Typical Love Story With Twist: Vegetarian Meets Bacon
July 13, 2016 8:31 AM   Subscribe

I am fully aware that this is an obnoxious First-World problem, and yet... I've been an ethical vegetarian for over 30 years. I've felt that I want no part in farming or killing animals and I never wanted to eat them. Anyway, yesterday I accidentally ate bacon. I now love bacon and want to eat more bacon. My question SPECIFICALLY for people who didn't eat meat for ethical reasons but then started is how did you make it okay in your heart?

I am being completely serious so please, no "just eat it" answers. Can I mentally thank the pig for its deliciousness and for its life*? Can I buy more humanely raised and slaughtered pig?

How does a former vegetarian get okay with eating meat?

(I am now also open for suggestions as to the best bacon and how to cook it because BACON.) However, I've got Celiac for any ideas that are gluten free would help.

*For the record, I feel that people should eat whatever they want and that's totally cool and also, if a host offered me meat I would absolutely eat it. I am not a pesky vegetarian. Or a pesce-vegetarian.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes to Grab Bag (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You can definitely buy more ethically sourced and humanely raised bacon, which is what I did when I gradually cut meat out.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 8:38 AM on July 13, 2016 [11 favorites]

I buy my meat from the guy who raises it (it's kinda fun to get a duck with the commentary "this one was an asshole, hope he's delicious.") When we first talked to him, we discussed the slaughterhouses he uses at length (he uses two, because one is better with the cows, and one handles the smaller stuff better.) This is a solution that is available to me because of where I live, and also because we can afford to pay a pretty hefty premium for it, but I do feel that if I'm going to eat meat, I want it to be the healthiest and most humane meat available.

I feel as good about this as I can, and I know that for me, personally, an omnivorous diet feels better and healthier than a vegetarian one. Am I totally at peace with this? No. Do I have to live in the world as it exists? Yeah.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:38 AM on July 13, 2016 [33 favorites]

If your main objections lie around the conditions of factory farming, perhaps you can research providers of humanely raised and slaughtered pork in your area? By spending your bacon money with such providers, you both acquire ethical bacon and support their business, thereby helping to increase the amount of ethical bacon in the world.

("Ethical Bacon" is the name of my new band.)
posted by oblique red at 8:40 AM on July 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

Can I mentally thank the pig for its deliciousness and for its life

The pig does not care.

Can I buy more humanely raised and slaughtered pig?

Sure. You do not need our permission. You don't feel bad because other people disapprove. You feel bad because you disapprove. So try buying "ethical" meat and see how you feel.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:40 AM on July 13, 2016 [21 favorites]

I buy only ethically raised and humanely slaughtered meat, and not that much at that. I'm really lucky that there's a decent market for it where I live so it's not terribly expensive, but it does cost quite a bit more than supermarket stuff. We just don't consume much so I can make it part of our budget.

My favorite mass-cooking of baking involves the oven and a large sheet pan (with a drip screen over it). I think I put the oven at 350F? And just watch the bacon so it doesn't burn.

For smaller quantities, stove-top is the way I go.

posted by cooker girl at 8:41 AM on July 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I am an ethical vegetarian who has tried very hard to start eating meat again. Ultimately I was not successful, but I'll share with you a few things that I did.

I found a farm that was owned and run by people who have respect for the animals and treat them responsibly. I went out to the farm several times and visited with both the animals and the people. I felt good about how the animals were being handled- from birth to slaughter. (The name is Pasture Prime Wagyu in Florida)

I went for multiple sessions of hypnotherapy to try to convince myself that it was ok to eat meat. Didn't work for me, but might work for you.

I tried to have others prep the meat that I bought from the farm.

I wish you luck! Enjoy the hell outta some bacon!!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:41 AM on July 13, 2016

I am also a former vegetarian who genuinely cares for animal welfare and supports animal rights. I felt -- and sometimes still feel -- hypocritical but, as someone once pointed out to me, that's not necessarily an oxymoron. Most people on this planet care about animals and even the biggest carnivore would not to see the animals suffer while being slaughtered (or raised or transported, etc.) Unfortunately, as you know, the factory farming model in the US makes it harder to choose responsibly but it is possible to find more local, organic, and animal-friendly options. They tend to cost more (with good reason) but I'd generally prefer to eat less meat less often as a compromise.

