Steak. Photo courtesy of Penywise.

Regular readers of Epicure & Culture know there is nothing in life I love more than good food and drink. And while I usually write positive pieces on topics like farm-to-table restaurants, cultural food fare and craft cocktails, I’ve decided to write a personal essay about something that bothers me in American society: People who eat meat based on how cute it is.

Let me start by giving you a little bit of background on myself. I come from a hunting family. All the men in my family — and even some of the women — hunt deer, rabbit, squirrel, boar, buffalo, pheasant and any other animal that is legal to kill and makes for a satisfying dinner. As a child, I remember walking into the garage and seeing deer being gutted and cut up. I never had a Bambie complex or was phased by the graffic images. I simply thought of it as dinner.

By the time I was 12 I was a vegetarian. While you’re probably thinking it was from years of being surrounded by dead furry animals, that had nothing to do with it. I never had anything against hunting. The decision came after seeing one of the horrific videos posted by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on factory farming. That is what I despised. And for 10 years not a single piece of meat entered my mouth.

By the time I was 22 my anemia had gotten pretty bad. Despite the fact I ate egg whites, beans, tofu and nuts religiously I was constantly hungry, never satisfied and felt generally unhealthy. One day after a little too much wine, I decided to bend the rules  just a bit and asked a friend if I could have a tiny bite of his bacon chicken ranch sandwich. Within an hour I had not only eaten his entire sandwich, but also a bacon cheese burger, full order of chicken quesadillas and six chicken wings all to myself. All the flavors, aromas and recipes came flooding back to me, and I realized I would be a much happier and healthier person eating meat again. In my opinion, there is truth to the argument that there is a natural order to things — which includes the food chain — and that our carnivorous teeth are made to break apart tough proteins.

This is not to say I don’t respect a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. If I could have made it work I certainly would have. Being a vegetarian or vegan shows you are a compassionate, thoughtful person, and that is something to be admired. What I do have an issue with is people who eat meat, but judge others for hunting it.

First of all, I think people need to stop being so ignorant to that fact that what they’re eating was once alive. If you’re eating meat, you’re no better than the person who hunted it. I was once hiking with a guy I met on the road in Ecuador, and we got onto the subject of hunting. I told him my dad was an avid hunter, and he turned to me in disgust. “So he just makes a game of killing animals?”

“Do you eat meat?” I asked without pausing.

He blinked. “Well, yes. But, I don’t hunt it.”

“You’re providing a demand for hunters by eating meat. If nobody ate meat, nobody would hunt it. If you’re consuming meat and getting nourishment you have no right to judge the people who are providing you with food.”

Hunting is much different than factory farming. While many factory farms torture animals and keep them in unsanitary, miserable conditions, hunting involves a quick death that shows as much compassion as possible in that type of situation.

My other issue is with people who only eat meat that “isn’t cute.” I’ve never actually had one of these types of people give me a logical answer to their thinking. People act appalled when I order dishes like kangaroo, rabbit or turtle, yet have no problem eating cow, pig or chicken. Is the life of a cow or chicken any less valuable because it’s not considered adorable?

I recently ordered a delicious, tender and lean kangaroo steak. My dining companion looked at me in disgust. “How could you hurt a kangaroo?”

Immediately I pointed to the Filet Mignon on her plate. “Isn’t that a bit hypocritical? You’re eating beef.”

“Yea, but yours is a kangaroo!”

That was the reasoning behind why I shouldn’t be eating it. Because it “was a kangaroo.” Well guess what, that steak “was a cow,” that chicken franchise “was a chicken” and that juicy sausage “was a pig.” Stop eating animals based on looks and start eating based on taste and the ethics in which the farmer uses for his/her animals.

These experiences are what have driven me to create Epicure & Culture and showcase farm-to-table restaurants and ethical recipes. Instead of judging the people who are putting food in your mouth — food you’re demanding — start applauding the people who are providing sustainable food sources and trying to make the culinary world a better place.

Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana.

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