1968 was a stunning year. I was thirteen and I became a vegetarian. That same year, the Big Mac—created by McDonald’s franchisee Jim Delligatti in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—rolled out nationwide in all its U.S. stores and sold for forty-nine cents.
January 5, 1968: The U.S. Justice Department indicted Dr. Benjamin Spock, author and pediatrician; Reverend William Sloane Coffin, Yale University’s chaplain; and three others for conspiring to abet draft resistance.
When I told my parents I was becoming a vegetarian, they called our family doctor. He came to our house and told me I would never have children if I did not eat meat.
It was one of those thirteen-year-old moments: everyone is lying and ganging up against you. I told them their revered New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath was a vegetarian. He was strong. I will have children. Sadly I knew no other vegetarians. If only the Internet had been around, I could have searched vegetarians and presented my case. In 1968 the only vegetarians in my small world were Joe Namath and millions of people in India.
January 6, 1968: Dr. Norman E. Shumway of Stanford School of Medicine performed the first U.S. adult heart transplant in Mike Kasperak, a fifty-four-year-old steelworker, who lived for two weeks.
The night after I told my parents, my mother, Patricia Elaine Gale, made my first vegetarian meal. She fried onions, red tomatoes, green peppers, and underneath the mound of vegetables, she hid slices of beef. I ate all the vegetables and left the meat on my plate. (Years later, I discovered that my great-grandfather on my mother’s side was a vegetarian.)
January 8, 1968: Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s first TV series about sharks, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, aired in the United States.
The first twelve years of my life I ate tuna fish, cod, sole, trout, salmon, halibut, smoked sturgeon, swordfish, shrimp, clams, scallops, sardines, crab, lobster. I never ate shark. I sprinkled things from the sea with a lot of lemon and dollops of tartar sauce. I also ate hamburgers, meatballs, meatloaf, chicken, turkey, bacon, brisket, corned beef, salami, steak, lamb chops, veal, stuffed derma, chopped liver, hot dogs. I did not eat tongue or pastrami.
My father, Robert Benjamin Gale, did not permit ham in the house. We never mourned ham, because my father was the king of salami sandwiches—fried slices of Hebrew National salami slapped on white Wonder bread with French’s mustard and Hellman’s mayonnaise. The first ham sandwich I ever ate was in second grade at school. I vomited.
We were liberal, non-kosher, Reform American Ashkenazi Jews, who ate both forbidden bacon and shellfish. My father loved bacon. Bacon was in a class of its own: it was a delicious crisp, burnt, crinkled, fatty treat.
Now every day, I eat a cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread with mustard, lettuce, basil, and a slice of jalapeño. But at age twelve in New Jersey, my favorite sandwich was corned beef on rye bread with spicy Gulden’s mustard—especially four-inch-thick sandwiches from Tabatchnick’s, Carnegie Deli, and Katz’s Delicatessen, served with a side of coleslaw and a bucket of dill pickles and sour green tomatoes.
January 21, 1968: A U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs crashed at North Star Bay, Greenland, killing one crew member and scattering radioactive material; the Battle of Khe Sanh began—the longest and bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War.
It is 2019. I write in a black notebook named Clairefontaine. The rowdy daycare children play in the jungle gym in my neighbor’s backyard. I wonder if they are meat-eating children.
Most food and medical experts say meat packed with protein is vital food for a growing child. I perceive meat to be full of chemicals that might enable the growth of a child, but in the long term, meat does not ennoble the healthy growth of an adult. I believe the multinational corporate production of meat is a worldwide environmental issue that doesn’t promote sustainability of the earth for our children. There I said it. We got that big truth out of the way.
January 22, 1968: The first flight of Apollo 5, without astronauts, launched to the moon.
We do not eat dog or cat. When we drive through the country, we see pastures of cows grazing. Black cows. Brown cows. Spotted white-and-black cows. Holstein. Jersey. Guernsey. Ayrshire. Angus. Aleutian. We drive by fenced cows and we eat cow.
Why do we eat cow and not horse? The word for horse-eating is: hippophagy. Historians claim Pope Gregory III wrote to Boniface in 732 AD to say the pagan ritual consumption of horsemeat must be abolished; horses were for warfare and transportation. Today horsemeat is banned in human food in the U.S. We do not eat our beasts of burden or companions we love. Would you eat horse?
We do not eat each other. We prefer to eat other species. If it’s true you are what you eat, then do we become the animals we eat? Do we eat meat because it gives us a false sense of primate superiority? Does it make us think we are superior to other animals? Does it give men an illusion of superpower strength?
January 31, 1968: The Tet Offensive began as the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces attacked strategic and civilian locations in South Vietnam; the Viet Cong seized the U.S. Embassy in Saigon for six hours.
In 1968 if you could afford it, meat was everywhere—at every meal, at every table. Meat was a coveted luxurious food. A centerpiece of the American meal—a Rockwell painting—the American landscape of middle-class dining. Meat and potatoes. Meat and rice. Meat and pasta. Meat was substantial. Cut with a serrated knife. Filling. Juicy. Smoky. Spicy. Meat sizzled, bled, dripped. Meat had a bone to chew and fat to suck. Meat was charred. Rare. Medium. Well-done. Earthy. Meat was a sandwich, a casserole, a loaf, a patty.
I buried meat with Heinz ketchup. I loved meat well-done, sinking my teeth into a chunk of burnt, charcoaled fat. The sight of blood or pink rareness repulsed me. I never soaked up the animal juice with bread. I left a puddle of blood on my plate. I loved crispy, broiled or fried chicken skin. I chewed on chicken bones, but when I saw a vein, or anything reminiscent of hair on the skin—I stopped eating.
