By Marcee Murray King
All it took was the first two hours in a cadaver lab to make me a vegetarian. Again. I’d butchered too many deer to not notice the resemblance.
I remember the day I first became a vegetarian. It was Thanksgiving and I was 21, cooking my first turkey ever. As I rinsed it before cooking, I noticed the resemblance to a baby. I didn’t eat any, and didn’t touch meat again for 13 years. It was that easy.
And 13 years later, I was compelled to eat it again by both my young son who craved meat and my own guilt.
Guilt over not eating meat?
During our summer in Russia in 1994, I didn’t meet another vegetarian, anywhere. No matter how I tried to explain my feelings about animals and their rights, they just didn’t understand. Most people were so poor that they were often mostly vegetarian by lack of money. Then, there I was, invited to someone’s home for a meal, the honored American guest. The woman who brought the sausage had truly splurged and meant for it to be for me…and I couldn’t eat it. I wanted to, but it was impossible for me. She didn’t understand and was hurt. I was so ashamed.
I felt guilty over not eating meat.
This shame I had didn’t go away. When I returned to the states, I began to hate telling people I was a vegetarian when invited over for dinner, but hated more letting them prepare something I couldn’t bring myself to eat.
As my son grew, he started asking for meat—insisting on it. “Mama, when I’m a growed man, I am gonna hunt me a moose for my family, so you should give it to me now.”
And then I had a flower talk to me. Never an animal…a plant. I ate plants, not animals. Plants had consciousness that developed?
My son, coupled with shame, guilt and an airy-faerie “rational” brain all won out. I would be a meat eater again!
I had a connection for free organic meat. I took the “meet your meat, know who you eat” approach and really studied up on animal anatomy, read about butchering. I got ready, and made a chicken soup. Almost throwing up over those “fucking threads of muscle that are floating around in there!” I took a different approach.
Instead of trying to disguise it, I cooked the next damned bird whole, ripped a leg off and ate it like the righteous babe I was. I could eat meat! Whole parts of meat! On-the-beautiful-bone meat! Sure, my ass got fatter, but I could eat MEAT!
It was good for me. I was more resilient in the winter, actually became physically stronger than I had been before (and I was a healthy veg, with a great iron count!) and—best yet—my guilt was gone.
True to “meet your meat, know who you eat,” when I moved to the country I raised pigs for us, two turkeys and chickens for meat. I felt it ethical to do so, a moral obligation, but had quit butchering chickens. Why?
I became allergic to butchering chickens and ended up in the ER.
Strangely, nothing shows up in allergy tests. I still have chickens for eggs, can eat eggs and can eat chicken with no problems.
I tackled butchering deer. This was much trickier. I remember walking into the big outbuilding my friends had especially built and looking at the deer hanging there. I remember glancing out of the corner of my eye and slowly wandering around it, sneaking peeks until I slowly got used to it.
I remember the smell of it. I learned this work, and did it many more times after, on my own. I believe hunting is healthy for our herds here in Wisconsin to keep them strong and keep down chronic wasting disease. Lacking enough natural predators, the population will grow much larger than the land can healthfully sustain.
All my hard work to learn to eat meat was undone by that very beautiful and amazing time in a cadaver lab.
“He is meat. I am meat. We are all meat,” was my mantra as I observed.
Currently, I am claiming the title “pescetarian” (one who eats fish but no other flesh) but can’t bring myself to actually eat all those beautiful trout in my deep freeze. Vegetarian is more honest, and while I don’t mind being one, I already have gone through the shame of being hosted in others homes and them having to plan meals for me, feeling at a loss.
I don’t know if I can train myself out of this one back to my former omnivore state or if I will be able to achieve my current pescetarian aspirations. If I can do neither, I will learn to be content with being a vegetarian.
Photo: Adrian Clark
Editor: Dana Gornall
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