Okay, a post explaining why it's okay to eat meat.
The argument is simple: Animals shouldn't suffer. Death and suffering are different. Death is not suffering to a sheep.
Everything dies. If you think you're not, you're not done living yet.
Not only does everything die, everything dies and is eaten. Be it a new lamb snatched by a vigilant coyote with new pups of her own, or a ewe dead of toxic mastitis (sorry, Joyce- I know you fought hard for her) and buried for the worms and beetles, or a human in a lead lined coffin in a concrete vault being broken down by what few bacteria survived embalming- everything dies and is eaten.
We have forgotten this fact of life, denied it, distanced ourselves from it because thinking about our own death is scary. Death is a suffering to people. Even thinking about death is a suffering for many people.
Sheep don't think about their own death.
How does the ewe think about the new lamb she lost to the coyote? Differently than than she does the grown lamb she sees get on the trailer and pull away? She has since weaned that lamb, and won't have much to do with now that she has her new lambs to nurse. Especially if it's a male; even if it's a ewe lamb she won't pay much attention to her, preferring the company of other ewes her own age. Apparently teenagers of all species are obnoxious. Putting up with them is the bargain we make in order to pass on our genes.
The bargain I make with the sheep is shelter, food, water, the opportunity for normal social structure, freedom from physical harm, freedom from fear, freedom from illness and pain in return for having some of their offspring taken not by accident or by disease or by malnutrition but by me. Gently.
I'm pretty sure the sheep think it's a good deal. The best deal? As far as a sheep can think of it, I think so. I don't think they can imagine never losing a lamb; lambs are supposed to grow up and, most of them, go away.
Sheep know their place in the food chain; they know they get eaten. We are the ones who have perverted that relationship, either by inflicting suffering on them before they are eaten or by refusing to acknowledge that we are omnivores.
I don't much mind the latter, because it has done so much to remedy the former. Vegetarianism is a healthy response to the systematic cruelty made possible by confinement animal agriculture. We want to pay as little as possible for our food, so we pay little attention to how the animals and people that produce it are treated. We are finding that carries a price, not only environmentally and morally but also medically- turns out animals fed typical corn based rations produce fats that increase our risk of obesity, heart disease and cancer.
We can fix some of what's wrong with us by fixing some of what's wrong with our food. Eat locally produced, grass fed meat and dairy products- especially sheep's milk cheeses and lamb, of course.
Not only will this decrease your risk of obesity, heart disease and cancer, it will also help fix a lot of what's wrong with animal agriculture, the environment and our national foreign policy. But it won't make teenagers less obnoxious.
Coming soon- a dairy update, and a video of a brand new lamb standing up for the first time.