When people hear I’m “vegan”, the first question they typically ask is: “But how do you do it?” followed by “So what DO you eat?” which can be interchanged with “Where do you get your protein?”
Once they ask the first question, I tend to answer “It’s easy, really. I just don’t eat meat or any animal products.” Their response 98% of the time is a shaking of their head and “But HOW can you live without meat? Without BACON?!” and I smile and repeat “It’s really easy.”
To the 2% that are interested in an actual answer, show genuine interest, and won’t go down the meat/bacon road, this series of posts is for you.
Giving up meat wasn’t all that hard for me. I’ve felt somewhat conflicted about eating meat all my life. It might have to do with the fact that I grew up on a little farm, where we lived as self-sufficient as we could. Raising animals for their products and meat was a big part of that self-sufficient life style. From as long as I remember I was part of that, and responsibility grew with age. When it was Schlachttag (word-by-word translated to “Slaughter day”), everyone lend a hand, from aunts & uncles, cousins, to neighbors, and us kids. It was a big event, and as you could imagine, it takes a lot of hands to take care of 240-270 lbs of meat. As kids, it was kind of fun. Everyone got together, we got to run around and play outside, and there was delicious, fresh sausage and Schnitzel to eat. As I got older, and realized what it was really all about, I became more and more grossed out by it. The day (generally a Saturday) started by being woken up by a screaming and crying pig at 4am, when it gets picked up for slaughter, arriving at the slaughterhouse later on when the carcass is cut up in big parts, and we had to package and label hundreds of pounds of fresh sausage, and different cuts of pork. We filled laundry basket after laundry basket, and after every helper picked some for themselves to take home, we transported the rest, and filled up our three freezers. Smoked sausages and bacon were hung on rods in the pantry, until they were also ready to be frozen. The whole house had a distinct smell of fresh meat for the coming week, which people thought was delicious, but always made me gag.
So maybe it’s because I learned from a very young age, where meat comes from. The bacon you enjoy so much, used to be a piglet. That steak you had for dinner, used to be a cow. And not happy ones, like they’re trying to make you believe in the advertisement, but that’s a whole different story. I could just never fully grasp the concept of getting a piglet, putting so much work into raising it, just to end up slaughtering it. And do you know how they’re slaughtered? (Keep in mind, this is how we slaughtered them on a family farm, the meat you buy at the supermarket is a whole different story) First, the pig gets transported to the slaughterhouse (which isn’t a joyride, pigs are very intelligent, and show clear signs of distress like crying and screaming). After arrival at the slaughterhouse, the pig is first rendered unconscious by stunning it with a captive bolt pistol. Then it’s hoisted up so it hangs on a big hook from the ceiling, from where it gets exsanguinated (ex·san·gui·nate [eks-sang-gwuh-neyt] to drain of blood, to bleed to death) Note that the pig is still alive when this happens, it’s unconscious but it’s alive. After the blood is gone, the hair gets removed, then the organs get taken out, the head gets cut off, and the carcass will be cut in two. The halves are being washed, cooled down, and the cutting and deboning starts. The meat is getting cut, smoked, ground into sausage, packaged. The whole day started at 4am and ended around 8pm.
So maybe the connection between the animal, and the how it became the food on my plate, is why giving up meat was easy for me. And no, I don’t crave meat, or Bacon.