Confessions of an omnivore

Mom and baby cow keep their eye on meAfter writing my post last week about the Big Island cowboy culture, some people questioned my statement about mostly giving up beef. Why, they asked. Part of the answer lies in a couple of videos I saw years ago, “Forks over Knives” and “Food, Inc.” The first explained the health benefits of giving up meat; the latter talked about the consequences of corporate farming practices and government agriculture policies on our way of life. After seeing them, I gave up beef, though I sometimes lapse when I am traveling. That was four years ago. Living here on the Big Island, it’s become a choice based on personal experience.

This is the first time in my life that I’ve lived so close to farms or ranch animals. Growing up in Wisconsin, we saw lots of dairy cows when we drove in the country. But raising cows for milk doesn’t seem to be the same as raising calves to become dinner. Others might disagree.

I see these animals every time I drive to Waimea. And I’ve come to know just a bit about their lives. I’ve seen several complete cycles of birthing and raising calves to the weaning stage, when the calves are shipped to the mainland for “finishing” on corn. A few ranchers take the risk to raise calves to adulthood on grass. But during times of long drought, grass hasn’t been plentiful enough even for the adult cattle. Anyway, the point is they are no longer an abstract packaged piece of meat in the grocery case.

IMG_3548A while ago, I finally saw cattle crossing the road. It was clear that it happens regularly: one day the cattle are on one side of the road and the next they’re on the other. I was just never in the right spot at the right time to see it. But this time I was in luck.

using an ATV to herd cattleAs my cowgirl neighbor had told me, these days the paniolos are just as likely to round up the cattle with ATVs as with horses. One cowboy waited at the fence along the road while another pushed the cattle towards it.

paniolo guiding cattle across the roadOnce the cattle were clustered at the road, the first cowboy opened the gate and the cattle simply walked across the road. A third person stood on the other side of the road and waved her arms to shoo the cattle into the chute in the field across the road. It happened quickly, quietly, and orderly; no fanfare.

paniolo on foot, guiding cattle across the roadI wonder if they ever have a stampede or even a jog, where a few cattle make a break for it. These paniolos on foot would be no match for a couple tons of cow heading for them.

Even this simple act of watching the cows cross the road made them more real to me. And my friends who live in the country talk about hearing the cows grieving for days with the most pitiful bellowing when their calves are taken. That affected me too.

piglets for sale at CostcoSo why not give up meat altogether? I’m heading in that direction, but it’s slow. Somehow my mind rationalizes eating a very limited amount of pork, because the wild pigs around here do so much damage to crops and indigenous vegetation. But I’m not eating pig that has been harvested in the wild, so that mental argument really doesn’t hold up. On the other hand, I don’t cook it anymore.

IMG_6142In fact, I saw something at Costco the other day that gave me pause. There in three freezer cases were boxes of piglets, $2.99/pound, ready for roasting in an imu, the traditional Hawaiian underground oven (only in Hawai‘i!). They have removed the need to shoot your own which at least had ecological benefits. Still, my German and Czech heritage calls to me when I’m homesick, and I succumb to it, eating a bratwurst with sauerkraut every now and then.

lambsThen there’s lamb. My family never ate it, but my husband’s family did and I learned to love it. Now I have to unlearn it. Luckily, lamb has been very easy to give up. There are lots of sheep being raised along my route from Honoka‘a to Waimea, and the lambs are so cute. I can’t eat them anymore. I like to think that most of these sheep are being raised for wool for the burgeoning artistic needlework trade anyway.

Another aspect of my gradual walk away from meat is learning how many of my friends and acquaintances are already vegetarian or vegan. Wow. Makes me feel like a Neanderthal. But that’s only my own conscience judging me; these friends certainly don’t.

flexitarian dietAt this point in my evolution, my meat diet (called flexitarian) and the menus I plan, are restricted to chicken (mostly organic skinless thighs), the occasional turkey, and fish. I also cook vegetarian a couple of meals a week. My family complains, and they mutiny by cooking their own meals. But even that will be less of a temptation once my youngest goes off to college in a couple months.

our yard is full of roostersStill, I’m not sure I will give up the chicken and fish, especially the chicken. I have a long-running feud with the neighborhood roosters that saunter into my yard to feast on my compost pile. I wouldn’t mind them visiting if they were quiet. It’s the blasted crowing that peeves me. Somehow that justifies eating their brethren. Maybe someday I will evolve further.