January 1968: American author Ralph Ginzburg published Avant Garde, a literary and arts magazine in New York City.
The year 1968 was a time of political change and upheaval. What does it mean to be political? Does it mean to work in government creating laws to help people live a better life? Does it mean to work for a nonprofit environmental firm lobbying government to make smart ecological decisions? To work in an anarchist group to overturn corrupt, bureaucratic governments? To produce a documentary that changes people’s worldviews? To make art?
Einstein worked on the power of the universe in a single equation. Hemingway boasted at lunch at the Algonquin Round Table that he could write the shortest short story in six words and scribbled on a napkin: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” Toni Morrison said: “The best art is political, and you ought to be able to make it unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time.”
Everything I read about global warming and the future of life on earth says we should stop cutting down forests to raise cattle and leave the forests in their natural state to reduce the CO2 that is now warming the earth. Now in 2019, although I eat dairy and I’m a hypocrite, I still believe my becoming a vegetarian in 1968 has helped in a small way.
February 4, 1968: Neal Cassady, one of the Merry Pranksters and friend of Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey, died after being found in a coma on a Mexican train track.
I smoked cigarettes first, then became a vegetarian. I was thirteen. Bored. Lonely. Rebellious. Desirous of something new. Something mischievous, bad, and cool.
February 10, 1968: Peggy Fleming won the gold medal in women’s figure skating at the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.
The kernel of becoming a vegetarian came in eighth grade when I embarked on a report about India. I learned about Mahatma Gandhi. Photographs showed him in a yoga position wearing a white cloth. I saw his smallness and read about his grandiose visions, his ocean of followers. He believed in introspection and self-compassion and strength via resistance. An instrument of change, he moved mountains in a stance of nonaggression.
I found a National Geographic photograph of cows roaming the streets of Calcutta. If I ate like Gandhi, I, too, could practice civil disobedience in a world raging in the Vietnam War. I learned about the sacred life of a cow. A cow was respected, not eaten. I was Jewish but appropriated Hindu culture—reincarnation—each next life you build upon your soul. If I ate a cow, that might influence my spirit in the next life. In a past life I might have been a cow, or in the next life I might be a cow.
(Note: Forty-five years later, my editor friend, Anne Moreau, told me that a biography of Gandhi says he was not such a nice man.)
February 12, 1968: Eldridge Cleaver, an activist and Black Panther, published Soul on Ice.
I cannot remember the day and hour I quit eating meat, but I remember the world felt radical. This is when a woman mourns for a diary or wishes she had hyperthymesia—superior autobiographical memory.
Or would remembering be too painful? The exact taste and smell of a piece of meat in my mouth, would that exacting memory-throb force me to reach for a piece of meat? Forgetting offers relief from the biting, pleasurable truth. Forgetting enables us to move on.
February 16, 1968: The first U.S. emergency 911 call was sent from the mayor’s office in Haleyville, Alabama.
Sacrifice. Abstinence. It was a sacrifice to give up meat at age thirteen.
The word sacrifice has an element of suffering for the sacrifice to be meaningful. It’s more powerful to sacrifice something you’ve once had than to sacrifice something you never experienced. Abstinence from something you never enjoyed is not as piercing as giving up something that once brought you pleasure.
February 29: 1968: The Grammy Awards album of the year was the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I gave up meat, and with that my mother told me I was on my own. She refused to cook two meals. I knew nothing about nutrition. I ate bread and pasta and dried pineapple dipped in honey and gained a lot of weight.
The health-food movement (now called natural foods) was nonexistent. A few brick-and-mortar stores barely survived and there were no “healthy” sections in the grocery aisle.
It was difficult to find recipes. My first vegetarian cookbook was nine years later in 1977. Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook is still on my bookshelf next to the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective’s first edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves.
March 4, 1968: Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. announced the Poor People’s Campaign on Washington, D.C., urging the Johnson Administration and Congress to enact a $30 billion Marshall Plan to alleviate poverty for all races.
I was the first in my community of family and friends to stop eating meat. When I confessed that I was a vegetarian, people opposed it, tried to find flaws in the logic of it, said things to reverse it, tried to convert me back to eating meat. I sat in silence at their tables, enjoying my green salad and bread and they said:
“Why are you eating salad? A plant is a living thing. You’re killing a plant.”
“If you were starving you would eat meat.”
“You’re wearing leather shoes; you’re a hypocrite.”
“Poor people all over the world would die to eat this meat.”
I never told them they shouldn’t eat meat. My abstinence made them feel guilty. I never became a vegetarian-evangelist demanding others to join my cause. Simply, I just wanted to not eat meat.
March 13, 1968: Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) and Humble Oil and Refining Company (Exxon) announced the discovery of oil on Alaska’s North Slope (Prudhoe Bay) and began to construct a pipeline.
This scene from the film Five Easy Pieces captures the same frustration I felt dining in a restaurant ordering a BLT without the bacon in the 1970s. Jack Nicholson plays Robert Eroica Dupea, a tortured on-the-road classical musician. After picking up two lesbians, and with Karen Black at his side, he stops at a restaurant and orders: “A plain omelet. No potatoes. Tomatoes instead. A cup of coffee and wheat toast.” The waitress, Lorna Thayer, says, “No substitutions.”
Robert: What do you mean? You don’t have any tomatoes?
Waitress: Only what’s on the menu. You can have number two, a plain omelet. It comes with fries and rolls.
Robert: I know what it comes with, but it’s not what I want.
Waitress: I’ll come back when you make up your mind.
