When my daughters were young teenagers, they decided to become vegetarian. I was against the idea as I was not prepared to cook separate meals and told them that I was still making what I always did and they could just eat the vegetables. However, it did plant a bit of a seed in my mind and also the fact that I always watched the animal programmes on TV as I have always loved all creatures, and realised that animals have feelings too.
During December 1995 I decided to make it my new year’s resolution, to become a vegetarian. It was decision that I did not take lightly and I waited patiently for the 1st January 1996 to roll around. However, during that December I was watching Keith Floyd, the British chef, doing one of his cooking demonstrations on an ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn. There he was with his glass of wine in his hand cooking an ostrich flambe with all the other ostriches running around and I thought to myself what an insensitive and uncaring man he was. I then realised that I was not much better and instead of waiting until 1st January, I gave up meat, fish and chicken from that day on (15 years ago).
I used to love the taste of meat, fish and chicken, enjoyed braais and roasts, chicken done in every way, all fish (except shellfish). Tuna salad was a staple for me. I used to order baby chicken in a restaurant and enjoyed sucking on the tiny bones. Wiener Schnitzel was delicious done in breadcrumbs with a lemon sauce. I never took note that veal was in fact a baby calf. Veal calves are killed at about 18 or 20 weeks as “white” veal, or fed on grain and hay and killed at 22 to 35 weeks to produce red or pink veal. Delicious lamb roasts on a Sunday comprised of a little helpless animal killed at the age of between one month and one year. Some of the lucky ones managed to be a bit older before they were killed as sheep. I could go on and on about the unnecessary killing spree of baby and adult animals.
Transport of the animals, killing of the animals – Poor practices include cruel treatment of animals during loading, unloading, transport and slaughter. Cruel treatment includes gouging out eyes before slaughter, using fire, twisting tails and beating exhausted animals to load and offload animals on to trucks and slaughtering animals with cuts across the throat that are incomplete and slaughtering in front of other animals
Some people say that fish don’t have feelings. Well I disagree, it may not be feelings as we do, just instinct, however as Paul McCartney once said: A fish’s life is as important to the fish, as yours is to you. Have you ever watched a fish gasping for air and thrashing around when it is taken out of the water.
Then there is the whole subject on its own of fishing for larger species. The trawlers drop their mammoth size nets and whatever unlucky fish is swimming in the vicinity also get caught in the nets and just die for no reason whatsoever. So many areas in the world have been over-fished and many fish are becoming endangered and possibly extinct.
Then there is the whole subject of eggs of battery hens. These hens never see the light of day or walk on solid ground. Their entire life consists of being in a wire cage. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the battery cage is the size. Most battery cages are barely larger than the hens they contain, and in many instances, hens are unable to move or turn around. Typically, battery hens are installed in battery cages within weeks of hatching, and they spend around nine months in cages before being disposed of because they are no longer productive.
Like many animals, chickens can develop some curious responses to stress. Many battery hens, for example, will attempt to attack each other through the wire. As a result, most commercial egg producer debeak their battery hens periodically, removing their beaks with a heated knife so that they cannot attack each other. The hens may also throw themselves against the bars of the cage or wedge body parts into the wire, in some cases severely injuring or killing themselves. Although I do eat eggs, I only buy free range eggs.
Similarly, I only purchase milk which is RBST free, that is from cows that have not been force-fed hormones that cause many health issues for cows.
Its surprising how many people do give me a hard time about being vegetarian, from people quoting from the bible saying that god said the animals are here for us to eat. That may be the case. however, I choose not to have something die because of me.
Whilst doing research on this topic, I was absolutely sickened by the cruelty and inhumanity of what sometimes goes into putting an animal meal on the table and I am so grateful that I am not part of it, and it reinforces my beliefs, and I am so happy to be a vegetarian.