Several nights ago, while watching a movie that depicted a slaughterhouse employee cutting up the flesh of a recently deceased cow as pieces of its carcass moved down the conveyor belt, a visiting family member exclaimed, “That’s so sad! And so gross!”
The situation dripped with irony. Along with a little grease.
How someone could conform to two such contrasting principles was baffling. As dumbfounding as the double standard was, however, it actually epitomizes society’s mindset on the matter perfectly.
If given an open, unrestrained tour of a modern-day slaughterhouse in operation, almost nobody would make it to the end without cringing, gasping, screaming, crying, and in many cases puking. It would be a downright horrific experience for most.
Yet, a tour of an American restaurant would reveal red meat laying on a majority of its patrons’ plates.
Prime rib, rump roast, filet mignon, tri-tip, London broil, hamburger, roast beef, Philly cheesesteak, Salisbury steak, meat loaf, pastrami – the bovine-based popular menu options are endless. As are the chicken- and pork-based dishes.
It might be easier for some to watch the head of a chicken or pig get sliced off rather than a cow’s, but most would still go running straight to the closest trash can to involuntarily rid themselves of those chicken fajitas or that ham sandwich they had for lunch.
So, why do most Americans continue to live by such contradictory standards when it comes to the way they eat?
Is it because it’s what their parents ingrained in their heads? And their parent’s parents before them? Is it because the taste offsets any remorse one might have for taking the life of another living creature? Maybe it’s simply the fact that it’s easy not to think about such things. As the popular saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.”
Words such as “organic,” “grass-fed,” and “free-range” certainly make it easier since it invokes a warm feeling that the animal lived a happy, carefree life roaming the endless, beautiful pasture before its sudden and timely death.
A popular belief is God – or Mother Nature – created these lower intelligent animals only as a food source for predators, such as humans, higher up the food chain. Thus, if Mankind can raise and kill these slow-witted beasts to nourish its existence, by all means go for it since that’s the whole higher-power intent.
While that may have some merit, even those who cling to that theory still can’t bring themselves to kill these “inferior” creatures – let alone watch someone else do it.
But, for whatever reason, if it’s done behind closed doors, it’s tolerated. And once it’s skinned, shucked, deboned, fried, or grilled and finds its way onto the dinner plate, it’s relished.
There is, obviously, a faction of society who can kill certain game without regret. Whether one agrees with it or not, those who hunt legally for the purpose of feeding themselves and their families – and not just for sport – have earned the right to serve and eat their bounty.
While the truth may not be as tasty to swallow as a cheeseburger, the reality is anyone who finds the slaughtering of cattle disheartening should refrain from wolfing down red meat.
Otherwise, the “sad” and “gross” conveyor belt events will only continue to occur. And the irony – and bloody animal fat – continue to drip.