I am not technically vegetarian; I consider myself a compassionate carnivore. Alas, in this day and age, this results in essential vegetarianism unless I have personally bought the meat/eggs/milk involved. It’s kind of nice, actually. I don’t miss meat a lot, and it’s really helping on my diet. However, this Thanksgiving I did help to dismember and consume a whole turkey as part of some quasi-traditional ritual much of the country seems to go through around this time.
First — since my mother-in-law is lucky enough to live in an area where she can essentially walk out of her house and meet the pasture-raised, humanely-treated turkey in question, she got a bird which had the kindest life anyone could have given it, and whose death was about as humane as it gets. This qualifies, in my book, as humanely-raised meat. The bird was appropriately “paid” for its efforts to the household — with food, water, shelter, medical care, and, in the case of this particular bird, even access to the outdoors and conspecifics. We (via the farmer) gave the turkey a good life in return for several excellent dinners.
Second — we used the whole turkey. Every little bit of meat, including giblets, bones, neck, bits, and pieces, got thrown into the stock pot and will be used to flavor soups, make noodles, etc., for the next several weeks. Three families were fed by that bird. Nothing was wasted, which is only appropriate when you are consuming something so important as another animal. That turkey was not wasted.
Third — Thanksgiving, or, rather, a family get-together and overall bonding occasion, is not the point to stand up and grind it into people’s faces that their lifestyle choices disagree with yours. I once had to put down a “vegetarianism for beginners” book which recommended that, when “thoughtlessly” offered meat at a restaurant, I essentially stand up, throw down my napkin, and rip the innocent waitperson a new orifice for daring to offer me animal flesh. We are all imperfect, and shouting at people is a great way to guarantee they won’t be listening. There are better times for these delicate, paradigm-rocking conversations.
During the holiday, I also consumed two pieces of not-at-all-humanely-raised sausage, because some poor pig (or, likely, between two and twenty pigs) died for that sausage, and it was going to be thrown away if someone did not eat it. While I would prefer that humans in general not purchase or eat factory-farmed meat, if someone has purchased it, I would prefer that it not go to waste. I consider it a crowning injustice to torment, damage, and otherwise torture a living animal only to toss the meat away at the end. There’s probably another way to look at all this, but that’s how I’m looking at it right now.
Some meat I did not eat this holiday: The path to and from the mother-in-law’s passed a favorite restaurant of mine, at which I have not eaten in years, since long before my switch away from factory-farmed meat. Despite a distinct fondness for their burgers, the great time which had passed since my last such experience, and the general inaccessibility of the restaurant to me these days, I could not justify the purchase or consumption of meat from that restaurant. It would not be wasted if I did not eat it, and purchasing it would directly contribute to factory farming; so fries it was. It wasn’t quite the same without a burger on the side, but I’d rather miss out on a meat patty than contribute to what usually happens to make a commercial, fast-food burger.