Robert: I’d like a plain omelet. No potatoes on the plate. A cup of coffee and a side order of wheat toast.
Waitress: I’m sorry we don’t have any side orders of toast. I’ll give you an English muffin or a coffee roll.
Robert: What do you mean, you don’t make side orders of toast? You make sandwiches, don’t you?
Waitress: Would you like to talk to the manager?
Robert: You’ve got bread and a toaster of some kind?
Waitress: I don’t make the rules.
Robert: Okay. I’ll make it as easy for you as I can. I’d like an omelet plain and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast. No mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce, and a cup of coffee.
Waitress: A number two. A chicken sal san. Hold the butter, the lettuce, and the mayonnaise. And a cup of coffee. Anything else?
Robert: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast . . . give me a check for a chicken salad sandwich . . . and you haven’t broken any rules.
March 16, 1968: Robert F. Kennedy joined the presidential race; Lt. Calley led Company C into My Lai where more than 500 Vietnamese civilians were killed.
When I told my friend Amy Davis that I was writing about becoming a vegetarian, she wrote: “My genius friend Andy has been talking to me about his thoughts and feelings on being a vegetarian. He feels very strongly (and not even considering the moral issues) that raising and eating animals is one of the most prominent environmental and health issues now facing us.”
March 31, 1968: President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not run for reelection and declared a partial bombing halt in Vietnam; the stock market soared.
The Chinese character for Qi, which means “energy,” comprises vapor and rice. But we cannot live on rice alone. Our human body craves something tastier. We are turned off by eating ants, hedgehogs, owls, spiders, bats, lions, bears, beavers, and raccoons. (Note: Raccoon made the first edition of The Joy of Cooking in 1931.)
Some cultures eat worms. Some pay large sums for “exotic” foods with aphrodisiac properties, or foods that might bring on fertility. In Washington State, the Lushootseed (Nisqually) word for geoduck means “dig deep.” These large burrowing clams, aka mud clams, king clams, elephant-trunk clams, are being sold for $180 each.
Some foodies enjoy foie gras—the fat liver of a Toulouse goose or a Mallard duck (a crossbreed of a male Muscovy duck and a female Peking duck), which has been fattened via force-feeding corn, a technique called gavage. For twelve to fifteen days, ducks are forced controlled amounts of feed (geese are force-fed fifteen to eighteen times daily). At the start, a bird might be force-fed via a long tube into its esophagus, nine ounces of food per day and up to thirty-five ounces by the end of the process. Modern techniques have narrowed the feeding time to two to three seconds.
Some people enjoy devouring veal even though the calves are housed in the smallest hutches or stalls that isolate the young and restrict their movements to prevent connective tissue from developing.
What kind of nightmares does the cow have while raised as veal confined in a shed in darkness? What does the Japanese cow dream that generates Wagyu Kobe Beef (which now has a sale price of $140 a pound)?
April 2, 1968: The iconic science-fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey was produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.
There was no reason for me to even consider the killing of animals. My family did not raise animals. We had goldfish and turtles from Woolworth’s and a standard poodle named Sasha. I never knew the source of my food. I never saw a slaughtered animal.
I imagined the killing of a chicken—the cutting off the head. The imagination of the killing sparked my philosophical decision.
April 4, 1968: Civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., age 39, was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
The wife of Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, believed that animal rights were an extension of King’s philosophy of nonviolence. She and their son, Dexter King, observed vegan diets.
April 6, 1968: The 76-day siege of Khe Sanh officially ended.
I always called myself a vegetarian. Apparently, I’m an ovo-lacto vegetarian (a title I refuse to say out loud).
a) vegan: the most-elevated strict state—eats no animal products including eggs, dairy, and honey.
b) raw veganism: eats only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables cooked at a specific temperature.
c) ovo-vegetarian: eats eggs but no dairy.
d) lacto-vegetarian: eats dairy but not eggs.
e) ovo-lacto vegetarian: eats animal/dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey.
f) fruitarian: eats fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plants that fall naturally and are gathered without harming the plant.
~ pescetarian: eats fish or other seafood.
~ pollotarian: eats chicken and other poultry.
~ pollo-pescetarian: eats poultry and fish or white meat only.
h) flexitarian: occasionally eats animal flesh.
April 11, 1968: President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which included a Fair Housing Act and the Indian Civil Rights Act.
I have not eaten meat in fifty-one years, but I’m still turned on by the smell of a barbecue and bacon frying. I sit at tables where others eat meat and I’m not repulsed.
I remember my mother’s bologna rolls. She smoothed Wonder Bread with a rolling pin and laid a slice of bologna—a neutral pink-beige shade that never looked like meat—on the whitest-looking blanket, and then rolled and pierced it with a toothpick.
I remember my father with his man-size oven mitt turning the charcoal side of beef away from the fire with a spatula, meat juices sizzling on the grill, little bursts of fire exploding, the smell of burnt hamburger on a summer day—his golden Ballantine beer can in his other hand.
I remember eating stuffed derma. (I thought it was bread stuffing, but later discovered I had loved the intestines of a cow.)
I remember our beloved appetizer at our family gatherings: chopped liver and sliced green olives stuffed with pimento on Ritz crackers.
April 14, 1968: The gay play, The Boys in the Band by Mart Crowley, opened off Broadway at Theater Four.
I outed myself as a vegetarian seven years before I outed myself as a lesbian. Choosing to be with a woman instead of marrying a man ranked high on the political-act spectrum.
April 26, 1968: The United States exploded a 1.3 megaton nuclear device called “Boxcar” beneath the Nevada desert.
Eight Steps of Meat Production for Consumption
Step one: U.S. consumers demand meat.
