Something almost Primal: Selling Meat to Vegetarians
“At one grocery outlet, at least, ‘certified humane’ meat is selling briskly. D’Agostino, a small grocery chain in New York, said sales of meat jumped 25 percent since it added the ‘certified humane’ logo, though the products cost, on average, 30 to 40 percent more.”
- The New York Times, 2006
During the past decade, numerous articles in magazines, newspapers and online have documented a disturbing trend. Individuals describing themselves as ‘ex-vegetarian’ or even ‘ex-vegan’, have been enlisted as spokespersons for a new fad, characterized by the promotion of ‘humanely-raised animal products’, or, as described by some animal rights advocates, ‘Happy Meat’.
Thirty years ago, for instance, no one would have imagined that the meat industry would have been able to recruit Molly Katzen, “author of vegetarian bibles The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest… and considered one of the chefs most responsible for the mainstreaming of vegetarianism in the 1970s and ’80s”. But at the end of 2009, Newsweek online published an article explaining that Katzen began eating meat again a few years ago, despite having lived for three decades as a vegetarian. She has recently come out with a new cookbook which isn’t vegetarian at all, but rather, lauds the consumption of meat from “sustainably raised, grass-fed livestock”.
In the same article, Tara Austen Weaver, author of The Butcher and the Vegetarian, seems enthusiastic about being a representative for the new trend in guilt-free animal slaughter. “There is something almost primal about it,” gushes the former vegetarian, as though the word ‘primal’ is a noble quality to be embraced by virtuous people. It seems more likely though that the directors of the puppet show are aware that ‘primal’ is simply a concept that plays to the desires of the lowest parts of our selves, to our lust for blood. Let’s not forget that the word is almost synonymous with ‘primitive’, and could just as easily be used to describe cannibalism or rape.
As Newsweek points out, these “conversion narratives… which inevitably take place at a quaint, family-run butcher shop… [some of which are] even run by former vegetarians and vegans”, are becoming increasingly common. Without fail, the stars of the show, former ‘animal people’, explain how they now have first-hand knowledge of the entire Happy Meat production process, all the way to actually witnessing (or even participating in) the butchering of the victim’s body. In some sort of bizarre and frightening twist, the result of this is that they are no longer repulsed by the idea of eating flesh or other animal products. Rather, they happily declare their enjoyment of a taste and texture sensation that used to be ‘off-limits’ to the consumer with conscience, until the kind folks at their local purveyor of flesh and blood provided them with ‘an ethical alternative to mainstream meat’.
As a public relations scheme, it’s almost ingenious. On the other hand, what do they think we are… three years old? It’s the same lie we tell our children when they first burst into tears at the idea that what’s on their plate is an animal like the one curled up at their feet – that cows are happy to be our dinner, that that’s what they’re made for, and that they don’t value their lives like dogs and cats. It’s a lie when we tell it to our children, and it’s a lie when the industry, using former ‘animal people’ as pawns, tells it to us.
In my case, I can’t help but wonder who dreamed this up around the meeting table. Which public relations executive now takes the credit for such a shrewd tactical move? A sudden influx of happy meat stories… cunningly placed in various alternative and mainstream media… portraying ex-vegetarians finally liberated from the constraints of self-deprivation… free at last to unleash their cravings and sink their teeth into the flesh they had so long denied themselves. It’s almost primal… One can actually picture the slideshow that went along with the presentation.
It’s time to face up to it folks – we are being played. Animal slavery means big money, and you can be sure that the people who profit from it are not going to sit back and do nothing while the animal protection movement exposes their foul practices and the immorality of the institution itself. They had no choice but to come up with a plan to sway public opinion away from recognizing the injustice inherent in all animal exploitation, and toward the belief that there must be some way we can still have our cake and eat it too… some way that we can avoid sacrificing our taste pleasures while maintaining a clear conscience…
But interestingly, in the case of Newsweek, the conclusion was right on:
“While it’s true that sustainably raised, grass-fed beef may be better for the consumer, it’s hard to argue that it’s ultimately better for the cow. What these steak apologists seem to be missing is that no matter how ‘lovingly’ the cow was raised, no matter how much grazing or rooting he did in his life, he gave up that life to become their dinner.”