Where are you located? I'd look up neighborhood butchers, and meet with them. (Please pardon the pun!) The nearest farmers market would be a good start. You can ask where they purchase their meat, see if you can visit the farms, and the like. There are animal rights activists who would argue that it is impossible to consume any meat or animal products without harming the animals. I absolutely see where they are coming from and would agree overall. However, I also believe there are kinder options, and that's how I balance my interest in consuming meat with my desire to reduce suffering.
posted by smorgasbord at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

How does a former vegetarian get okay with eating meat?

By buying locally sourced, non-factory farmed meat, and making it yourself. Yes, it is expensive, and (kind of) labor intensive. This is how we show respect for things, by spending time and effort towards them.

Also, by expanding one's horizon's beyond just bacon; if someone is raising pig for just the bacon, most of that animal is wasted. There's tons of ways to cure almost everything from a pig, and it all ends up tasting really goddamn good.

Pork bones make the best stock evar. Smoked ham hocks rule the earth. Guanciale is like bacon on steroids. Beans on their own are beans, beans cooked with any pork product are GOD.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:43 AM on July 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have been all levels of vegan, vegetarian, and pescetarian before and am now omnivorous. I went back to eating meat because I really hated having my diet be A Thing to explain to others, because it's a pain in the ass to control your diet to that level outside of your own home, and because I felt that my rule against animal products had become more important than my actual health.

The real answer as to how I became okay with it is that I just stopped thinking about it. In an ideal world I would definitely be vegan. But there are just more important things for my brain to deal with right now. The more meat you eat, the less you will think about this issue.

I also buy the most expensive eggs and meat (natural, organic, blah blah blah) because it makes me feel like those animals are probably treated better. My vegan friend gives me the side-eye for this reasoning. But it does make me feel marginally better, so whatever.
posted by something something at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

This Mother Jones article talking about which is greener, locally sourced meat or highly processed veggie burgers (written by an ethical vegetarian) may be of interest to you.
posted by Tamanna at 8:54 AM on July 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm an ethical vegan struggling with anemia and some other diet issues who is very interested in the answers here.

I will say that if you go the "humane meat" route it's important to go full-Portlandia and visit the actual farm because of stuff like this.
posted by whistle pig at 8:54 AM on July 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

I was veg for a decade or so (for ethical reason). I was advised to start eating meat for health reasons. I think its possible to return to eating meat in an ethical and responsible way. you don't have to eat meat often, it can be a special treat. if you can afford it and/or have access to meat that is locally sourced from a small farm that is something to explore.

a great thing about bacon and related items is that a small amount imparts a huge flavor.

I think it can also be helpful to meditate on the fact that in nature, there is nothing morally wrong with animals eating other animals. its survival, its natural. sharks are not evil, nor are tigers. its the scale and methods of factory farming that is horrifying and it is possible to avoid contributing to that.
posted by supermedusa at 8:55 AM on July 13, 2016 [20 favorites]

We aren't vegetarians at all, but we definitely try to buy as much as we can from local, ethical farmers. We live in a place that has lots of them, but my sense is that this is a growing model, so you might seek those sorts of providers out.

This is something lots of "foodie" types do for reasons entirely external to ethical meat harvest, because there's a GIANT quality and flavor gap between small farm products and mass-market ones. Once you've had "craft" bacon, it's super hard to go back to the supermarket stuff, for flavor reasons ALONE.

(This also plays into my general sense that one's experience dealing with a business typically varies inversely with the size of said business, in food as in anything else.)
posted by uberchet at 9:14 AM on July 13, 2016

i was an ethical vegetarian for a decade (and off and on for 5 years before that decade). i started eating meat again because, out of nowhere after it never being an issue, i just started really craving meat. i tried to do the things i always did when a tiny craving came up - eat more protein, make a grease bomb, marinate tofu in liquid smoke, try new meat replacements, make sure my meals were filling and not just nutritionally adequate - and it didn't work. i started getting listless, depressed around the same time. i felt weak. i got my blood levels checked - i was low on iron, but otherwise fine. i took iron pills. i upped my intake of things like broccoli and kale. and still - the craving wouldn't go away and my depression was getting worse. so - i did what you're doing here, i reached out to other former ethical vegetarians and we talked openly about their thought process and how they did it. i found that my story is really common - vegetarians (or vegans) who never struggled with avoiding meat suddenly reaching a breaking point and simultaneously trying to get through nagging depression.

