With thanks to Mike Mallory, who challenged me not to be so extreme, and actually learn more about what I was talking about—like the vital differences between organic and biodynamic. ~ ed.
Is there a middle ground between mindlessly eating Factory Farm Meat and Veganism?
Well, let’s go ahead and lay the cards on the table..
I eat meat…every day without fail…okay, basically every meal!
I’m a corrective exercise specialist. What that means is that I help people to get rid of complex back problems, and all sorts of other stuff I won’t get into. I’m also a meditator, with my own daily practice, along with running a shop that builds modern‐style meditation benches.
Does being a meditator and a meat-eater conflict for me? Can this be reconciled? Have a look at it from my perspective.
The problems I help my clients with, back pain and the like, often come down to issues with diet. Organ problems will shut down the muscles around them—organs being more important in the scheme of things. In nine out of ten cases of back pain, I find that a dietary problem is the underlying cause. Pain erupts from inflammation, and inflammation, in general, comes from poor dietary practice. Most of the American public doesn’t act like they know the difference between their stomach and a garbage can. Being that this you’re reading this on Elephant Journal, I’m going to guess that you don’t fall into that category (I hope, at least).
My dietary practices come from knowledge of racial and genetic needs. My ancestors came from the north….like, Scandinavia north. I’m about as white as it gets. What that also shows is my ancestors had grounds that froze in the winter, meaning they primarily subsisted on animal protein and fat for a majority of the year (just like Tibetans ~ed.). In the middle of winter in Sweden, there isn’t exactly a lot of kale and cacao production. They developed shorter digestive tracts. Now, if your ancestors came from Jamaica, you’ll likely have different needs. Get my drift?
The diets of traditional, inland Aboriginals in Australia included 75‐90 percent vegetable and 10‐25 percent animal foods. The coastal Aboriginals, who have access to fish and larger animals like Kangaroo, eat about 75 percent animal and 25 percent vegetable foods. Both were incredibly healthy, and had no words for cancer or heart attacks…because they didn’t exist.
The take home message is people can have vastly different dietary needs, and still remain healthy.
Each of us have different needs for protein, fat and carbohydrate, which are based on genetic setpoints—not your spirituality or ideology. When I get someone with a strong genetic need for animal products, and a strong interest in Tibetan Buddhism, this can create trouble!
We need to find a middle ground for the millions upon millions of people who need to eat meat, and want to live the mindful life, and are never going to become vegan. We need to find a way for them, us, to cause less animal suffering and environmental devastation, and better live in harmony and awareness with where our production of “meat.”
So how do we eat meat mindfully?
I’m not going to rattle on about how bad industrial farming is; Michael Pollan’s done a great job already. However, I’d like to share some of my own practices and beliefs to make sure that people with an interest in mindfulness can cultivate that state and still account for their physical needs too (if that’s an actual need, sometimes physical needs align with spiritual beliefs, in the case of a lot of Indian people).
We need to both respect how an animal lives, and respect what we do with what we eat. Are you going to take something’s life, be it an animal or plant, and then go sit on the couch and watch Oprah? I hope not. Animal protein can transfer a lot of vitality if used correctly, so make it a point to do something with it!
As we eat a less conscious being (plant or animal), we allow the energy that they’ve accumulated to transform into conscious energy, something that an animal or plant can’t do. Consciousness is only credited to humans, so out of love, we can take an animal and use the energy we take from it to create something beautiful in the world.
Energy transforms through the earth. You saw the Lion King right? Remember the circle of life? Bacteria feeds humus which feeds plants, and plants feed animals which feed us. By respecting each and every spot in the chain, we can create plants and animals that properly express all the energy available to them.
So. If you’re going to eat meat, then do it responsibly. Choose animals that have lived their respective animal life. Wild animals. Free range beef, cage free chickens, and so on down the line.
I buy my beef from a rancher friend in Wyoming. I’ve seen the cows. They’re let loose for up to four years to roam the plains before they make it to me. Often times, the rancher doesn’t even see them for months on end! More natural than living in a cage? Of course. They get to express their real nature as a cow, living just however they want to. The meat ends up being very healthy at the end of the line, without all the detriments associated with commercially raised products. They eat grass, their natural food. When a cow eats grass, it doesn’t have all the indigestion associated with grains, and it doesn’t produce the huge amounts of methane that come with their agro‐raised brothers. Along the same lines, while eating their natural food, they don’t develop infections that make the rampant use of antibiotics necessary.
Where do I get my fish? From Alaska. I personally know the fisherman, and from where he gets the fish. I’ve been there. This isn’t practical for most people (or ecologically responsible perhaps), but if one person has done their homework, it can benefit a whole group of people.
If you purchase an industrially farmed animal product, not only are you supporting that poor treatment of animals, but you’re also supporting poor farming practices that gave rise to the improper feed that the animals received. The feed was grown on infertile soil that was mined for ingredients, not farmed. Real farming gives back the same amount of nutrients that it takes. Organics have the ideology correct, but biodynamic farming actually follows the principles. Google it if you like.
In conclusion, choose your diet based on your physical needs, then take your spiritual values into account when you choose what you eat.
With thanks to Michael Mallory for daring to look for a middle ground:
John Long, a famous “mindful” pork producer in the Colorado area. Photos from The Kitchen in Boulder, Colorado.
Some helpful videos:
Watch a naturalist from the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Drumlin Farm explain the difference between caged and free-range chickens in this free online video.
Expert: Tia Pinney
Bio: Tia Pinney is a Teacher Naturalist and Adult Program Coordinator at Mass Audubons Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
Filmmaker: Christian Munoz-Donoso
Introduction. Pigs. Natural behaviour of wild boar. Intensive pig farming. Free-range alternatives. More info at http://ciwf.org on the Compassion in World Farming website.