September 5, 2009
This is the view of Friday Harbor from the top deck of a favorite outdoor restaurant. Clue: they serve a lot of crab, shellfish, and other incredibly fresh critters that used to swim freely in the sea until extremely recently. As summer starts to wind down and the last gasp of friendly tourists comes to visit us friendly natives, I realize that pretty soon it’ll be a little brisk to sit here in my T-shirt and shades, sucking down a San Juan Island Ice Tea (aka, Wrong Island Ice Tea) and munching on sea protein. I haven’t eaten meat or birds for almost twenty, count ’em, twenty years. My motto is that if it can look me in the eye and walk away on all fours, it’s safe.
Fish can’t walk. Yet.
I admit to being a full-fledged pescaterian: I enjoy fish. A lot of it. I live in the right place, that’s for sure. We get our fish, quite literally, off the dock. My body and feeble little brain just need that kind of protein. And I hear that high doses of mercury are just great for beating wrinkles.
I can go on and on about my views on vegetarianism, and I won’t bore you with them all here. Ok, maybe a few of them. Suffice it to say that like many of you reading this, I’m highly opposed to obscene-scale factory farming, to the drugs and awful things that are given to cows and chickens to eat to grow conveniently fat, to the manner in which these creatures are treated, and to the damage done to the land and the earth in the pursuit of the trillionth quarter-pounder. I have, however, no objection to raising and killing the food for a family or small community to consume. Humans are carnivores. We have these teeth for a reason. It’s not a sin to eat meat. It’s a sin to abuse the land and the animals the way we’ve come to.
Mega-scale commercial fishing is no better, believe me, I am well aware. This is my sin, supporting that industry through some (not all) of my fish purchases. This is my hypocrisy. But some action is better than no action, and even for those who choose to eat meat, the important thing is sharing information that could bring about change. We must divulge the truths that have become the ugliness of a once-acceptable business. Whether you or I purchase an eerily shrink-wrapped chunk of hormone-laden, unidentifiable flesh in our local grocery store on a Thursday afternoon is not going to do much to turn the tide of the farming industry. I’ve noticed that it seems to be doing just fine without my contributions. But what is significant is educating people about where that animal product came from and how it came to be. I did interviews last year for both the Vegetarian Times and the VegNews, and in both I made it clear to the writers that I eat like a native Pacific Northwesterner/Native American, but that the message of awareness and responsibility is what I want to spread.
Uh, along with the crab dip ;-).