Step two: Trees are cut in Brazil for cows to graze.
Step three: Corn is planted to feed cows grazing in Brazil.
Step four: Cows in Brazil eat pesticides that are sprayed on the corn they eat.
Step five: Cows are fed antibiotics to keep them healthy from disease.
Step six: Preservatives are added to keep meat red in the store and increase shelf life.
Step seven: We eat cows raised in Brazil on land that used to be forests.
Step eight: We grow cancer cells in our bodies from the chemicals that cows eat in the corn.
Now more trees are being cut in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest where land is converted into cattle ranching, so people all over the world can eat meat. Isn’t a meatless diet better for a world of overpopulation?
We spent a total of $107 billion on cancer medicine worldwide in 2015, and it is projected to exceed $150 billion by 2020. Source: 2015 IMS report from the Institute for Healthcare Informatics.
May 10, 1968: Preliminary Vietnam peace talks began in Paris.
I heard the general manager of Thrive Café, an organic restaurant in Seattle, talk about his raw-food diet on NPR—his blood pressure is down, and he no longer gets sick.
I never became a vegetarian for health reasons. (Later I justified my cigarette smoking by believing being a vegetarian would offset this vice.) I don’t think I get to live longer because I’m a vegetarian.
May 17, 1968: The Catonsville Nine, including Daniel and Philip Berrigan (a Catholic priest), set on fire files from the draft board at the Maryland Knights of Columbus building.
My family had an insatiable craving for burgers. We ate them on a bun (seedless) with ketchup (Heinz), tomatoes (New Jersey), relish (kosher dill), and French fries (burnt).
My father hated McDonald’s. We went to White Castle (in 1968 they sold more than two billion hamburgers). The tiniest white onions were embedded in square-shaped burgers, and the architecture of the white building was in the shape of a medieval-castle tower. We went to Don’s that served charcoal-broiled burgers in the juiciest, magical form I ever experienced. And we drove twenty miles to Galloping Hills in Union, where we ordered food from a window, sat outside on a picnic bench, ate burgers and fries from a basket lined with red-and-white checkered paper. We scarfed down milkshakes or root beer or drove to Dairy Queen for chocolate-dipped vanilla cones.
June 3, 1968: Valerie Solanas, founder of the Society for Cutting Up Men (SCUM) and author of the “SCUM Manifesto,” shot Andy Warhol with a .32 automatic in his New York studio, The Factory.
Do all living creatures have souls? Do animals have souls? If I were born a chicken—raised in a cage, locked up with other chickens, fed through a hole, killed at an early age, defeathered, cut up, shrink-wrapped on Styrofoam, labeled, and sold for $5.80 a pound as chicken breasts in Seattle—would I have a soul or was I merely a premanufactured meal and nothing more?
The value of an animal is equal to the value of a human.
June 4, 1968: Senator Robert F. Kennedy won the California democratic Presidential primary.
Dietitians and doctors believe red meat is a source of protein—named after the Greek proteios, meaning “of the first rank.” Imagine being on the Paleolithic (caveman/stone-age) diet, eating all the red meat you desire? Animals were brought to ancient rituals for slaughter. Animals were sacrificed to the gods to end famine. Today we feed our bodies with animal flesh. We gnaw on animal bones. Chew on animal fat. Eat the innards of animals: tongue, liver, heart, brain, pancreas, gullet, tripe, kidney. Do you think eating their organs fortifies us to conquer our foes?
Must we always live in a violent culture? Was 1968 more violent than today?
June 5, 1968: Robert F. Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan and died the next day at the Good Samaritan Hospital.
I believe Hitler was the most evil man ever to live on earth. When I became a vegetarian, people told me that Hitler was a vegetarian. It was strange and extreme how they needed to inform me (a Jewish girl) of the Führer’s diet.
June 8, 1968: James Earl Ray, the suspected assassin of Martin Luther King Jr., was captured in London.
In the article “Reading Meat in H. G. Wells,” Michael Parrish Lee says the 19th-century novel is stuffed with meat: “meat becomes both something capable of shaping narrative structure and the visceral evidence of an imperial culture in which social interest is inseparable from appetite and the illumination is bound to carnage.”
June 12, 1968: The UN General Assembly adopted a Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons effective on March 5, 1970.
A few years ago, my mother sent me a large wood salad bowl carved in the shape of an apple. This family relic at one time had matching small bowls. My mother served us iceberg lettuce, red cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, radish, and premade croutons with Thousand Island dressing. Now I make a different kind of salad: Romaine lettuce, radicchio, grated zucchini, carrots, beets, vine tomatoes, walnuts, feta, handmade croutons with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (and a dash of Sriracha).
At dinner we sat in a circle. I sat across from my brother, my father to my right, my mother left of me. My brother (a Gemini) and I (a Cancer) have different stories of our past. Mine are darker than his lighter reflections. I seem to be the only one in the family who remembers the night my father lifted his salad bowl and threw it on the floor shouting: “I’ve always hated salad. Quit serving me salad.”
June 19, 1968: Nearly 50,000 marched to support the Poor People’s Campaign where Reverend Jesse Jackson preached “I Am Somebody” at Resurrection City, a tent city in front of the White House.
In 2012, I was dining with PK and friends on Seattle’s Capitol Hill and I ordered a vegetarian dish that the chef made specially for me. For dessert I ordered chocolate mousse and ate what I thought was a sliced barbecued strawberry, which turned out to be sausage. I had not eaten meat in forty-four years, and I did not die.
June 1968: Ralph Nader formed his first task force of seven law-student volunteers (aka Nader’s Raiders), who began looking into the Federal Trade Commission’s bureaucracy.
