Carnism: It’s worse than it sounds

Tonight for dinner I ate a delicious, spicy bean burger and nothing was killed in order for me to have a healthy, high protein meal. Saturday night, my friends and I cooked Spinach Stuffed  Portabello Mushrooms. Yes, a few mushrooms had to come out of the dark, but they didn’t come kicking and screaming.

portabello

For almost twenty years I was a vegetarian, eating animal by-products, i.e. yogurt, cheese, eggs. Then I moved to Imperial Valley, “Where the Sun Spends the Winter.” That was in the year 2000. There was no health food store and it was uncommon to find organic anything in one of the few supermarkets. Where had I landed! I felt like a foreigner in a world of meat-eaters. Everywhere I looked: meat, meat everywhere. Tri-tip (which is a cut of beef specific to this area), steak and ribs. Eating out for me became a thing of the past.

And it wasn’t long before my vegetarian lifestyle became a vague memory. I began to eat fish. We all know how healthy salmon is. And somehow we convince ourselves that it is not cruel to kill and eat them. You know that those fish tossed on the deck of a ship are screaming in pain, don’t you? Don’t laugh; it’s true.

January of this year I couldn’t do it anymore. Fish feel pain. Fish have mothers. For the first time I heard the word carnism. It basically means that eating animals is a belief system that conditions us to eat certain animals. Carnism is invisible in that if we had to slaughter our own meat, we wouldn’t be so willing to eat it.

chicken-headI’m pretty much a city girl.  I still remember visiting my grandparents in rural Texas and being chased around the yard by my cousin swinging the head of a decapitated chicken. I was horrified. My aunt chopped the head off that chicken while it was still alive. I had gathered eggs from that very chicken in morning. Alive, she chopped the head off an alive chicken. I didn’t become a vegetarian then, but I pretty much blocked the image of the murder of that chicken from my mind and continued to eat fried chicken after church every Sunday.

baby-chick

Of course we eat only certain animals. We have some arbitrary system and belief system that drives our choices. Would you eat stew made from Labrador Retriever? OMG!! We can’t even imagine it. My sweet little chihuhuas, Taco and Daisy for dinner—no way in hell! I would fight to the death to save my dearest friends.photos-videos-from-phone-009

I promised myself I would keep my posts to around 400 words, and I haven’t said all the words I have on the subject of carnism, but I’m going to quit writing.  So stop and think when you cut your steak, chicken, pork or fish tonight. What if it were Daisy! Bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

Lonely Girl

 

When I look at my day now as a personal trainer, there are times when I can’t believe it is me. I pretty much work out all day or help others workout. I am not a natural athlete, but somewhere along the way things changed.

I never liked to go outside and play. I had an awkward walk, was uncoordinated and had no balance. Recess was painful. I was usually the last one picked for any team sport.  I don’t think Charlie Brown existed when I was growing up, but he and I have a lot in common.

Other kids watched the clock waiting to hear the recess bell. They would be bouncing off their seats as the teacher said, “Wait. Put your books in your desk. Then you can go.” It was a stampede to see who could get out the door the fastest.

If the recess game was softball, I knew my name would not get called. The rules were the team captain picked one boy then one girl, and everyone had to play. When I was the only one left, the captain would sigh and wave me over and say, “Okay, we’ll take her.” Like he had a choice, but hearing those words. Well, it made it worse.

girl on playground
“Lonely Girl”

 

Three outs happened fast, and I usually didn’t have to go to bat. When I did walk to the plate, bat in hand I knew what to expect. Taunts from the team in the field: “Easy out! Easy out!”  My teammates would groan loudly. It couldn’t get much worse than this.

When the recess game was dodge ball, I thought I might actually have a chance to stay in the game. I mean dodge ball, come on. Just don’t get hit by the frigging ball. How hard is that! But I was like a fence post cemented in the dirt. A target. The person with the ball always went for me because I was, once again, an easy out.

The other kids made it look so easy. Running. Laughing. Weaving in and out around each other’s sweating bodies. I was dizzy watching all the activity. It was like I was the maypole, the flag pole and everyone and everything else whirled around me.

My brain was busier than my body. “Run right, run left!” I would start to move, or at least I thought I was starting to move, and then the blonde girl with the perky pony tail would run in front of me. Giggling, she was always giggling. The cute boy holding the red dimpled dodge ball aimed for her, fully intending to miss. The ball hit me instead. I didn’t groan or squeal or make any of the noises the other kids made when they were “out.” I just turned and walked out of the circle.

Usually, I didn’t have to go outside for recess. When I said I needed to finish my homework or was writing a story or reading a book and wanted to stay inside, I think the teachers felt sorry for me. It was such a relief to escape the horrors of the playground.

In the sixth grade I read the poem “Outwitted” by Edwin Markham. The words gave me hope. I don’t know why because I certainly wasn’t going to make my fellow dodge ball players think any more highly of me. But I read and re-read the poem, imagining myself in a more inclusive future.

“He drew a circle that shut me out- Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him In!”