of a living thing). It is bloodless and appears as close to the post-prepared and cooked meat as possible. A carcass looks too much like it used to be an animal. These folks can't reconcile the fact that animals must be killed for them to eat – specifically for that purpose – no serendipitous deaths or roadkills acceptable. These situations are simply unacceptable to them, and so are rejected by their minds, either by making them sick or forcing them to reject meat altogether and become reluctant vegetarians. You know the type, the ones who are doing it because 'it's good for them', or something like that.

Bah!

The reconcilers end up in one of two camps. The first folks are like me, and see (some) animals as potential food sources. I see a deer in the trees, or a fish in the ocean, or a beef steer in the field, and my first thoughts are of venison sausage, fresh sashimi, or steaks. These feelings don't mean I can't appreciate the beauty of the animal, or respect it as a living thing. They just make me hungry. In my mind, the desire to eat an animal does not equal brutalizing that animal. If an animal I am looking at is to become my dinner, I have no issues with humanely killing it, slaughtering it and preparing it for a meal. In my mind, appreciation for the animal as a living thing and my consumption of the same animal are unrelated facts of the world-at-large.

This is where people like me and the other 'reconcilers' are truly different. These others flat reject the idea that a living creature must be killed for them to eat. These people become vegans, or vegetarians, or whatever else. It is my opinion that these conclusions are based in (1) a fear that we could be eaten just as easily, so why should we assume the carnivorous position when we don't have to and (2) all life is sacred, and should be preserved if possible. While I don't agree with the logic, I respect the action – these folks are choosing to behave in a way that is consistent with their beliefs, something very few people (including me) are able to do.

My revelation as a 'reconciler' of the first type came a long time ago. My family and I used to eat at the Fuddruckers on Chimney Rock (back when it was good and not franchised to death). While waiting in line, you could see through some windows into the cooler. Since the restaurant also served as a butcher shop, they hung sides of beef in this area. These facts worked out to basically put you in a position to stare at a beef carcass while waiting to eat a hamburger. I found this to be unpleasant. I'll never forget realizing what I was looking at for the first time. I could see where the hooves were cleaved off on the shanks, where the head used to be, even where the organs and spine once were when a side turned to show the convex side of the ribs. I came to realize that the skin of the animal had been peeled off. I wondered how my body would look if my arms, legs and head were severed, I was disemboweled, halved, my skin was peeled off and my two halves were hung from hooks in a refrigerator. These were not exactly hunger-reinforcing thoughts. Over time, though, I began to realize that these carcasses were really not any different from the burger I was eating. They weren't me, they were animals killed to keep me alive. I started seeing the carcasses as food, not as dead animals, and my perspective began to change.

Over time, as I started cooking my own food, I came face to face with other biological realities of eating animals – the feeling of seeing a fish stare at you from a plate. The sensation of a crab's exoskeleton against your lips as you dig for meat in the claws. The squirmy feeling of chicken organs inside the body cavity of a raw bird. The undoubtedly tangy smell of venison silverskin as it is removed from the muscle. All of these things are different and somewhat unpleasant, but are part of the process of eating meat, and so (to me) are part of the eating itself.

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