McDonald’s slogan is: I’m lovin’ it. The g is fallen off in that conversational way advertisers instill products with human-speak emotions: if we love the burger, we will feel the love and become love. (They also serve Happy Meals!)
Ah, the irony of capitalism: (1) Every time I see the golden arches, I remember my friend Lisa, whose brother is a rancher in Montana. She said the buyers for McDonald’s were notorious for buying just about anything—not the highest-quality meat, but meat from sickly cows. (2) My niece Jaclynn doesn’t eat beef, only eats McDonald’s burgers because they lack the bloodiness of a burger. (3) McDonald’s opened its first vegetarian restaurant in India in 2013.
July 17, 1968: The Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine premiered; the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party staged a coup in Iraq and Ahmed Hasan-al-Bakr became president.
What’s the longest you’ve stayed with one thing? Why do some of us stay committed to being vegetarian and others don’t? I went through a no-leather phase that lasted two years. It was so difficult to give up my leather boots and bags. (PK just bought me vegan boots from Thursdays.) Also I ate fish when I was a journeywoman in the Piledrivers Union 2396. When I quit construction, I quit eating fish.
Now I have only one friend, Scott Parducci, who has remained a vegetarian for decades. Word on the street is: more and more people are eating less meat—there are temporary Vs, weekend Vs, after-the-holiday Vs. But in South America, more meat manufacturers are gearing up because people in developing countries are eating more meat.
July 18, 1968: Intel, named from the first syllables of integrated and electronics, was founded by Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore.
Dog ownership has skyrocketed. In October 2011, Seattle Magazine wrote that there were more dogs (153,000) in Seattle than children (107,178), according to the U.S. Census and the Seattle Animal Shelter. Some dog owners feed raw meat to their dogs instead of processed meat with grains. In 2019, 1.5 pounds of refrigerated Freshpet Chunky Chicken & Turkey Recipe cost $6.99. A twenty-pound dog eats a half-pound per day. How many chickens are being raised so U.S. dogs can return to their wild, undomesticated diet?
July 29, 1968: Pope Paul VI issued the Humanae Vitae that reaffirmed the Church’s opposition to abortion and all contraception except the rhythm method.
When I was young, we used to go to Tabatchnick’s to buy bagels, cream cheese, sliced lox and sturgeon, and I would look at the fish’s head and stare into the eyes of the golden-skinned fish and feel guilty.
July 30, 1968: Saddam Hussein took charge of internal security services in Iraq.
Butcheries that appeal to humane practices of raising and slaughtering animals are appearing in organic communities, where butchers raise animals on grains without pesticides, let animals roam the land, and then butcher them. On their website, Farmstead Meatsmith on Vashon Island declares its butchery mission:
“We practice traditional methods of slaughter, butchery, and charcuterie. Therefore, our focus is to ensure that nothing is wasted. Each step of the process reflects this goal, resulting in what is simultaneously the most delicious and thrifty option for filling your larder.”
July 31, 1968: The Beatles recorded “Hey Jude.”
What would it be like to work in a slaughterhouse every day? To be a butcher? To smell like meat and blood? To tear out the guts of an animal? To defeather a chicken? To cleave a bone? If all meat-eaters killed and skinned and deboned their own meat would they continue to eat meat?
Who was the first man who killed an animal and ate it? Don’t you think hunting with one’s own hands is more humane than killing cows in assembly-line slaughterhouses?
August 8, 1968: Richard Nixon was nominated for president at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach; Spiro T. Agnew was chosen as his running mate, and riots broke out.
My manifesto would be a meatless world. My utopia would be a meatless world. A dismantle of everything butcherous.
August 21, 1968: The Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact nations invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring” liberalization led by Alexander Dubĉek.
Today you cannot write about being a vegetarian and not quote from Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. He demands you consider the source of your food: where food begins; how we cultivate our food; what we add to our food; how we bring our food to market; who owns our food; to whom we sell our food; what we do with the waste we create from the creation of food.
Pollan reminds us that people have been slaughtering, curing, cooking, eating meat for centuries, but after World War II, mass production distributed meat to more people than the privileged rich. We sped up the process to bring meat to the masses and make money and profits.
He informs us about the economies of corn. In the 1920s, corn used to be planted yielding twenty bushels of corn an acre; in the 1930s, a hybrid corn was developed that yielded seventy to eighty bushels an acre; in 2012, thanks to fertilizers and pesticides, the yield jumped to two hundred bushels of corn an acre. Now 30% of our landmass is used to produce corn, and farmers are paid to grow corn they store in silos. With all this surplus, an industry was infused with corn—90% of processed food has corn ingredients: especially high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener from cornstarch used in soda, juice, energy drinks, candy, breads, and cereal.
August 26, 1968: The Democratic National Convention opened in Chicago where thousands of demonstrators protested the Vietnam War.
In my early twenties, I picked fruit in Eastern Washington. Cherries. Apples. Pears. We worked for a Mormon family and lived in a yellow school bus parked in their orchard. We (four women and a dog named Rufus) were a traveling theatre group. There was an outhouse, no electricity, no TV, no cell phones, no computers, no running water. We bathed in the biting-cold Wenatchee River every night. We were four white lesbians from Seattle (the orchard owners were intrigued that I was Jewish, and we were in the closet about our sexuality). We picked alongside Mexican men who had family living in Mexico. For every canvas bag of cherries I picked, one of them picked three to four bags. They taught us Spanish and we taught them English. We drove a rundown Chevrolet van, and they had a souped-up, shiny Ford pickup. They made fun of my vegetarianism.
