Bob and I are hopelessly about ten years behind everyone else when it comes to watching movies, so we only just recently saw The Cider House Rules. In fairness, this one took a while, because he read and I re-read it for a book discussion group we were both in circa 1998. Putting a distance of nearly ten years between reading a book and seeing the movie can turn a horrible movie that didn’t come close to doing justice to the book into a terrific movie.
Neither Bob nor I has ever had any strong yearning to be a parent, but this movie reminded me why I’m so glad we don’t live anywhere near a Chinese or Romanian orphanage. I can just picture Bob volunteering to share vegetables from our garden and dragging me along to deliver them. We’d enter as a pair and exit as an instant family of fourteen. The children in the movie so hopefully trying to make themselves as presentable as possible every time a fancy car drives up the drive broke our hearts.
These soft hearts of ours are not limited to unwanted children. Rudolph's (of red-nosed fame) Island of Misfit Toys breaks our hearts, too. We’ve discovered that as children, we were both traumatized by such books as The Yearling. When we finally decided to adopt a dog, we had to turn to the classifieds. A trip to an animal shelter would have required the purchase of a farm.
So, you may very well wonder why we aren’t vegetarians. After all, when we saw Babe, we gave up eating bacon and ham for months. And I can promise you, one movie we won’t be seeing is Fast Food Nation.
Truth be told, we have no, good, rational reason for being omnivores, except that, on occasion, we really like a good hamburger; we’re no good at drawing lines; and we find it too difficult. I know, to some, saying I like a good hamburger is like saying I love a good baby’s foot, but I know myself well enough to admit if I’d been born and raised in a cannibalistic society, I’m sure I’d enjoy a good baby’s foot just as much as the other guy.
I also know saying it’s too difficult to be a vegetarian is a pathetic excuse, especially for someone who loves to experiment in the kitchen, and who’s been known to spend whole days making such things as pesto ravioli. I mean, suppose someone stood up in a courtroom and said, “I’m sorry, Your Honor, but it was just too difficult not to kill my neighbor who liked to get up on Saturday mornings at 6:30 and rake and blow his leaves.”
I wish I could plead ignorance when it comes to the subject of vegetarianism, but I can’t. I edited an entire encyclopedia of animal rights and animal welfare. A different sort of person would have sworn off meat the minute she turned over the last page of the manuscript and laid down her colored pencil. I’ve often been described as being “different.” Must be in one of those callous sort of ways.
One of my lame arguments for eating meat is that animal species of all kinds have to kill in order to survive. And if some have to die in order for others to live, I’m not sure we should only be concerned with dying animals. What about the carrots that get yanked up out of their nice, cozy, dirt homes to be set on dinner plates long before they would have decayed naturally? Why should trees have to suffer the indecency of having apples and pears plucked from their branches? If we think it’s so horrible to raise chickens for the sole purpose of killing and eating them, why don’t we extend that sympathy to potatoes?
I have friends who would say, “Because vegetables can’t feel pain.” These are the same friends who will claim it’s “speciesist” to assume turtles don’t love their children just as much as humans do merely because turtles just lay a bunch of eggs and then desert them to fend for themselves. Well, it seems pretty “speciesist” to me to assume plants don’t feel pain just because they don’t have a nervous system. Tomato plants don’t have mouths for drinking water, but they still need water to live. But, then again, let me remind you that this argument is coming from a woman who was as appalled by the carnage of Christmas trees on a truck she passed headed South over the Thanksgiving holiday as she was by the truck full of baby cows.
Here’s another difficulty with my trying to become a vegetarian: I can’t do anything halfway. Therefore, I’d have to become a vegan. You realize, in this day and age, the only way truly to be a vegan is to move to a hut in the middle of the Amazon somewhere, living solely off the land, hoping you occasionally come across some sort of animal that’s died of natural causes to provide you with some clothing. Being a vegan in America would require massive amounts of research with every purchase, since every single company is quickly being gobbled up by one megalithic corporation that owns everything.
A true vegan can’t just walk into a store (even an independently-owned-and-run store, if she can find such a thing) and buy a pen. Sure, the pen may have been manufactured by the innocent-sounding Wet Ink, Co. However, Wet Ink is owned by Only Publisher Inc., which was just bought by Last Tractors Left Manufacturers, whose parent company is We Torture, Maim, and Kill Cows Brothers.
So, yes I eat meat. And, yes, I’m ashamed of the fact. However, as Bob recently noted, “Look, if we gave up red meat, you and I would be confronted with some new movie called Cluck: The Story of the Sad, Unwanted Chicken. Then we’d give up chicken and along would come Stalk: The Celery that Longed for Friends." Really, the most difficult thing for us is just to survive while feeling sorry for everything we eat. I'm amazed we manage to eat anything at all.
Meanwhile, I will note that we buy organic and humanely, sustainably-raised food. I draw the line at knowingly buying factory-farmed dead animals. Also, I have a burning question for the vegetarians: what about all those poor rabbits, moles, field mice, insects, etc. whose homes are destroyed and who die hideous deaths at the helm of farm equipment, just so humans can plant rows and rows of vegetables whose sole purpose for living is to provide us with food?