and so after a year or so of struggling with the question, i started eating meat - like others i keep an eye towards better brands, consuming as ethically as possible when possible - and the world didn't end. i still get really squeamish when it's time to mess with things like bones and skin, but my homesteading country upbringing takes over and i just get through it. i also started realizing how little a lot of vegetarians seem to care about the conditions of workers who pick our vegetables or work in morningstar/boca/etc factories, about how focusing so completely on how the animals are treated, we'd often skim over how the humans are treated to provide our food. i feel like not eating meat for so long helped me see food in another way and going back to eating meat has been just as eye opening.

i hope you find peace in whatever you decide.
posted by nadawi at 9:42 AM on July 13, 2016 [23 favorites]

To get my bona fides out of the way: I've spent the last 22 years varying from strict vegetarianism to light pescetarianism. I only eat fish on very rare occasions. I am usually what you referred to as a "pesky vegetarian" because I am physically nauseated by meat, and I always have been. And unlike what nadawi implies, I do care quite deeply about agricultural worker slavery. (Honestly, I don't know any vegetarians who care less about exploited laborers than they do about animal suffering.)

If you want the opinion of someone who is extremely happy being 99.9% vegetarian, I say that there is nothing unethical about eating pig. The ethical issues are related to how the pig is treated and how well the farm is managed (re: the environment and not creating giant lagoons of pig shit that wreck everything). If you've got those issues covered, I feel like you've done your due diligence.

Obviously pig farming is hardly the only environmental issue raised by food production, and you can't possibly avoid all (or even most) environmentally destructive food. I'm just trying to give you a possible way you can feel okay about eating bacon if you really want to. Pick the least destructive, most humane bacon possible and let your conscience chill out.

I also think it's perfectly fine to mentally thank the pig who provided your bacon. It's not about how the pig feels, it's about reminding yourself that you're grateful, and that you are a thoughtful person.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:50 AM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was an ethical vegetarian for ten years. I got dragged back into omnivorous eating by steak, rather than bacon, but I really do love bacon, too... I soothed my guilt through the transition by focusing as much as possible cooking locally-sourced, humanely-raised products, and also with a bunch of research. Articles, documentaries. The same sort of thing that got me into vegetarianism in the first place got me out of it. I can't find the article that pushed me over the edge, but it focused on the problems of preferencing the lives and rights of essentially imaginary animals over the lives and rights of the folks cooking your meal in the back of a restaurant, or loading and driving the trucks that stock your supermarket, and so on.

I am fortunate to live near several excellent farmer's markets and farms with meatshares. I am also fortunate to have a budget that can (sometimes) support those kinds of purchases. As others have already observed in this thread, it's really expensive to eat with a conscience. I try not to eat a ton of meat. When I do, I try to buy ethically. When I can't buy ethically, I try to balance that out by supporting my local economy in another way. If I'm eating at a mom and pop joint that definitely doesn't buy organic, that's acceptable to me because I am supporting a local business.

My city is a food desert. You cannot purchase fresh veggies or meat anywhere in the city center unless you are willing to walk/bus/drive >4 miles to the local supermarket, or unless you are willing to wait until the weekly farmer's market held downtown. Gentrification is pushing out the cheap corner stores and bodegas. People living on my block do not have easy access to affordable, fresh food. This is more upsetting to me than the inhumane treatment of animals (which is also still upsetting).

It just seems to me that I can have a greater impact on the way people consume meat and think about food by buying locally and supporting local food-based initiatives than by supporting (increasingly corporatized) vegetarianism, you know?
posted by zeee at 9:51 AM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is more an ethics problem than a vegetarian problem.

What ethical precepts led you to be an ethical vegetarian? For me, veg my whole life, I think that killing animals causes unnecessary suffering, and I don't want to be a part of that if I don't have to. As I don't need to eat meat, there's no real way that I could eat meat under that ethical precept.

But all sorts of people start with ethical precepts like that and then find something that they really want to do anyway, and come up with justifications and rationalizations. It's something humans are really good at — "Thou shalt not kill… except now, which doesn't count for [reasons]," etc.