On September 16, Mexican Independence Day, they prepared a feast. A week before, they tied a baby goat to a tree with a rope while we picked apples. We city-girls petted and named the goat. After the party, they gifted me the goat’s head. I was horrified, but I accepted it graciously. We poured salt on the skinned head, dried it in the sun, and made a mask that I wore in our improv shows.
They were both sincere and irreverent in their gifting. In Madness, Rack, and Honey, Mary Ruefle, tells it the way we all know it: “Irreverence and sincerity are not opposed; we all know this, yet it is a common occurrence in life that our behavior is in direct opposition to what we know.”
August 27, 1968: Antiwar organizer Tom Hayden was beaten and taken to a Cook County jail in Chicago.
In 1867, Thomas F. De Voe, author of The Market Book, wrote about ox in his “Domestic or Tame Animals” chapter: “being useful to the farmer as a faithful worker, a great assistant in enriching his land, and then as a mill to grind his surplus fodder into beef, which every thing about him, from his hoofs to his horns, is profitable for some purpose or other.”
August 28, 1968: Vice-President Hubert Humphrey was nominated for U.S. Presidency and riots erupted outside the Democratic Convention; Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff nominated George McGovern for president and criticized Chicago’s Mayor Daly for his “Gestapo” tactics controlling protestors.
My niece Jaclynn, a diver, swims with sharks. She told me shark hunters cut the fins and throw still-living sharks back in the water. Without fins they cannot swim. Other sea creatures devour them. Sometimes they suffocate to death. More than 100 million sharks are slaughtered per year. Today shark fins sell for $350 a pound.
September 6, 1968: Swaziland in southern Africa gained independence from Britain.
Now fifty-one years later, a whole culture is evolving around all-natural, organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, raw, no trans fat, superfoods. In places like PCC Natural Markets in Seattle and the national chains Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, customers in athletic gear shop aisles with hundreds of healthy choices to choose from.
Note: In most grocery stores, the meat department is one-sixteenth of the store and hidden in the back. Fresh vegetables, fruit, and flowers are displayed front and center.
We do not see the blood and guts of the animal slaughter. Every piece of cow, shrink-wrapped in a Styrofoam tray, looks nothing like the being it was. Great efforts are made to keep the animal’s death from our eyes. The meat is red—no signs of brown or aging allowed. In stores we only see packages labeled with logos and taglines that promote healthy living. (Tyson Chicken: Keep It Real. Keep It Tyson. JBS: Making Your World Stronger.)
The food industry and the meat industry lobby for rights for their products and profits. Environmental groups lobby for protection of the earth and its inhabitants. Health groups lobby for people’s rights regarding nutritional values, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
September 7, 1968: Feminists protested the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, tossing and burning cosmetics, girdles, and bras into a “Freedom Trash Can.”
I am a breast cancer survivor (sixth year, thank you). So much cancer is also related to the digestive system: bile duct, carcinoid tumor, colon, esophageal, gallbladder, gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), liver, pancreatic, rectal, stomach, small intestine. I’m a copyeditor. Sometimes when editing food ingredients, I worry about the chemicals added to preserve the shelf life of a product: words like acesulfame-K, aspartame, erythorbic acid, inositol, rebaudiosode-B, and sodium nitrite, which preserves the red/pink color of meat, improves flavor by suppressing fat oxidation, and prevents bacteria growth.
September 9, 1968: Arthur Ashe became the first African-American to win the U.S. Open Men’s Tennis Singles Championship.
The chickens we eat are descendants of wild fowl that roamed the dense jungles of primeval Asia. Today most mass-produced chickens are raised in one square foot of space.
Consider the young life spans of these classifications of chickens from Sharon Tyler Herbst’s famed book for all-things food—the Food Lover’s Companion.
Broiler-fryers: weigh up to 3½ pounds; 2½ months old
Roasters: 2½ to 5 pounds; 8 months old
Stewing chickens (hens, boiling fowl, plain fowl): 3 to 6 pounds; 10 to 18 months old
Capon: a castrated chicken before 8 weeks old; fed a fattening diet toward 4 to 10 pounds
Cornish hen: 2½ pounds; 4 to 6 weeks old
Free-range chickens: 4½ pounds; 10 to 12 weeks old
September 16, 1968: Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon ironically exclaimed, “Sock it to me!” on the NBC TV comedy Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.
In the beginning cut of the 2008 documentary Food Inc., director Robert Kenner pans with his camera images of all-natural, fresh produce and vibrant farmers, and gradually the pastoral vision is transformed into the horrific reality of animal slaughter by corporate greed.
We see supermarket shelves and are told that 47,000 products are owned by a few multinational corporations (Tyson, Perdue, Kraft, etc.); 80% of beef products are processed by four companies; there used to be hundreds of U.S. slaughterhouses, but now there are only thirteen; tomatoes are now on shelves all year round.
We see how the multinational corporations controlling the production assembly lines that process these meats abuse animals and their workers.
We see the image of the retro independent Drive-In, and how this simple operation was turned into a factory system with the introduction of McDonald’s fast-food uniformity and cheap labor.
We see chicken houses; chickens do not see sunlight; old-style chicken houses had windows but are now darkened because there is less chicken resistance to being captured for slaughter in the dark; feces and dust are everywhere; chickens are overweight—they take a few steps and fall; they are fed antibiotics; even sick chickens go to the plant for processing.
