I like meat. I like the taste of it, I like the texture, I like the energy it gives me.
I also know very well where it comes from. This bothers me, as it bothers most people who think of animals as something more than just pretty fuzzy things to look at. I'm aware that the majority of the meat I eat, possibly every single mouthful of it, has been raised in conditions that no human would consent themselves to living in, conditions that are appalling.
For a long time, I've struggled with how to handle this. Liking meat the way I do, I don't entirely want to give it up and become a vegetarian. I envy the people who have the strength to do this, but it's strength I lack, and I'm not 100% sure I could stick to my guns about it anyway, given how I like it. But I've been doing a lot of thinking about it lately, and I've come to a decision that appeases my conscience a little and still allows me to eat meat.
First of all, I, like many other people, have a spiritual side, and believe that animals have souls. Thus when I eat meat, an animal has given its life so that I might gain strength from it. This is something to be thankful for, appreciateive of, and I'm making the vow to show that appreciation by saying a prayer of thanks whenever I eat meat. The animal may never have known sunshine or fresh air, but it was no less a living breathing creature for it, and I'm grateful for what it has given me, albeit unwillingly given.
Second, I am changing the circumstances under which I will allow myself to eat meat. From now on, when I have meat in my diet it will be meat that I worked for. Which means that I spent time preparing it, cooking it, doing actual labour.
In this way I feel like I've done something to earn my meal. I didn't just go to a fast food joint and order a burger. That's meaningless meat. Yes, I worked to earn the money to buy the burger, but what did I do to deserve the life that was given up so that I can have a meal? If I take the time to personally prepare the meat, then I'll have actually done something to remind myself, "Hey, this was one alive, and I should be thankful for it and treat it with care in its preparation."
This will also mean I'll likely end up being more choosy about the meat that I do eat, and will buy meat that will be healthier for me. I'll be thinking about it more, after all.
The grocery store I shop at is slowly getting more organic meat in stock, and I expect I'll end up taking advantage of that. It won't be a perfect solution, but it will be a few steps closer.
Thinking this way, I'll also be less likely to allow myself to waste anything. Why throw away the skin and bones just because I'm not going to ingest them? They can still be used to make stock. The animal's sacrifice can go a little further and provide food for me even longer.
So no more fast food burgers. No more luncheon meat sandwiches. No more sticks of jerky as a snack from the corner store. No more meaningless meat. This isn't going to be easy to live by, but I'll be better for it in the end.
And, I like to think, so will the essence of the animals.