So, if your ethics were based on, for example, utilitarianism, you might think about ways to offset what damage and suffering you're causing by eating bacon. Utilitarianism can help by being somewhat fungible — eating bacon, but donating meals to the homeless, whatever. And the vaguer the ethics of your vegetarianism — things like "environmentalism" are super vague, things like Jainism are pretty specific — the easier it is to find ways that your desire to eat bacon trumps them.

But there's also the possibility that to comport with your ethical framework, there's no way to square your desire to eat bacon with the reasons why you don't. An analogy would be the proscription against theft — even if you really want the bacon, you probably wouldn't feel it was ethical to steal it. There may simply be no way to indulge what you've described as a hedonistic justification with your underlying reasons without being a hypocrite, and the thing about ethics is that they often prevent us from doing what we might enjoy in a situation as the price of being ethical.

At that point, you either have to admit that the principle wasn't that important to you and you over-estimated your commitment because it wasn't really tested, find a justification for why it still does comport with whatever deeper framework you developed, or just not eat the bacon. Hypocrisy, rationalization or abstention, sorry.
posted by klangklangston at 10:05 AM on July 13, 2016 [23 favorites]

My partner was an ethical vegetarian for many years. If I recall correctly (this shift took place before we met so I wasn't there for it personally), he eventually went back to eating fish and chicken because he experimented with doing so after having some health issues and determined that he felt much better and healthier with some meat in his diet. My sense is he made it much like anyone makes any ethical trade-off - looked at the alternatives, thought about pros and cons and what he wanted most, and ultimately just kind of said "okay, yeah, this is arguably not the best ethical choice but this is what I'm gonna do."

Several years after that he went back to eating red meat and that was pretty strictly a "holy shit beef is amazing" decision - a host offered it to him, he ate it out of politeness, his eyes went really wide and he basically spent the next month living on cheeseburgers. So that was, well, less of an ethical decision. Maybe closer to what you're having with bacon right now.

Really, though, it's not like you have to make a change and stick with it forever. Why not look at your humanely-raised bacon options, buy a package, see how you feel cooking and eating it, and then decide if it's something you want to keep doing? And then do it again, or don't, or do it as a special treat for your birthday, or whatever, but don't beat yourself up too much either way. It's not a bad thing to stop and re-visit decisions Past You made, every once in a while, to see if they still hold up to your current circumstances and philosophies.
posted by Stacey at 10:08 AM on July 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I adhere to many of the ideas above regarding sourcing from farms that treat both animals and workers well and taking a moment to feel gratitude. But I also find it helpful to think about my teeth; evolution provided teeth designed for tearing meat as well as grinding grains and consuming plants and plant products in general. My body is built to eat meat; my brain allows me to do it ethically. Bon appetit!
posted by carmicha at 10:12 AM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was an ethical vegan for almost 20 years. Then I became homeless and was unable to buy food. I rely on soup kitchens for my meals and eat whatever they put in front of me. In other words I meat in order to survive. That assuages my guilt. I would not recommend this approach to anyone else.

But you did ask how we ethical vegetarians came to terms with eating meat. So, yeah.
posted by bfootdav at 10:19 AM on July 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was an ethical vegetarian for ~9 years. I can't help with that part -- I just started eating meat.

But I will say that I've tried to cook bacon on the stovetop for YEARS and failed (and I'm a good cook!). In the oven is definitely the way to go. Perfect bacon every time.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:29 AM on July 13, 2016

I was a wannabe ethical vegetarian who never quite made it. I eat less meat than I did growing up and my meat-and-potatoes relatives have, at times, accused me of being a vegetarian because not every meal contains meat.

For me, the following things got me over feeling like this is an ethical issue:

1) I did a lot of therapy related to the sexual abuse I endured. I eventually concluded that, for me personally, my hang ups about my diet were partly rooted in the sexual abuse, which made me have really big feels about everything having to do with my body being some huge moral dilemma.

2) I pursued an environmental studies degree. As a student, I learned that plants "scream" by giving off a pulse when harmed, it is just not in a manner that human senses can pick up. They can also communicate with other plants chemically when assaulted by insects so the other plants can protect themselves. So, I came to a point where I felt that being oblivious to the suffering of plants did not make me morally superior. It just made me species-ist, for lack of a better term.

