When I was a preschooler, the neighbors had cows. My family had pet rabbits and chickens as well as the usual assortment of pet dogs and cats. As soon as I found out that beef was really cow; bacon was really pig; and chicken was chicken, I didn’t want to eat it.
I wasn’t eating dead animals. I also didn’t want to eat eggs. They came from a chicken’s butt, and in those days I didn’t understand the difference between a fertilized egg and an unfertilized egg, so I thought there was a baby chicken in there.
My mother was okay with my choices. She thought I would grow out of it. She always cooked potatoes with every meal and there was always a vegetable too. I ate pancakes and lots of breads and desserts that had egg in them. Just so long as I didn’t have to eat anything eggy or meaty. I was all right.
I did get into trouble at school. The school lunch program served what was then described by teachers and cooks as “nutritional” meals. I wouldn’t eat the meats, and sometimes if the vegetables looked runny or the potatoes were mixed with the meat in a kind of hash, I wouldn’t eat that either. I would eat peanut butter sandwiches and milk and I usually ate the desserts. It was enough to get me through the day.
The teachers considered my eating habits rebellion. Sometimes I was forced to sit in the lunch room after everyone else had left. I was told I couldn’t leave until I ate something. When no one was looking, I would cut a piece out of the meat with a knife, hide it in a napkin and then claim I ate something.
Then I could go.
I was a liar, I know, but I was not going to eat a cow, a chicken or a pig. I knew the animals were murdered for their meat; I felt that was wrong, but I was not protesting the horrors of the slaughterhouse in those days. Factory farming did not exist then.Despite living in the country and visiting farms, I knew nothing about farming. I certainly never witnessed a slaughter.
On television I saw commercials for Carnation condensed milk. It supposedly came from contented cows.
I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. In one book she writes that cheese is made from a calves’ brains. I gave up cheese for awhile. But kept going back to it.
My elementary school classes got more their share of lectures about how important it was to eat meat for good health. I am sure I was the student those lectures were aimed at. The teachers were bound and determined to change my eating habits.
While I loved my pets, the birds and turtles, rabbits, and chickens as well as the dogs and cats, empathy was something I learned. I was not born with it. We who have Asperger’s are often accused of not having empathy. But like good nutrition, empathy can come from a variety of sources. I am grateful I always had pets. They made great teachers, and taught me empathy despite the Asperger’s.
As I got older, I became interested in the humane movement. I volunteered at an animal shelter in Iron Mountain, Michigan and I even wrote an article way back in June 1973 for “Dog Fancy” (Now “Dogster” Magazine) on how to start a humane society.
I became a conscientious vegetarian.
I learned about the health benefits of vegetarian and vegan living. I consider that a wonderful plus. I also feel superior to all those teachers who tried to force me to eat meat, and who lectured on its benefits.
I eat vegan cheese now, not the dairy kind. I avoid dairy like its the plague.
It’s good to be healthy and kind.