We learn about the animal factory—the CAFO—(concentrated animal feeding operation). Corn makes cows fatten quickly. The calf matures to cow ready to be slaughtered for meat between fourteen months to four years. Corn is fed to animals that produce two hundred seventy pounds of meat per U.S. person per year. Cows are herbivores and fertilize the grass, so no need to spread manure. Cows stand ankle-deep in manure all day. It takes seventy-five gallons of oil to bring a cow to slaughter.
We learn about unintended consequences—beef recalls of E-coli (Escherichia coli) a rod-shaped bacterium; meatpacking is a dangerous job; infection from touching blood and feces. We learn IBP, Inc., formerly Iowa Beef Processors, Inc., now known as Tyson Fresh Meats (note Fresh in the brand name), in South Dakota—is a $24 billion operation, which supplies about 25 billion pounds of chicken, beef, and pork per year to McDonald’s, Walmart, and other major U.S. supermarket and restaurant chains and recruits Mexicans for their meatpacking operations. We see immigration raids that take the people, but do nothing to the meatpacking companies that employ them. They never take enough people to reduce production.
The largest slaughterhouse in the world is the Smithfield Packing Company in North Carolina, where they kill 32,000 hogs a day. (The company is now owned by WH Group in China.)
And we learn about Monsanto, a company that doesn’t want farms to save their own seeds and accuses other farmers of violating Monsanto’s patent infringement. They hire private investigators to catch farmers who are saving their own seeds, and they prosecute them claiming Monsanto’s intellectual property of seeds (it’s cheaper for farmers to pay the fine to Monsanto than to fight them in court). We Seattleites see that Microsoft is on their board, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports GMO because they believe it will feed the hunger of the world. We see that Clarence Thomas was a Monsanto lawyer, and Monsanto has close ties with both the Clinton and Bush administrations.
September 24, 1968: The CBS news magazine 60 Minutes premiered.
Barbara G. Walker gives us several myths of cow in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.
“Perhaps the most common manifestation of The Great Mother as Preserver was the white, horned, milk-giving Moon-cow, still sacred in India as a symbol of Kali.”
“The name of Italy meant ‘calf-land.’ This country too was the gift of the Milk-giver, whom Etruscans called Lat, Arabs called Al-Lat, Greeks called Latona, Lada, Leto, or Leda. She ruled Latium, and gave her milk (latte) to the world.”
“Earlier myths showed the universe being ‘curdled’ into shape from the Cow’s milk. … The Japanese version said the primordial deep went ‘curdlecurdle’ (koworokoworo) when stirred by the first deities, to make clumps of land.”
The Sacred Cow
“A favorite Roman emblem of the Goddess was the Cornucopia, Horn of Plenty: a cow’s horn pouring forth all the fruits of the earth. The cow was honored as the wet nurse of humanity . . .”
September 30, 1968: The first Boeing 747 rolled out of the Everett, Washington, assembly building.
Here are some weighty “Beef Cattle Facts” from The Missouri Beef Industry Council’s Beef-a-Gram.
80 pounds: The weight of a calf at birth.
400 pounds: The calf drinks the mother’s milk and eats grass and is weaned from its mother.
700–800 pounds: The calf eats grass/hay in a field until one-year-old.
1,000–1,100 pounds: Yearlings are sold at a sale barn, trucked to feedlots, fed grain and hay, and then sold to a packing house.
A 1,000-pound cow: Makes a carcass weighing 615 pounds, which makes about 432 pounds of meat such as steaks, roast, and ground beef for hamburgers.
The Hide of the Cow: Leather: Eight pairs of cowboy boots can be made from one cowhide.
The Bones and Horns of the Cow: Glue, fertilizers, and gelatin (for candles and marshmallows).
The Beef Fat (Tallow) of the Cow: An ingredient in soaps, cosmetics, candles, shortenings, and chewing gum.
The Glands of the Cow: Medicines including insulin and estrogen.
October 2, 1968: President Johnson created the Redwood National Park in Northern California under Public Law 90-545l, signed a bill establishing Washington state’s North Cascades National Park, and the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail was designated a National Scenic Trail.
What It Takes to Make One Quarter-Pound Hamburger
- 6.7 pounds of feed (grains and forage)
- 52.8 gallons of water for drinking water and irrigating feed crops
- 74.5 square feet of land for grazing and growing feed crops
- 1,036 BTUs of fossil fuel energy for feed production and transport (the amount to power a typical microwave for 18 minutes).
Source: Journal of Animal Science (December 2011).
October 14, 1968: The Beatles completed the White Album at the Abbey Road Studios; the first live telecast from U.S. citizens in a spacecraft was sent from Apollo 7.
Other herbivores include: aardvark, beaver, buffalo, butterfly, camel, chinchilla, cow, cockatoo, deer, donkey, earthworm, elephant, elk, gazelle, giraffe, goat, goose, gorilla, grasshopper, guinea pig, hippopotamus, horse, iguana, kangaroo, koala, llama, manatee, mastodon, mouse, panda, parakeet, parrot, parrotfish, rabbit, rhinoceros, scarlet macaw, sheep, snail, surgeonfish, tortoise, yak, zebra, as well as some dinosaurs (Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops).
October 18, 1968: The U.S. Olympic Committee suspended two African-American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, for giving a black-power salute during a ceremony in Mexico City after they won gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter race.
Time magazine’s “Science: Meat: Making Global Warming Worse” reports the following dismal news on its website (July 1, 2012).
“In a 2006 report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions—by comparison, all the world’s cars, trains, planes, and boats account for a combined 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. Much of livestock’s contribution to global warming come from deforestation, as the growing demand for meat results in trees being cut down to make space for pasture or farmland to grow animal feed. Livestock takes up a lot of space—nearly one-third of the earth’s entire landmass. In Latin America, the FAO estimates that some 70% of former forest cover has been converted for grazing. Lost forest cover heats the planet, because trees absorb CO2 while they’re alive—and when they’re burned or cut down, the greenhouse gas is released back into the atmosphere.
