People tend to be surprised that someone like myself, who makes art with bones and roadkill, is a vegetarian. I believe that vegetarianism is a perfect accompaniment to the way I create, as working with the dead forges empathy and a compassion for them that doesn’t allow for casual consumption.
I think those that hunt to eat or as part of their culture tend to have a greater respect for their food source, a respect that isn’t prevalent in a society that mass consumes without looking at the origin of what they’re devouring.
I have similar issues with fur. I react strongly and negatively to people who wear animal pelts as status, when in reality they have the money to buy something just as beautiful and warm and don’t need to prove how important they are by paying for an unnecessary and often brutal killing.
Running concurrent to these thoughts has been an interest in why there is a resurgence at present in the art and appreciation of taxidermy. An interest that was particularly popular in Victorian times when there an enormous disparity in income, technology was surging forward, intellect ruled over the heart, and many aspects of society be they women, the poor or aborigines in colonies, were considered less than human.
I grew up in an animal loving family, and had occasional contact with extended family members who were of very pragmatic farming stock.
As soon as my younger sister could articulate she refused to eat meat, as she found the idea of consuming animal flesh repugnant.
In my early teens I became vegetarian but I suspect this was partially a way of reducing my food groups to accommodate my active eating disorder.
Later, as I travelled in countries where vegetarianism wasn’t an option, I relaxed my dietary choices as it was either eat meat or go hungry.
When I first travelled in China in the early 1980’s and tried to explain that I was a vegetarian, it simply wasn’t comprehended except perhaps as an affectation of a member of very spoiled, capricious and wealthy society.
I still prefer not to eat meat although every few years or so there has been occasion, generally when I’m travelling, where I find it necessary. It is never casually done and I’m uncomfortable about it, but not enough to go hungry or tear myself apart with guilt.
As I’ve aged I have become more aware of life and how valuable it is. I won’t deny others their right to eat what they want, but if people were mindful of the process it would invariably change perspectives. Yes, it’s a privilege to be able to choose what we eat. I’m lucky enough (with a bit of research) to function well with a meat free diet, but not everyone has the same physical make up. Years ago when I was teaching yoga, one of my pupil’s who was constitutionally not suited to vegetarianism, gave up meat and became very ill.
When I walk into work, occasionally trucks filled with live stock pass me whilst on their way to the slaughterhouse, and I’ve thought that there have been times (still are for that matter) when certain human beings were regarded as being worth no more than those farm animals, and at some point in the future there may well be a point when we realise what a crime we are committing by treating animals as such a disposable and non sentient commodity.