They say location is everything.
It dictates your transportation, your clothing, your garbage and recycling systems, your food accessibility, and your perspective.
I am a full on city girl. Although I may not have grown up in Toronto, I did grow up in the rapidly expanding townships that surround one of the largest cities in Canada. I lived in a beautiful neighbourhood with a large backyard, easy accessibility to schools, convenience stores, shopping, libraries, cafes, parks and many grocery stores. It was comfortable, convenient and totally isolated. The most wildlife you’d find in the city was squirrels, raccoons, and a few other animals mostly deemed “pests”.
I believe the first time I saw an actual deer in real life was when I was 15 years old and away at summer camp. It was so exciting I still have the photos…
I’ve had some other interaction with wildlife of course. I do still live in Canada, but it was in passing that left no feeling of preservation, love or stewardship towards them. The turtles, possums, birds, deer, otters, snakes, and foxes were just fun memories and side effects I attributed to living in this part of the world.
Now livestock is a different story. I am a full on city girl. But I’m not blind. I’ve driven past hundreds of farms over the years. Appreciated the beauty of a sunset on a field of cows grazing. Ridden my bike at my cottage up to the farm to visit the donkey that lived in the meadows with a bunch of free range horses. And most importantly of all, visited every summer a market that was merely one hour from our homey cottage setting.
Here was the real deal. Right in front of my eyes and I saw it every year from a young age. To me it was all natural. The cows being lined up and auctioned off. As a child I believed that was just how farmers bought their pets! Hah! Pets! Mine and my sisters’ favourite spot to visit was where they kept the smaller farm animals in a barn beside the cow pens. There were big fat bunnies and chickens and ducks. So many adorable animals for us to croon over and even get to hold and pet. There was guaranteed not a single time that we could enter that building without falling in love with some little chick and begging my mom to buy it for us to keep. If only I’d known a little more about the sad reality, I might have pushed harder, questioned more, and changed earlier.
And there’s the real truth about my story and how I’m turning 24 and only now researching and feeling the effects of the food industry; my very own ignorance. Now I know I’m not the only one. In fact in all my years of growing up, never was vegetarianism common nor was veganism even heard of. But to think back on all those years of complete mindless eating without even having the curiousity of asking “where does this come from?” or “how is this produced?” has me a little worried.
Part of it: location, location, location. Maybe if I had been raised on a farm, raising my own chickens, being taught to slaughter and clean them from a young age, I would believe that was just the natural cycle of the world. I would be hunting and gathering, just like the original settlers did. Maybe if I had been raised at least in the country and everything we bought was from a local meat farmer or butcher I would have at least had the understanding and known the reality of how the system works.
Instead I grew up with the easy convenience of a grocery store and the total disconnect from the whole story it creates.
Enter moving day! The day my mom and sister decided to relocate from the confines of the city and moved to, well a much smaller town, but very much surrounded by country. Since living here I can take two 15 minute drives into the city. One passes a fruit farm, several corn fields and a dairy farm, where I’d always see the cows grazing. One simply passes a horse stable. The last route passes a beef farm.
It was with this close proximity to the actual animals themselves, where my sister and I could get out of the car and pet and admire them, that the intrigue actually started. Now as you know, I had decided to go vegetarian once I had moved home with my sister and mom and moved into their house in the small town. I had never been fully ignorant to the meat industry. I knew it was a messy business and I actually appreciated the local farmers! Yay to non-industrial farming. Yay to supporting local business!
But here’s where it gets tough. When you put yourself in the perspective that these farmers work in a smaller setting, they do not treat the animals as a conveyor belt, they must have some relationship to them, they would never be able to actually hurt them. But that’s the harsh reality. Yes, yes, I know I’m becoming redundant with the use of the word harsh but that’s what it is!
No matter where you’re getting your meat, eggs, dairy, it is still harming an animal. Even though you may eat free range eggs, those chickens that are done laying, are meat. Once that cow has been inseminated for years and unwillingly donated their body to give us milk, cheese, and yogurt, they are meat. When the calves are born, sure a couple of the males are kept, perhaps all the females to be used for milking, but the rest are veal.
I thought vegetarianism was enough, but my proximity to the whole story, the big picture, has me putting my foot and food down. Because I don’t think I can participate. And by eating all those things that are forcefully taken from innocent animals for our pleasure, we are participating.
So I suppose I dedicate this post to location. For the universe placing me here and now to learn and grow.