At The End of the Day, An Ox Is Still Dead

The New York Times reported on an incident at a college in Vermont where an ox–one of a pair of oxen–had to be euthanized after it became ill. That wasn’t the plan; the plan had been to slaughter the humanely-raised creatures and serve them in the cafeteria in keeping with the college’s mission and vision for  sustainable-farming. But animal-rights groups protested the move and pressured slaughterhouses not to participate in the plan.

image via Wikipedia.
image via Wikipedia.

So at the end of the day, an ox is still dead, and no one got to eat him.

(Read the whole article here if you wish)

Steve Thorngate at the Christian Century thinks this is very sad and wasteful. He writes:

I’ve talked before about why I stopped being a vegetarian after many years. In part it’s because yes, pork is incredibly delicious. But it’s also because I’ve come to believe that the cultural goal I favor—much lower meat consumption, which would improve public health and reduce the incentive for cruel and ecologically destructive factory-farming methods—finds more effective ambassadors in flexitarians than in strict vegetarians. (That bean soup is an easier sell with a little bit of uncommonly good bacon.) And in part it’s because I’ve gotten over the identity-marker element that was so important to me when I was younger.

And he quotes Katherine Willis Pershey on fasting and feasting as opposed to claiming identity markers (a vegan is something you ARE, a fast is something you keep, and then break.) Read her post here.

What do you think? Are dietary habits/rules something to take on as practices to be started and stopped, or are they markers of identity? What motivates each?

7 thoughts on “At The End of the Day, An Ox Is Still Dead

  1. When you live in community or accept others’ hospitality, I think that the idea of fasting rather than identity should rule (like the 90-10 rule).

    If you have severe, life-threatening food allergies, diagnosed celiac disease (as opposed to “I think I’ll try gluten free because it made my friend feel better and she lost weight—“) or similar dietary constraints, that’s different. In such situations, no compromises can be made, and the host or others should be compassionate and accommodating.

    However, too often, someone hosting a meal feels she must accommodate someone’s paleo lifestyle, another’s veganism, another’s preference for no spices, —— and the list goes on.

    If I am hosting one other family in my home, I try to accommodate dietary preferences or restrictions. I am a Registered Dietitian, so have the expertise to do that, and see it as a ministry to do so. However, that’s difficult when hosting a group with conflicting and multiple dietary preferences or needs.

    And btw, I do try to cook healthfully – minimal to no convenience items, plenty of fruits and vegetables.

    Thus, I think that reasonably healthy people should follow the fasting vs feasting guideline (90-10 rule) rather than using food as identity markers.

    We were in a 4 family monthly Bible study that included a potluck. Two of the women could not organize their time well enough to bring an already prepared item to my house, and would want to use my small kitchen to prep their food. I finally said, “Don’t worry; you can just bring drinks.” Then one woman developed a dairy intolerance plus had to limit carbs. Another went gluten free and also, she and her husband did not like spices. The third woman criticized me for preparing an item with sugar that the low carb woman shouldn’t eat. I already had several choices available for low carb woman.

    Hosting was becoming a dreaded event rather than a pleasure. I finally told my husband that we needed to quit the Bible study.

    Śo this is a hot button topic for me.

  2. First, than you for introducing me to the phrase “identity marker”! I never realized that’s what you called what I was buying into when young. Not that I completely avoid getting caught up in identity marking nowadays, but at least I don’t get as hung up on preserving an identity as I used to. You know, things like “the dependable one”, or “the smart guy”, or “the witty wonder” of “the smooth operator”. OK, that last one was never more than a pipe dream anyway, but you get my drift.

    Second, yes rules should be adopted and modified and dropped as the situation warrants. The only people called by God to identify themselves by their diet (among other identity markers) were the ancient Israelites. God then put a stop to it in Acts 10 with the scene involving Peter and Cornelius. Paul confirmed the application for all believers in 1 Corinthians 10. Our identity is in Christ, not in what we eat. Otherwise, our stomachs become our gods, and we know that’s not good! (Philippians 3:19.)

    Third, I am guessing that an uneaten dead ox is a situation unimaginable in your neck of the woods?

    Thanks for helping us think on these things today, Rachel.

  3. This story is as weird as it is sad. This ox lived a normal ox life, vastly better than the horrors of the mass-production feedlot, and was going to have to die prematurely anyway. How is letting the meat go to waste ethically superior to having it go entirely to waste?

    Maybe it’s too late in the afternoon, or I’m too old, or some combination thereof, but this whole thing seems quite surreal.

    Michael Pollan has famously said we shouldn’t eat what our grandmothers wouldn’t recognize as food. But what are we to make of decisions– allegedly ethical– that our grandmothers wouldn’t even recognize as sane?

    1. Whoa,I know I’m tired. I meant “how is letting the meat go to waste ethically superior to using it to feed people?”

      Long day, grandpa’s tired..!

  4. Thanks for the link. I’m still very much working this out – right after I wrote the post about fasting from meat, I ended up nearly in tears at Trader Joes because I didn’t know what to put in my cart. But, I’m figuring it out. It did feel a little funny to eat a chicken casserole at the church luncheon today, but it would have felt much funnier to say, “oh, by the way, since last we met I’ve decided that what you’re serving is unethical.”

    I would have eaten the ox.

    I’ve been looking forward to your book – it’s definitely on my to-read list.

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