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Stephen Hren

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My Year as a Killatarian

Posted: 03/16/2012 3:14 pm

Have you ever killed your dinner? I did a few times in the last year, but I don't think I'm going to bother anymore. Last March I started dating a vegan. Not the in-your-face PETA variety, more the kind with the quiet integrity, who tries not to be a bother by sticking to her convictions. I'd been a vegetarian... once. That was many years back, but the sentiment that led to that path was still there, albeit buried under a pound or two of bacon.

Why was I eating meat? I'd rationalized it this way and that, saying I was buying local, fairly treated animals... which I did, sometimes. But then it was too hard to turn down when the meat wasn't so local or well-treated, and eventually I came to with a hot dog in my mouth. At one point I had raised my own meat, chickens and turkeys, and slaughtered them. This was when I lived out in the country, but the driving drove me bonkers, so I moved into downtown Durham, NC, where I wouldn't be so reliant on a car. Why not have turkeys there? So I bought some from Cackle Hatchery, a few Royal Palms, some Bourbon Reds, and a Narragansett. I wasn't ready to become a vegetarian again, because I thought I loved meat too much. But I would become a "killatarian," someone who only ate the meat that they or a friend killed. I made up the word, but then when I googled it, other people had made up the word too. And I liked that. That meant it was a thing. I was part of the hive mind, trying out a new way of living, like other adventurers along the intergalactic superhighway that we call existence.

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And I did it. I asked my neighbors permission to slaughter a 20-pound animal next to their driveway, and they granted it. The gobblers gobbled. Some neighbors thought it was hilarious, other not so much. But I was trying to prove or point... or rather ask a question. Would you be able to raise an animal, then slaughter it and eat it? More to the point, would you enjoy it? And even more to the point, would you enjoy it enough to continue to do it?

Because I didn't. Killing an animal is a brutal business. Eating too much meat makes you sick and gives you heart disease -- they just told me on NPR. And the quality of fake meat is on the rise; in many cases fake meat is indistinguishable from real chicken or meat in prepared food. And of course it's much healthier for you and the planet. My girlfriend and I eat it all the time, and it's really good. Not to mention the poor birds. An op-ed piece in the New York Times on Sunday made the analogy between how fast industrial meat chickens grow and what we would look like if we grew that fast. Our little babies would weigh about 349 pounds by their second birthday! We pump those poor birds so full of growth-promoting antibiotics, they're growing so fast that they're in chronic pain, all the while stuffed in overcrowded barns and killed after five or six weeks. And they're indistinguishable in taste and texture from fake meat. Of course, that's just true for chicken, you say. What about beef and pork? What about 'em, I say. You have the cojones to raise and kill a cow or pig? I don't.