3) I concluded that humans are designed to be omnivores. We are generally healthier when we limit meat, but we typically do better if we eat some meat. So, being judgey about it is like saying carnivores are immoral for eating meat. This ties back to having been an environmental studies major: a system with no higher order predators is a system out of balance. Look up how deer are a genuine problem in some parts of the US. Also, some environmental organization called Denali had a phrase "Think like a mountain." It was related to the observation that deer without predators strip the mountain bare, destroying the ecosystem.

4) I concluded that the human practice of saying grace at meal times was rooted in the reality that in order for me to live, something else must die, several times a day. It is an expression of "I live because you died and I am trying to be at peace with this." It seems peculiarly human. Other species do not appear to have such qualms. So our ability to frame this as a moral issue seems to be related to higher order thinking or more awareness or something.

5) I concluded that eating right so I am healthy is less of a burden on global resources than requiring expensive medication. For me, eating right includes some meat, even if it is less than what I grew up eating.

6) I concluded there are some really good reasons in practical terms for limiting meat consumption, such as the fact that most wars are really rooted in scarcity of resources and meat is fairly resource intensive. Also, poisons in the environment concentrate in fat stores, so the further up the food chain you go, the more exposure you have to the bad things we have done to our environment. So, I think there are some really compelling reasons why so many people frame eating meat as an ethical question. But the author of "Diet for a Small Planet" initially posited that we should all be vegetarian for ethical reasons, then later moderated her position and concluded that simply eating less meat was sufficient. It wasn't imperative that we all go vegetarian in order to address the political issues that inspired her research and her writing of the book.

7) The Bible says we are all sinners. In D&D circles, someone trying to play an alignment 1 character gets called "Lawful Awful." There is lots of evidence that when you become too much of an extremist, you often wind up doing more harm than good. I think there is a certain arrogance to trying to be too perfect. I think a wise person is humble and accepts that they will never be perfect. They shoot for excellence instead of perfection. Perfectionism tends to be an unhealthy neurosis that screws things up, not a path to a better way of life.

I could probably write more. I certainly wrestled with the question for years and eventually made my peace with it. But, I see no real reason to beat a dead horse here.

posted by Michele in California at 10:32 AM on July 13, 2016 [12 favorites]

I didn't eat meat for about twenty years, and then I started to, and it was a difficult transition. But how I did it was by focusing on the good.

Good for people--I live in a farming community and the small diversified farms are crucial to our economy. These farms provide employment to families and keep out big-box stores and are historical and all that good stuff. I like the farmers and I know them personally, and I want them to have jobs and keep taking care of the land.

Good for animals--I buy my meat from a farmer who knows them personally, I visit the animals to be sure they have tasty grass and sunshine and family while they're alive. The processing plant is local and uses a Temple Grandin method. I know this doesn't convince die-hard animal activists but it meets my moral requirements. (On this topic, I would also encourage you to someday learn to eat more parts than just bacon, because "I only eat bacon" and "I only eat boneless skinless chicken breast" and "I only eat steak" are part of the problem of factory farming, since animals come with a variety of anatomy. This lets you learn to cook more creatively as well!)

Good for the environment--in my farming community, not all of the land is appropriate for vegetable crops. Growing crops on steep hillsides can cause landslides and erosion, whereas sheep and goats and cows just climb up and down and eat weeds, while fertilizing the hillside (which in turn prevents erosion). These farms also use less pesticides since they're not treating crops, they only grow grass for feed. Moving herds helps with soil health, like rotating crops does. And I no longer buy so many grains and soybeans that are grown in monocultures halfway across the world and transported with jet fuel and diesel ships.

Good for me--the meat is really tasty and my body does like it. I also realized that my veganism was another sneaky form of eating disorder (it isn't for everyone! but it was for me). So this decision is good for me as well.

For that, I pay a premium, and I had to learn to cook. But there are always trade-offs. I think it's important to make the decision you need to make, and then act in the best way possible on it.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:14 AM on July 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

This all depends on your version of "ethical vegetarianism", which you haven't really expanded on.

The "soft" version of ethical vegetarianism is basically that factory farming is cruel; people upthread have addressed this and given you reasonable ways to address this.

