Hold the politics.

Some days, when I'm lauding a particularly "conscious" choice, the sulfurous smell of self righteousness wafts through the air. This is quickly followed by joyous pontification on the benefits of being right, awake and aware. I wonder though, if I'm aware that I'm being self righteous, is that more righteous than if I wasn't?

Or do I submit my choices to a review board that decides whether I'm acting consciously or just appearing to act consciously in order to gain some measure of sanctimony? For those of you practicing through an organized "points" system where sins like pride are counted, have you noticed when you're proud to be humble?

Where do I draw the line?

Turns out that after a few minutes of looking straight into my own foibles, I'm easily distracted by anything shiny or on television. An episode of "Law & Order" anyone?  Or if I'm feeling particularly conscious of being unconscious, "America's Next Top Model"?

Anyway, you've been warned. Open a window.

My cat Clark is sitting between me and the keyboard, which makes those touch typing classes a real boon. He and his brother, Lewis, had expected that today's post would be on vegetarianism and its political cousin veganism.

As I start to write righteously about animal rights, it occurs to me that I have a life long, deep love and connection to the animal community - and that I EAT them!  I wonder if I'm being conscious for the judges table or if I've thought this post through?

My grandfather was a small time dairy farmer in Montana. He was a deer hunting, chicken keeping, cow milking, vegetable gardening rural pragmatist. I imagine that for him there was no decision to be made about the role of animals in his diet. He tended them, sold their by-products and then ate them when they didn't produce anymore. His relationships were clearly first hand.

And being completely honest, while the politics of food and animal rights holds a great attraction for me, I've been a life long omnivore. Cheese eating, hamburger munching, quiche relishing, ice cream sneaking, baking fiend and butter soaked cookie pusher.

This all in the face of a fascination with nutrition and its impact on health. An early revelation along these lines being summed up by the phrase "dairy kills" after reading about the metabolism of milk products and heart disease.

I add this to my thinking about my relationship to animals as food sources.

Hugging Clark, he purrs along. My thinking darkens.

If I locked Clark up in a suffocating little cage with no light, and he miraculously laid an egg, could I take it from him and eat it?  And then when he stopped making eggs, could I make soup out of him?

And if I fed him so much corn that he became marbled with fat and his immune system shut down from standing in his own waste, would I be excited about the barbeque where we eat him?

Could I skin my little friend to wear his fur on my head?  Or could I pull the flesh off of rabbits? Have you seen rabbits? They are about as easy going as futons and haven't ever taken a human skin to keep the winter chill from their paws.

For that matter, have any animals, besides the meat eating ones, ever harmed us?

So, if meat eating were to make sense, I'd only eat wolves, alligators and big cats. Turn about being fair play and all. And then there's the whole part about going out and actually killing the alligator to make a sandwich. Clearly not motivated or skilled!

And the big cats are hard to catch, much less kill, there aren't that many of them and now they're protected as well. Last time I checked, Safeway was all out of wolf steaks, so my thoughts about food continue to progress.

I am thinking that vegetarianism would be enough, but the dairy industry is one hell of a torture mill. When those big, brown eyed gals on the milking line drop off their production, we grind 'em up for Big Macs. Just good business, really.

Probably any animal products created in an "industry" - poultry industry, dairy industry, etc, won't bear too much scrutiny.

So, if I think about it, really, it's looking more and more like veganism. Feel free to pronounce it however you like.

Maybe I can just change what I eat and not get all righteous and political about it?

But is there any way to be in the company of other people and say "can I have it without butter" and not have a long, grossly detailed conversation about how I got here?

Or does the topic of food automatically turn into a political discourse with the lone vegetarian defending the "nutter" position at the fringe of the dinner party? Have you ever met a vegan you didn't want to at least quiz if not debate?

So, if anyone asks, I'll just say that animal products give me gas.    

I'll take the tofu burger please, with a side of humility.

Hold the politics.

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