This Omnivore’s Dilemma

hogsI came face to face with a moral question this week on my drive home from work. Not something I usually expect when I’m crawling along in rush hour traffic, but there it was. I should have know what was coming; but it was a pleasant evening so I had my windows down and my ipod playing. (Of course, I can’t see what my ipod is playing without my glasses on, so it was shuffling through everything. Classical, rock, jazz, all of it.)

As the traffic inched forward up I-95, I became aware of a rather nasty odor. Somewhat reminiscent of an outhouse, I thought maybe it was emanating from the construction sight I was passing at the time. But the smell continued way past the site. With more creeping and crawling forward, I was soon side-by-side with the offending aroma. And this is where my heart fell.

It was a tractor trailer full of hogs. Except it wasn’t really “full” in that the hogs seemed pretty comfortable, not packed in there as you might expect. Traffic stopped with the hogs right next to me and I was able to get a good look. The hogs were lying along the side of the trailer catching the breeze, and there was a large enough space between the slats that several of the hogs had poked their snouts through the space and were sniffing the air.

Well, as I slowly drove ahead, I thought about those snouts and how the hogs seemed to be just lying around and enjoying the fresh air.Piggy nostrils flaring as they took it all in.  Some terribly contemplative music that I had downloaded for free somewhere began playing on my ipod. And I thought about the fate of those laid back hogs.

The thing is this: I am so distanced from the process of producing meat, yet I eat meat. I am not saying it is wrong to eat meat, but I wonder about the implications of eating meat when you cannot stand to look in the eyes of that “meat.” I have plenty of friends and family who hunt or who butcher animals for food, and I have to say that I think they are living a more honest life than those of us who only get our meat when it is wrapped in plastic and sitting on a Styrofoam tray. I was a vegetarian for a while many years ago, and I guess I didn’t really fully think about why I was doing it, because I fell back on the meat wagon pretty easily.

Those little piggies have gone to market, and have probably met their fate by now. The fact that I couldn’t look them in the eye makes me feel very dishonest.

image credit: The Herald Bulletin


  1. Liberality, their eyes haunt me.

    Jessica, thanks for the link — that looks like a good post!

    I’ve added a new category to the blogroll on the right, called “Foodies.” I agree that we need to be more mindful about what we eat and the broad implications of it. And if you haven’t read Michael Pollen’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” do so now ….

    Food can be a joyous and wonderful experience. But we need to be aware of what our choices mean ….


  2. i have a friend that won’t eat meat because she thinks cattle are cute. she has no problem eating chicken, they are ugly! go figure!!

    growing up on a farm, we butchered everything we ate. nothing was wasted, and it seemed so natural. free range, good life, treated humanely.

  3. Donald,

    I’ve lived in 3rd world countries (where you know EXACTLY where your food comes from). Cattle may be cute and chickens ugly but I’ve seen chickens feeding in the open sewers, goats eating the garbage and pigs follow me into the bush to *ahem* clean up after me. Cattle ate the cleanest of them all. And if you are what you eat…

  4. Sue, I completely share your mixed emotions about this. I would feel the same way looking at those pigs. I have that same feeling of dishonesty because I know I can’t look any creature in the eye that is going to be used for meat. I abhor hunting but I eat venison if someone gives it to me. I love a good steak, and there is nothing like bacon and eggs for breakfast.

    I think this is a good example of what Jean Paul Sartre referred to as “mauvais fois” – bad faith. When we’re not living according to our true beliefs, our authentic selves,I think that would count as bad faith.

    My boss at work is a vegan and I admire her for her willingness to sacrifice her enjoyment of some kinds of food for her beliefs. (She said she’d kill for a piece of real pizza with cheese on it – being a vegan she doesn’t even eat dairy). Wish I were that strong minded but unfortunately I’m not…

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