Friday, February 22, 2008

Jessie: Those Poor Beasts

From Jessie Dye, Earth Ministry's Program and Outreach Director

Anyone who has seen the videos of those diseased and disabled cows being tormented in the Chino, California food processing plant must believe with me that somewhere we humans have lost our way. I gave up cows for Lent for just this reason, that I would not be part of the holocaust happening to these big, lumbering four-legged ones. Yet when the news reports came out, I didn't feel the self-righteousness that has been flitting around the edges of my psyche for Ash Wednesday. I felt sad and sick that my somewhat haughty evaluation of the problems with animal husbandry was in fact accurate. We are guilty bystanders in a miserable agricultural system, and my Lenten sacrifice seems small compared to the magnitude of the problem.

It's hard to give up beef and cheese. I've been hungrier than I imagined, even eating lots of nuts and oils and finding no shortage of sustenance. Dairy is in almost everything, and letting it go for a season is a personal effort that takes me away from the systematic abuse of my fellow mammals but limits my choices. We Americans love choice , and I have limited mine for the sake of these creatures and my immortal soul for a mere six and a half weeks. I question my long-term courage and my attachment to my own fat at the expense of these fellow travelers to the grave as I worry about what I will do after Easter.

In an NPR story on the Michael Vick dog-fighting scandal, Seattle author and Stranger publisher Dan Savage commented how hypocritical we are to condemn dog fighting but look away from factory farming. Dan made a point, and I wrestle with my conscience just as I fantasize about T-bone steaks and cheese pizza. For years I have volunteered for Seattle Pure Bred Dog Rescue, and fostered Golden Retrievers who were abandoned and abused by humans. We in rescue accept that essential pain of living on Earth is that there are cruel human beings and always will be. But what happens in factory farms does not come from individual brokenness and sin; it is systemic brutality for the sake of our collective excesses. In my Mardi Gras posting, I joked about torturing cows for one last day before Lent started and I foreswore hoofed ruminants. It's not funny anymore.


Anonymous said...

I share your concern and your challenge. I wonder if during your lenten journey you've searched for local farmers who treat their cows with love and care, from birth through death. If you find any, I'd love to know about them. This lent, my journey has been to create a space for what I want to include in my life rather than give up something. Safe, cared for, and respected foods from animals has been on my list. We now have a chicken in our backyard who lays blue eggs and is loved dearly by us all. So far, no luck on the meat and dairy sources though. Thank you for sharing your journey on this blog.

Deanna said...

Thundering Hooves, in SW Washington,( is a great place to get happy meat!