Over a wonderful New Year’s Eve dinner of Chinese food at one of our favorite local joints, my daughter broke a simmering silence about her wanting to eat less meat, possibly even become a vegetarian. She’s 15 and a freshman in high school, and already a few of her friends have taken the vegetarian route. She has expressed her disdain in the past for some meat products – particularly those of the red variety – by picking at her food and generally letting me and my wife know that she’s not fond of certain dinners we prepare – things like steak, ribs, hamburgers, even pork chops. You know, “the other white meat.”
I would never begrudge my daughter the right to make her own decisions when it comes to her diet, and my wife and I supported her fully during our conversation that night. What kind of bothered me, though, is that we can’t seem to convince her that the videos she’s seen of poorly run slaughter houses and processing plants aren’t the only examples of how our meat is produced. These videos, it turns out, have had a major impact on her thought process. There are many more facilities that do things the right way by following proper procedures when it comes to processing food animals, we suggested to her.
It’s just one more example of how animal rights groups are doing a better job of telling their story than producers and other livestock organizations are doing at promoting the high standards of business that so many good companies follow. It’s a shame, really, because veterinarians play a critical role in the food-production business, and I work for the AVMA. But, even with that credential, I find it difficult in discussions with my daughter and her friends to even get them to listen to the other side of the story.
I’m not going to give up, however. My daughter is smart enough and independent enough to make many of her own decisions, but I’m going to keep working on getting her to broaden her pool of resources in her search for information and knowledge. She has to follow her heart, but I also want her to use her head. We all have opinions about what to eat and whether it’s right or wrong to slaughter animals for food. But as a smart colleague of mine once said, “Opinions are cheap; facts are harder to come by.”