Respecting my food sources

I’m not cut out to be a serial killer.

I know this, because when I had to “dispatch” my first lobster (i.e., kill it), I cried.

Like, literal tears came out of me, y’all.

The thing is, I think it’s a pretty normal, very human, reaction to be upset at having to kill something these days. As a species, we used to have to “dispatch” every live food source when we wanted to eat meat. That made us closer to, and more respectful of, what we ate.

But the only kind of hunting I do is for the best deals on pre-packed meat. Chicken? I’ve got my choice of breasts, tenderloins, drumsticks — and I can go my entire life without ever having to come face-to-face with the dead, plucked carcass in its whole. Same thing with beef, pork, and other mammalian protein sources.

(Though, my weekly weekend trips into Chinatown with family exposed me to plenty of cooked, whole chickens hanging by their necks in the shop windows, so I’m not entirely oblivious.)

Having others (e.g., meat processing facilities, butchers, the folks behind the seafood counter) deal with the dirty bits of meat processing has made me particularly sensitive to shouldering the emotional burden of taking a life.

But I think it’s an important part of my development as a well-rounded human. There’s an emotional and spiritual connection that we as humans used to have with the animals that feed us. Think of indigenous North American tribes and their relationship with buffalo.

I’m not saying I want to start hunting for my own food or go vegan, but perhaps it’s time for me to more deeply reflect on and take responsibility for the food I eat and the life that’s taken to sustain mine. To give gratitude where it’s due.

Just because I don’t see an animal die doesn’t mean I’m not responsible for their death.

I remember as a kid, questioning my dad about how our family could possibly be Buddhists if we ate meat; wouldn’t that cause suffering to the animals, which goes against the tenets of Buddhism?

His response (maybe as a way to get me to quickly dismiss my moral quandary and just go to sleep) was that because we’re not directly responsible for the animal’s suffering, we’re not implicit and should not feel the guilt from it.

That always stuck with me, because it felt wrong.

Out of sight, out of mind? Ignorance is bliss? That’s just not how I roll, even as a kid.

I think about my meat consumption a lot. In fact, in the past few years I’ve increased my animal protein intake.

But it’s not without a mindful shift.

I spend more on good quality meat. Grass-fed, pasture-raised, humane certifications—they matter a lot to me as a consumer. They’re important to me not just because of the health benefits, but also because they better fulfill my moral values.

Though I can’t necessarily afford to buy only pasture-raised meats, at least I know I’m doing what I reasonably can.

I guess all this is to say that I’m still processing the responsibility of having to kill the rest of these very live lobsters for dinner.

Thank you, lobsters and all other animals, for the nourishment I take from you to sustain my body.


Main image by Toa Heftiba