Dan Murphy: Saving — or Eating — Pigs

It's all about choice: you can choose not to eat meat on one hand, or you can choose to butcher your own pigs, on the other hand. Here are two examples. ( Farm Journal )

I don’t think anyone would be shocked if they were informed that we live in a society that’s increasingly polarized — sometimes, it feels almost like two separate worlds of thought and behavior.

Not convinced? A pair of news stories appearing at the same time on the same day make that case with laser-like accuracy: opinions, values and priorities among the general public are becoming wildly divergent.

The first story is from our vegan friends posting on the UK-based LiveKindly website in an article titled, “Interactive ‘Meat Calculator’ helps you work out how many chickens, pigs, and cows you could save by going veggie.”

Of course, the article helpfully points out all the other (allegedly) wonderful benefits of going veggie: Based on per-capita consumption data, the story noted that, “The average meat eater consumes 2.68 million gallons of water, produces around 17.94 million pounds of CO2, and digest[s] 11 ounces of antibiotics.”

I find those statistics to be wildly inflated, but the more important point the LiveKindly folks want to make isn’t the so-called eco-savings of going vegan, but how many animals would be saved if the whole world went veggie.

(Let me take a short detour here to note that “saving” animals would be a moot point if everyone were subsisting on soybeans and salad — because no livestock would be alive in the first place. The world goes veggie, not a single animal gets “saved,” but a whole lot of them don’t get born.)

Are you ready for the shocking results of how dramatically a vegan could impact the bovine and porcine members of animal kingdom? Keep in mind that these numbers are based on the typical meat-eater giving up all meat and poultry — 100% vegan — for the next 10 years.

The total number of animals saved in that scenario: Two pigs and half a cow.

Granted, the Meat Calculator estimates that 272 chickens would have been consumed during that same decade, which amounts to only 2.2 chickens a month “saved” during that time period.

And of course, like all vegetarian datasets, the Meat Calculator makes zero effort to accommodate the impact of ramping up plant-based food production to replace the multi-trillions of calories currently consumed in the form of meat, poultry and dairy products.

But if you want to save a couple pigs and half a cow between now and 2028, start stocking up on tofu and bean sprouts.

The Family that Slaughters Together …
Our second story totally shifts gears — and location — since this report comes from ABC News in Australia.

In contrast to the heart-warming opportunity to save a farm animal (actually 2½, if you stick with a purely veggie diet for an entire decade), this article promotes home-based slaughtering.

Titled, “Kill your own pig and reap the tasty reward,” the story noted the public’s “growing appetite for high-quality, free-range meat,” and what better way to satisfy that appetite than by raising and then butchering your very own pig.

And it won’t take half a decade to rack up that stat.

An Aussie chef named Peter Ford is one of the leaders of the DIY home slaughter movement Down Under, and he told ABC News that “raising and slaughtering their own meat … changes [people’s] perceptions of what constitutes high-quality meat.”

Yes, I do believe that raising, slaughtering and butchering your very own farm animal would definitely alter one’s perceptions. Dramatically.

Of course, Ford’s radical idea was commonplace on millions of farms at the turn of the 20th century. Nobody thought twice about the appropriateness of home butchering. It was simply part of the business of providing for a farm family’s well-being.

Now, it’s an eye-opening revelation even to discuss slaughtering one’s own livestock, an idea shocking to so many people that Ford and friends have to position the concept in terms of “ethical meat,” an alternative to the (alleged) downside of factory farming.

That, and the notion that pork from one’s personal pig is going to be far tastier than the chops and loins available in the supermarket, seeing as how he recommended feeding a personal pig a diet of fruit, vegetables and grains.

Not sure if the typical foodie would be swayed by the prospect of tastier pork to engage in raising and slaughtering their own animals, but there’s no doubt that a growing number of people are returning to the self-sufficiency of producing their own meat.

If enough of them pursue that path, I reckon they could cancel out the farm animal “savings” that veggies are convincing themselves they can effect with their shamburgers and tofurkey.

Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.