Last week, we received a call from the emergency dispatch center in Danville about a turkey that had fallen from a truck while being transported a slaughterhouse. You probably are familiar with those trucks; even people who eat meat usually do not like to look at the chickens, turkeys, or pigs that are crammed into small cages. For us vegetarians, it is an awful experience to follow one of those trucks, knowing what an awful life those animals have lived and what an awful death they are about to suffer.
This time, the turkey had survived the fall from the truck. There was a significant amount of blood on the side of the highway, and the turkey was in obvious distress. Usually, the animals that come from large factory farms are so overweight, their legs cannot support their weight. That was the case with this turkey. April Hogan (the shelter manager) and I knew that we had to at least try to help the turkey, so with the help of the kindhearted police officer (she’s a fellow vegetarian), we picked up the turkey to take him to a veterinary clinic. We hoped that his wounds, while severe, were treatable and we would be able to eventually place him in a sanctuary.
Sad news awaited us. The veterinarian has a friend who used to work for a turkey producer, so we were told that the turkey was probably only about 20 weeks old and already weighed 40 pounds. His liver would not be able to function for very much longer because of his weight, and his wounds from the accident were worse than we thought. At this writing, he is being treated and, at last report, was eating and drinking. If it is determined that euthanasia is the kind option, at least he will not have to suffer the same death that all the other turkeys in the truck would suffer.
Because we Americans are used to having other people do the dirty work that allows us to buy a wide variety of foods from a grocery store, we have a tendency to forget that the meat comes at a cost to the animals.
I became a vegetarian when I was in my late teens, over thirty years ago, but I had wanted to become one when I was eleven years old. At that time, we were living in Baumholder, Germany, where my soldier father was stationed. One night, Mother fixed veal for supper. I looked at it and asked where veal came from. Mother told me baby cows, which greatly upset me. Then, when I was about to put my first bite in my mouth, my mother said, “Mama, mama” in a sweet little calf-type voice. I refused to eat the veal, and have never had a mouthful of it. That supper started me really thinking about where our meals came from, and my parents told me that when I was a little older, I could make the decision to stop eating meat if I still wanted to. They probably thought I would never think about it again.
I had my last piece of ham on August 24, 1972, and my last piece of steak on December 23, 1973. I was the typical person who gives up red meat first, when the poultry industry is actually a lot crueler than the beef industry.
I claim the distinction, whether it’s true or not, of being the first person in this area to go to Burger King and order a Whopper with no meat. I think that because of the reaction of the Burger King staff after I placed the order.
In November of 1980, I was working at Brigham Young University and went to the credit union to withdraw money to buy a plane ticket home for Christmas. The credit union had a nice Thanksgiving display, complete with a live turkey. I stood in line by that turkey for 20 minutes, didn’t eat turkey the next day for Thanksgiving, and have not had a mouthful of poultry since. Guess what happened when I bought an aquarium filled with goldfish? That’s right, I gave up fish.
Vegetarian choices are so much easier now. Most grocery stores carry soy milk, and meat substitutes.
There are many types of vegetarians. Some eat dairy products and eggs, some do not, and some do not eat gelatin. (I researched how gelatin is made, so I gave up Jell-O, marshmallows, etc.)
I share all this with you because people, from time to time, ask why I am a vegetarian. Is it for health reasons, ethical reasons, or what? Here’s my answer:
I believe that Heavenly Father created animals for our use and enjoyment, giving us dominion over them. Dominion actually means stewardship, rather than giving us complete freedom to overuse, misuses, or abuse. Before I knew about the cruel factory farm methods of today, I knew that, deep down inside, I could never eat an animal without thinking about them as individual critters. I do not judge anyone for eating meat, and I do not proselyte people to become vegetarians. I choose to enjoy animals in other ways other than chewing them. As I say sometimes, “I serve animals, just not on plates.”
(Critter Corner is co-sponsored by the Register & Bee and Danville Area Humane Society. Questions or comments should be mailed to Critter Corner, P.O. Box 3352, Danville, VA 24543.)