I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Mom, don't kill the pig!"

 Ayla has had a huge awakening about dinner. About where dinner comes from. I think she might be a little conflicted - or we might have a budding vegetarian in the family.

 She already knew that fish was a "meat"; that we take it out of the sea and then eat it. Hence, the animal dies in the process. She didn't show a lot of empathy for the fish. But that sentiment changed when we started discussing farm animals.

 I've read a lot of books about our food systems, marketing, home farming, etc. and I always get queasy when we start talking about animal meat. I'm not queasy eating it (except when I was pregnant with Elliot), but I know it would be hard for me to face the facts about what it takes to slaughter an animal for dinner. On the one hand, I don't think being carnivores is a bad thing if the animals have a chance to live a humane existence. (Is that kinder though to treat an animal with care right before you cut its' head off?) On the other hand, I would probably become a vegetarian if I had to hunt for my own dinner.

 Ask yourself the same question: how many of us even think about the source of our dinners anymore? We have sly euphemisms for our food: we should call it cow and pig. For some reason, the lowly chicken and anything from the ocean can be called by its proper name. 

Now Ayla seems to be facing that dilemma - only in more subtle ways. Every meal I've served since our discussion of what beef and pork is, she has eaten but also commented that I shouldn't kill any more animals. I don't know where she gets the idea that I have the time (or inclination) to go killing animals! But from a moralist vegetarian standpoint, my crimes are the same just by consuming meat at all.

 Ayla doesn't want us taking any more shrimp from the ocean, and while she loves her deli ham... "Mom, don't kill the pig!". Granted, this was said with her mouth full of ham/pig. I think her hunger is winning the battle over her moral dilemma. Should I dare get into the details of lamb or hot dogs?


  1. Such an interesting parenting dilemma that I've never considered. It would be pretty nutso to have a 5 year-old voluntary vegetarian running around (I'm giving her a little time to actually refuse to stop eating meat), but I would respect you so much if you honored that request. I also know that you have the knowledge to lead her in healthy eating without meat. Cauliflower soup, anyone? Mmmmmmm.

  2. I think the circle of life is a pretty huge concept for we adults to fathom, let alone the kids. But it helped me come to terms with where my food comes from by shortening the chain and making sure to include myself in the circle. We get our (free-range, grass-fed) beef from a cattle farmer we know, who took us on a wonderful tour of his family farm. We get our eggs from a family (one of Derek's coworkers) who raises (free-range) chickens on their property. These little changes have made such a big impact in how we appreciate our food. Maybe Ayla would like to tour a farm?

  3. Forget what Ayla wants to do... I would love to tour a farm! We'll have to research the area around Buffalo - I'm sure there are CSA's and local farmers galore.

  4. Since moving to KS, we've been in a CSA that includes lamb, turkey, and chicken. The kids have gone to the farm multiple times and that has helped them understand where our meat comes from. We've found local sources for pork and beef, too. So we've made a pledge to only eat meat that is locally sourced (a pledge I broke this week when I realized I was out of ground beef and went to the store to buy some, oops). And we talk with the kids about that commitment and why we've made it. And we don't eat meat every day. BUT, Ayla is at that age when she's discovering empathy--and why should she have empathy with Baxter and not the pig, right? So here's a funny story from Greta's 5th year:

    We had succulent lamb chops on the grill for dinner. These were chops from the CSA farm and we'd likely met the chops when they still had wool on them ;) Rice and veggies were steaming and Greta, aged 5, innocently asks: what's for dinner, Mom? The filter between my brain and my mouth was evidently malfunctioning and I BLEATED the response: la-a-a-a-a-ammmmmb chops. OMG. BAD MOMMY. BAD BAD MOMMY.
    She cried. She didn't eat dinner. And we spent the next two years referring to lamb as "special pork."
    Don't mess with a 5-year-old girl's empathy!