“Then there’s manure—all that animal waste generates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that has 296 times the warming effect of CO2. And of course, there is cow flatulence: as cattle digest grass or grain, they produce methane gas, of which they expel up to 200 L a day. Given that there are 100 million cattle in the U.S. alone, and that methane has 23 times the warming impact of CO2, the gas adds up.”
October 22, 1968: President Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968 that regulated firearm registrations and an owner’s fingerprints and banned the sale of handguns to those under age 21.
Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant, is a book about the revenge of an animal and the tiger code of honor. On December 5, 1997, poacher Vladimir Illyich Markov, living in Sobolonye, was stalked by an Amur tiger after he shot him. After opening the borders of Russia and China, tiger poaching increased in Sobolonye—poachers were desirous of skins, organs (the tiger’s penis makes men virile); and blood, bones, and whiskers (used for Chinese medicine). After Markov shot the tiger in the leg and stole part of the tiger’s kill, the tiger hunted him, followed him home, and waited twelve to forty-eight hours before attacking him. The tiger tore him to pieces, defecated on his porch, dragged him into the woods, and consumed him. Some say the tiger’s eating the man was secondary. Defending himself and seeking revenge was primary.
November 1, 1968: President Johnson halted all U.S. bombing in North Vietnam; the Motion Picture Association of America adopted its film-rating system (G,M,R,X).
On June 22, 2012, PK and I saw a dead deer on the side of the road on Whidbey Island. The Deer Hunter returned. When I was a nineteen-year-old student at Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York, I drove to the country to photograph. I met two ten-year-old sisters on the street. One girl had a face full of gravitas. Her mother welcomed me into their home and gave me permission to photograph her daughter. The father was suspect of the city-college-student photographing his daughter. One Sunday, the father called me into his garage to show me the dead deer hanging from the rafter, blood dripping to the floor, steam rising from its torn-open cut belly.
I turned frozen and pretended to be okay with this Deer Hunter’s killing, because he let me photograph his daughter. I held back my tears and berated myself for telling him I was a vegetarian.
“Take a photograph of this,” he said. I hid behind my lens and shot a roll of film.
I threw away all my photographs in 2003, but I can still see the girl’s beautiful tortured face and the dead deer hanging from the rafter. I wonder if the girl still has the pictures, if she has memory of me as I have memory of her.
November 5, 1968: Richard Nixon was elected the 37th U.S. President; Shirley Chisholm of Brooklyn became the first African-American woman elected to serve in the House of Representatives.
On average Americans eat about 1.3 pounds of meat a day.
Nearly 25 cows will be killed in the lifetime of a person eating meat for 50 years.
In 1909, U.S. meat consumption was 9.8 billion pounds; in 2012 it was 52.2 billion pounds. Source: Earth Policy Institute.
November 28, 1968: John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared at the Marylebone Magistrates’ Court in London, where John pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis resin and was fined 150 pounds plus 20 guineas.
Longtime animal-rights activist and outspoken vegetarian, singer-songwriter Morrissey canceled his appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show when he discovered he would be sharing the program with the mallard-hunting stars of Duck Dynasty. In 2013 he asked all venues on his tour to refrain from selling meat products during his shows. Here are the last eight lines from his song “Meat Is Murder.”
It’s not “natural,” “normal” or kind
The flesh you so fancifully fry
The meat in your mouth
As you savour the flavour
NO, NO, NO, IT’S MURDER
NO, NO, NO, IT’S MURDER
Oh … and who hears when animals cry?
December 5, 1968: Football star O. J. Simpson won a Heisman trophy that he auctioned in 1999 to help cover the $33.5 million judgment against him in the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
My father loved hot dogs, especially Hebrew National Kosher Hot Dogs. Whenever we drove to New York City, he stopped at the yellow-and-blue-umbrella-street-vendor Sabrett and bought a hot dog with sweetworks: French’s mustard, relish, sauerkraut, no onions. When I became a vegetarian, he ordered me a hot dog with all the works sans the dog.
Our family has a Coney Island hot-dog legend: my father was getting fresh (sexual) with my mother before they married. She fought him off. He bought her a hot dog with sweetworks. She forgave him. To win her heart, he gave her a gold charm with sweetworks inscribed on the back.
December 9, 1968: Doug Engelbart and researchers at Stanford Research Institute demonstrated the first computer mouse along with a graphical user interface (GUI), display editing, integrated text and graphics, and two-way videoconferencing with shared workspaces.
In 1968 there was always a major discussion about my vegetarianism at BBQs. It wasn’t until 1985 that I found the company Yves Veggie Cuisine, which made meatless tofu hot dogs. Now I’m obsessed with Seattle’s Field Roast Grain Meat Co. They have a Smoked Apple Sage sausage you could die for—made with apples and sage, Yukon gold potatoes, and a hint of hickory smoke.
December 11, 1968: The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was founded by Dr. George Habash.
Isn’t it inhumane for a person to be in solitary confinement with lack of exercise and light? Isn’t it inhumane for a cow to be raised in a feedlot in a stall with lack of movement and sunlight? Why do I pretend that a cow on a dairy farm has a better life than a cow in a slaughterhouse?
December 21, 1968: Apollo 8, with astronauts James A. Lovell, William Anders, and Frank Borman, was launched on the first mission to orbit the moon.
Today is February 14, 2019. Women have orbited the moon, and I am childless and still a peace-loving vegetarian.