Growing Up Quick

My daughter called me yesterday. She was upset. She was standing outside a slaughterhouse in Salida, Colorado, crying.

Her 8th grade class has been studying food production all year. They’ve visited McDonald’s, they’ve been to an organic farm, they’ve studied nutrition, they’ve been to the warehouse of a major U.S. supermarket chain (they even had to sign non-disclosure agreements saying that they wouldn’t reveal the warehouse’s secrets to the competition).

And yesterday, they visited a slaughterhouse. These are 8th graders. My daughter is 13 years old.

I know that there’s no way to prepare someone for witnessing a deliberate death. I’m sure that these kids were too young. But I think anyone is too young. There’s no right age to walk in and watch a cow get shot in the head and then get slit open and have it’s blood splash out all over. And there’s no way to prepare anyone for such a sight.

Several kids passed out. More of them vomited. Some of them made it outside the building before they vomited. The rest vomited onto the blood-covered floor inside the building.

Many of them vowed to become vegetarians from that day onward.

And now all of them know where meat comes from.

At first I was worried for my daughter. Then I realized that her family already “gets” it on the whole animal rights thing. She’s one of the lucky ones, she’s got emotional support for being against the meat industry. But the kids who go home to a beef dinner and unsympathetic parents are the kids who will really suffer.

My next reaction was to question whether the school knew what it was doing bringing the kids to a slaughterhouse. But as I reflect I see that the slaughterhouse is the reality. And all of us who pretend it doesn’t exist, who pretend it doesn’t feed us, well, we are the ones with the problem. The sooner these kids face the hard, shitty realities of life the sooner they will act to fix the things that are so very wrong with this world.

As she was crying into the phone I was searching for something wise and comforting to say. Do you know what comforted her? The only thing I could say that was comforting was to tell her that she had her whole life ahead of her to raise people’s awareness of how important it is to treat animals well. I reminded her that being a vegetarian herself has saved countless lives. And I reminded her that we’ve saved lots of animals from the streets and from unwanted reproduction. The only comfort I could offer her was the truth and right-ness of her own actions.

My daughter will be fine. The cows, however, are not fine. They are dead now.

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5 Responses to “Growing Up Quick”

  1. Fned
    April 8th, 2008 23:21

    OMG I so get your post.

    A coincidence surely, but last night there was a show on TV that researched “what do we really eat?”… they talked about organic eggs, OGMs, farm eggs vs free range eggs, farm fish vs free fish, AND slaughterhouse meat among other topics.

    They tried to show that slaughterhouses aren’t so barbaric even showing how they put classical music on the speakerphone for the cows so they can relax before the killing (although they did admit it was more in order to obtain “stress-free- quality meat than out of kindness)… I tried to watch but I just couldn’t. I’m one of the sissys that just can’t see blood or open bodies or intestines spread out on the floor… and so I had to cover my eyes when that part of the show came on.

    However I did read the book “skinny bitch” some time ago and it made me definitely cross over to the “vegetarian” camp. I don’t agree with everything the authors say but reading what happens inside slaughterhouses did something to me and I’m not sure I could ever go back to eating meat again. And last night’s show or posts like yours only comfort me in my decision.

    I guess it’s true what Linda Carter used to say: If slaughterhouses were made of glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.

    You did good with your daughter, she is lucky to have such a great mom like you. And my respects to you for raising awareness on such a horrifying topic.


  2. RiverGirl
    April 9th, 2008 09:45

    Fned – Thanks for the support. I do have mixed feelings about my kid being put in this position at her age. But I’m proud of her outrage. We raised her a vegetarian because of our beliefs. I’m glad she’s had an experience that now makes them her beliefs too.

    I want to read that Skinny Bitch book, I’ll be on the look out for it.

  3. NancyD
    April 9th, 2008 16:51

    I’ve been a vegetarian for more than 25 years. It started when my son was about 10 and he picked up a chicken leg with the thigh attached and asked me “is this how it walked?”

    Then I started reading. Yikes. I could never eat meat again.

    And one of the main reasons is that we don’t need meat to provide ourselves with adequate nutrition. If I had to provide for myself in the wild – like our cavemen ancestors did – I would eat it because how else would I survive…but that’s not the case now.

    I just don’t want anything to die so I can live if I can help it.

    Your daughter sounds like a smart, sensitive person, just like you.

  4. RiverGirl
    April 9th, 2008 17:01

    Nancy – Thanks! How are the baby parrots doing? Love the videos.

  5. Lisa
    April 26th, 2008 11:29

    OMG! That’s horrible. Whatever happened to those simple trips to the aquarium or to see a musical downtown?

    I don’t know if I’m keen on the vegetarian thing though. I’m almost to the point of thinking that everything we put in our mouths is either filled with environmental chemicals or processed with pure sugar.

    I believe that one of our big problems in the future will be food.

    -Lisa 🙂

    P.S. Your daughter seems to be a really smart girl, good job mom!

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