‘My interest in hamburgers ebbed’
A cow took its final steps up a curvy ramp, designed by the animal scientist Temple Grandin to ease their stress by allowing them to see a couple of body-lengths ahead but restricting their view of distractions. About ten feet after the ramp ended, inside the factory’s walls, chains were wrapped around its rear legs, a bolt was driven into its brain, and it was hoisted aloft for prompt disassembly. A worker with a knife severed the carotid artery, and its blood was pumped out by its still-beating heart.
Cargill was proud of that ramp and upset when I reported what I saw with my own eyes: workers using electric prods to urge the cattle on their way. That was against policy, they said, so obviously I was mistaken.
I didn’t lose my appetite for chicken (which I should have, if my principles were better aligned with my appetite). Even more to my regret, I didn’t lose my appetite for pork sausage or, particularly, bacon. Ah, bacon! But with beef it was easier, and just seemed better, not to go there. I didn’t want to picture the big slabs of raw meat I had worked with in the factory, didn’t want to look at steaks in the supermarket, didn’t want to partake of a cooked filet. And my interest in hamburger ebbed to the point where it was easier simply to declare to friends and family that I didn’t eat it anymore … though in truth a flicker of interest in it may live on in my brain stem. But I don’t go there; I don’t eat beef anymore.
What makes an appetite? Habits learned when young, I’m sure, at least in part. But habits are also subject to intellectual oversight and can be altered by social pressure and, possibly too strong a word, trauma. There is trauma in a slaughterhouse and some seeped into me. I was slow to declare I would no longer eat beef because I am wary of declaring dominion over a part of me that I do not completely rule. But after monitoring my post-slaughterhouse appetite for many months now, I think this election can be called.