Postscript: After I finished writing this, my husband came home with steaks for supper, a rare occurrence. I confess, after long stretches without beef, it tasted very good. Now I’ll have to live with my conscience.

Second Postscript: A vegan friend sent me to a website, Beyond Carnism. I urge you to look at the 18 minute video called The Secret Reason We Eat Meat; the link is right on the home page. It’s not the usual guts and gore video, but a great explanation of how we’ve come as a society to eat pig and cow, but not dog or horse (well, at least in the US).

 

I invite you to witness my struggle with the noisy neighborhood chickens over the past four years:

Roosters across the streetVeteran of the Chicken Wars

Fire Dancing Rooster Catchers

I’m chicken

Rooster rodeo and round-up

Chicken no more

Too late, with the cats!

 

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

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About Diane Scheurell

I'm a writer and author. Check out my book, Manifesting Paradise on Amazon, and my blog, ManifestingParadise.com. I talk about Hawaii and the transformation tools I used to achieve my dreams.
This entry was posted in eating right, German and Czech heritage, Hawaii cowboy country, Hawaii ranching, roosters and hens in Hawaii, sustainability and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Confessions of an omnivore

  1. Elizabeth O'Day says:

    Diane, I love your blog and eagerly read every bit of each one. There isnt any other blog series that I subscribe to now, for which I could say the same. So what is it about yours? You seem to have a perfect blend for me of photos to illustrate what you are talking about, with personal stories that keep me engaged, and then an intriquing thought or invitation. Perfect combo for me.
    As a result, you feel like a friend – that odd experience of intimacy with an artist or writer that is based on knowledge of their work. You are the friend that challenges me to get out there and experience more in life. Like comb the beach for hidden treasures, have a malt (nevermind my vegan tendacies) snorkel at a new beach, take a class in nose harps or sacred hula. Girlfriend, you just get me enthused about this thing called life! Libby O’Day in sunny Kapoho, Puna district.

    • Dear Libby, You have no idea how much I needed your comment today. I appreciate knowing that I have had a positive influence on your life. That is why I write. And it’s sweet to know that I have a girlfriend who I have yet to know personally and share experiences. I look forward to making that connection and having those experiences. Now, what have you always wanted to do, but needed a buddy to give you the courage?! Let’s do it!

  2. Diane,

    I love reading your posts – reading about the life I live alongside you through your eyes. Sister, you caught your calling! Love you dearly.

  3. Malia True says:

    It always makes me sad to listen to the cows crying at night after their babies have been hauled away. I feel the grief, but I too have been unable to completely let it go. BBQ is my downfall…

  4. J-M says:

    SUPPORT your local Paniolos

    Jason Van Tassell, of Parker Ranch’s Paniolo Cattle Company(PCC) in Waimea says “consumers want quality beef with the knowledge the animals were raised humanely and responsibly in a sustainable environment.” He feels local consumers want to know where their beef comes from and the story behind the product: the who, where, when, how and why.

    Daphne McKeehan of Ahualoa Hog Farm feels consumers need to know local meat “is not from mass-produced animals and a lot of thought and care goes into it.

    http://www.tasteofthehawaiianrange.com/blog/index.php/category/grass-fed-beefp-hawaii/

    • Dear J-M:
      I totally agree that Big Island-raised cattle are treated humanely compared to those raised on the mainland in large populations of confined animals. It’s great to see them running free in large pastures rather than penned in, standing knee-deep in their own excrement. But this essay was more focused on my thoughts on the ethics of eating animals at all. And that is a personal decision people have to make for themselves.

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