The two other main versions (more justifiable, imho) are either Tom-Reagan-esque 'animals have an inherent right to their own life' or Peter-Singer-esq utilitarianism. There's not really any escape for you from 'animals have a right to their own life'; you're participating in killing pigs purely for your own sensory enjoyment and aren't in any situation where you have to weigh your existence against the pig's.

For utilitarianism (at least Peter Singer's version), you have a potential out; the killing of animals isn't always seen as morally wrong, you have to weigh the killing in relation to all other factors. However, at least for Singer, you're still *probably* in the wrong if you're just eating meat for pleasure. Relevant quote: practically it's "better to reject altogether the killing of animals for food, unless one must do so to survive." On the other hand, Singer does advocate for the so-called "Paris exemption" which allows for occasional non-vegetarian eating.
posted by beerbajay at 11:23 AM on July 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I know a few ex-vegetarians who have moved onto eating game meats. E.g. Rabbit, deer, wild pig, and kangaroo (we are in Australia). If they are hunted rather than factory farmed, their life is not very different from if there were no human intervention at all - in fact, maybe better because a shotgun kills faster and more cleanly than an injury, starvation, or another animal. In some places it might be easier to source game than ethically farmed animals.
posted by lollusc at 11:33 AM on July 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you do decide that you will continue to eat bacon, keep an eye out for "wild boar bacon."

The fat (and rendered fat after frying) is incredible; it has a lower melting temperature and a delicate "sweet" flavour to it. Very very different - and far superior to - regular rendered bacon fat.
posted by porpoise at 11:36 AM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

The following thoughts about guidelines are focused on two goals: fostering empathy and humane treatment, and avoiding waste and ecological damage.

fostering humane treatment:

I think that participating in or witnessing the "harvesting" process (i.e., the actual killing of the animal) would help me justify eating meat. So, raising one's own meat, or visiting a farm when the killing is going on, would make this feel more responsible for me.

Letting other people do all the "icky" stuff -- which leads to their doing it over and over, so much that they must necessarily stop empathizing with the animals -- seems to me to be a root of the problems with meat farming.

avoiding waste:

Definitely sourcing locally and ethically. One problem with vegetarianism is the long distances that many vegetables travel; most meat animals live all over the place, so sourcing locally is possible.

Eating small portions (very small by American standards) in a way that satiates but doesn't get gluttonous. I think that a little meat once in a while may make sense, but eating an entire chop at every meal doesn't. Having small bits of meat in a dish would be OK, but large pieces as the entire entree doesn't.

Being seasonally aware: Meat eating might make more sense in the winter and early spring, when local vegetables are harder to come by.

Eating all of the animal, including parts commonly considered "offal": Eating only one or two cuts all the time doesn't make sense - the rest of the animal is wasted (unless you like eating unpopular parts). If I wanted to be super-ethical about it, I might even try to find an app that let me track which parts of an animal I'd eaten so I could make sure it added up to the entire animal.

Back when I ate meat regularly, I used to get chicken breast filets all the time. I wonder what happened to the rest of the chicken (maybe pet food, but is it good to only feed pets the "other" parts of the animal?. I also wondered how many additional chickens had to be slaughtered (and raised in poor conditions) just so I could have those two white, clean, easy-to-handle filets for every meal.
posted by amtho at 12:08 PM on July 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think eating offal is more justifiable not because of it adding up to a whole animal, but because demand for offal doesn't drive the killing of animals. There's always going to be more demand for chicken breast than for chicken liver, and you have to do *something* with the liver.

I was vegetarian for seven years, then not-particularly-anything for about thirteen years, and now for the past six months I'm back to being what I call "flexitarian". Factory farming animals for food is wrong, and meat being tasty doesn't make it less wrong. You know this, or you wouldn't be asking this question. On the other hand, buying a plane ticket and going on vacation rather than saving that money and donating it to a nonprofit that saves lives and reduces human suffering is also wrong. So I just kind of have to figure out how much wrongness I'm willing to accept committing in my life because I can't be perfect. What I've settled on for right now is eating seafood, meat that would otherwise go to waste, and meat that is unusually tasty, especially in small portions. A person can only eat so much bacon before getting sick of it and even if you eat bacon whenever you want to and don't eat other meat, that is, really, not very much meat.

