A recent article in Psychology Today by Hal Herzog, "Why Vegetarians Return to Meat: The Case Study I Could Not Put In My Book", addresses some really interesting points about masculinity and meat eating. This particular story, which Hal left out of his book "Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat" considers the social pressure from über-masculine environments, like a Manhattan firehouse where some connections between the burnt flesh of animals and the burnt flesh of humans created tumult for one firefighter:
When [Jim] told them he lived in the East Village, they thought he might be gay. When they found out he was an artist, they were pretty sure of it. And when they noticed he was not eating meat, there was no question in their minds: the new guy was a homosexual."
"I realized," Jim told me, "that the guys were comparing me to the one person in the house who was a coward. Because I was an artist living in lower Manhattan, I was an unusual guy to be in the Fire Department. So I was already fighting an uphill battle in terms of gaining their respect." The other firemen started busting Jim's balls about his diet. "You don't eat meat? You going to be coward too?"
So Jim caved. "I did not want them to think I was a coward because of what I ate," he told me. "Little by little, I began eating meat. It took me a year before I actually started enjoying it.
Jim has since retired due to damaged lungs from 9/11, but I wonder if he would find any consolation in vegan/vegetarian Texas firefighters led by Rip Esselstyn of the Engine 2 Diet (below)? The idea compassion = feminine = weak is pervasive in our culture, and the evidence of this is nearly everywhere we look.
photo by Matt Ewan
In a related story, female butchers appear to be all the rage. "Everyone wants a butcher's as girls get in for their cut". Craig Cook who owns a butcher shop in New South Wales, says about his new female employees,
The girls are gentle with the meat... Our women customers seem to like talking to another woman about what's for dinner tonight. Even the men seem more comfortable to me...
... Mr Cook's store manager hired Erin Dolan, 26, first and then her friend Rebecca Vote, 23... "I can break down bodies. I cut meats for display, steaks or chops or roasting pieces. I marinate cuts and arrange the window display," Ms Dolan said.
The event was sponsored by Whole Foods, Amstel, and Yelp (among others) and featured everything from duck testicles in Foie Gras sauce to veal ribs to whole goat. This is find incredibly interesting since "Whole Foods Market does not sell Foie Gras in any of our 163 stores." (source) There was a certain air of machismo amid the smoke. Recycling bins meant for Fiji Water bottles (another sponsor) overflowed with wasted meat and trash, and many of the attendees enjoyed their share of beer. I attended the event as press, and snapped a few photos, and made a few observations, speculations, and judgements.
...when evil is redefined as an aesthetic object [yummy meat, edible power], its moral qualities fall by the wayside... aesthetic judgements are deemed sufficient grounds for action... when explaining their own actions [people] don't plead ignorance or irrationality, but instead claim to have been overcome by some form of emotion, and go on to express surprise at just how strong these compulsions can be...
Thank you... for sharing these concerns with us. I want to assure you that we chose to work with the team at Meatopia to discuss with the masses the work we do to ensure that the issue of animal welfare is brought to the forefront. With us at Meatopia were representatives from the Global Animal Partnership, who we've closely with to implement a 5-step animal welfare rating system into all of our stores. From our butchers to our buyers, we care deeply about animal compassion. More info about this can be found on our website here: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/meat/welfare.php. Our activation at the event was highlighted by a variety of on-stage speeches and promotions about supporting local, sustainable and 5-step rated farms across the country by both reps from the Global Animal Partnership, Josh Ozersky, and a variety of farmers and sustainable meat purveyors.