I've also been donating to charities like Mercy for Animals or the Humane Society as kind of a "meat offset". It's a little silly, but it also makes sense.
posted by phoenixy at 12:23 PM on July 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

If you want the taste and crunch of bacon in smaller doses (like on a salad or in a sandwich) you can make or buy fake vegan bacon out of flakes of dried coconut with salt and seasonings and liquid smoke. I like pig bacon and I find the coconut fake-bacon really really good, and pretty similar when added into a dish. This brand is well reviewed.

For a gluten free recipe with real bacon, bake it in the oven (on a rack over a foil lined cookie sheet). Halfway through, generously sprinkle it with brown sugar so it kinda caramelizes onto the bacon (watch closely as sugar burns easily). Delicious.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:23 PM on July 13, 2016

You've got plenty to chew on here re: ethics but I just want to add that I make bacon (among other things) for a living and I cooked in fine dining kitchens for ten years, and for me there's no better way to cook bacon than in the microwave. Put it in a somewhat-concave plate to catch (and save) the rendered fat and zap it in 3 minute intervals until it's nice and brown. Drain on paper towels for a couple minutes and you will have achieved maximal crisp.
posted by STFUDonnie at 2:27 PM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was vegetarian for ~10 years, not because i loved animals but because i hated plants and wanted to make them suffer! ;)

no really, it all ended on a trip to italy when i decided to try some aged sausage as a travel experience. since then i have apprenticed on farms and raised and killed animals. i made smoked bacon and a six month aged ham this last year. amazing treat.
day to day eating still mostly veg but enjoy pork and duck eggs from a small local farm i occasionally volunteer at.

it's not easy to find the real conscious small scale producers but I fundamentally believe meat is an important part of an ethical diet in a northern climate(currently i live in maine.)

there are no pre-civilization examples of vegetarians in northern climates. hunting and basic shepherding were a part of providing adequate calories.

re:ethics. in a northern climate, even if you eat only veggies, there is oil being pumped out of the ground and animals being displaced from their habitat to grow those veggies and ship them to you.
posted by danjo at 4:56 PM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

it focused on the problems of preferencing the lives and rights of essentially imaginary animals over the lives and rights of the folks cooking your meal in the back of a restaurant, or loading and driving the trucks that stock your supermarket, and so on.

Animals are... not imaginary, obviously?

Also, given what we know about the horrible working conditions in slaughterhouses and meat packing facilities, I genuinely don't understand how eating meat could be seen as an action that prioritizes the rights and lives of people.

Eat meat if you want to. Don't eat meat if you don't want to. If we investigate the ramifications of our choices deeply enough, we will discover that almost everything we do craps on the environment and causes other living things to suffer. We necessarily pick and choose our battles, and if being a vegetarian isn't your battle anymore, that's OK.
posted by jesourie at 5:12 PM on July 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

By not eating meat for 30 years, you avoided eating a LOT of animals. They all say 'thanks!!' If you only occasionally eat bacon, you are still consuming way fewer animals than the typical American.
posted by Fig at 7:26 PM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I didn't. I buy ethically-raised pork. I cure and smoke my own bacon. I'm still a bad person who kills sentient beings who are very likely on par with two-year-old humans for my own self-gratification.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:38 PM on July 13, 2016

Here's the thing. You haven't been eating meat because you don't think it's ethical. If you want to eat bacon obviously it's not the end of the world and there are worse things and so on and so on but be honest with yourself about why you're doing it: you want to eat bacon because you like how it tastes. Asking how to make it okay in your heart is sort of like asking how to justify it to yourself so you don't feel like a hypocrite and have it conflict with your identity and feel guilty. I think it's more useful to acknowledge exactly what it is you're doing here and why you're doing it. In other words, to make it okay in your heart you need to acknowledge that you are going against your ethical principles in order to prioritize a desire. I don't think it's necessarily healthy or useful to justify it to yourself with any excuses like "the pig doesn't care/I have eaten so much less meat than other people so it's okay/I can't not hurt the environment/slaughterhouses create jobs" unless you 100% believe those things. That compromises your principles even more than going against your principles but acknowledging that, in this instance, you are deliberately choosing to go against them and why.
posted by Polychrome at 2:45 AM on July 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

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