Meet the vegetarian who became a ‘mindful’ butcher

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TORONTO — For a decade, Australian mother Tammi Jonas said she was the quintessential “hippy-dippy” vegetarian: triple checking labels, eating organic, whole foods — the whole nine yards.

But after becoming anemic during one of her pregnancies, she not only turned back to meat but went on to become a butcher and co-owner of a pasteurized pig farm Down Under called “Jonai Farms.”

However, advocates of mass factory farming should steer clear of Jonas — she abhors the practice and says the Global North eats too much meat.

Meat can be part of a “normal diet,” she told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview, but “the question is how do we incorporate it into a diet without participating in cruelty to animals?” Jonas cited the cramped living spaces and assembly-line-style butchering, which can take place on factory farms.

Jonas believes her story, recently picked up by several news outlets, is connecting with people because “they’re eager for the conversation about what we’re eating.”

Because of meat consumption’s impact on climate change, she said people “feel guilty about their meat-eating but I’m trying to show them you don’t have to feel guilty but you definitely be mindful …and eat from animals that were raised properly.”

During the 1970s, a 19-year-old Jonas gave up meat after reading philosopher Peter Singer’s book “Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals,” which explored how animals’ ability to feel pain should be factored into human actions.

“I was concerned about how animals were being raised (but) not because I thought it was immoral to take their lives,” she explained, adding that for the next decade, she became a granola-eating, “classic Earth Mama.”

“I was just a mother who was very concerned about what I was putting my babies’ bodies,” she said.


TURNING POINT WAS ANEMIA DURING PREGNANCY

She maintained her meat-free lifestyle throughout two pregnancies with no health issues.

But all of that changed during her third pregnancy, when she became extremely anemic . That’s when the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, causing the sufferer to feel lethargic.

This is commonly brought on by low iron levels in the blood. So because meat is rich in iron – as explained by Dietitians of Canada — Jonas began turning back to beef and lamb from animals who grew up on a pasture rather than a factory.

“And I immediately felt better,” she said. Over the next several years, Jonas began chowing down on similarly sourced pork and poultry.

She said she made sure meat came from animals who were ethically farmed and slaughtered. This notion led Jonas and her husband Stuart to farm the livestock themselves to ensure the meat was cruelty-free.

But Jonas turning to farming wasn’t that much of a stretch.

Before moving to her adopted home of Australia in the 1990s, Jonas grew up on a cattle ranch in Oregon where she was surrounded by livestock. And throughout her life she was always selective about where her meat was coming from.


HER FARM’S CONNECTION TO MITIGATING CLIMATE CHANGE

“With a lifelong interest in animal production, I was like, you know what? The logical end of all this research is that I have to become a farmer,” she laughed. “And how I can I contribute to there being more free-range meat?”

Jonas learned how to butcher the animals herself, ensuring her approximately 110 pigs live on grass-covered areas and have access to mobile feeding troughs on her 24-acre property.

She brags that her pigs eat whey from an organic cheese maker, strawberry and cream. But Jonas laments that her facility doesn’t have an on-site slaughterhouse because animals get stressed “by being loaded onto a trailer and being taken to a strange place.”

“While no animal has a totally stress-free life, we’re aiming for as little stress as possible –especially in that critical last day,” she said, adding she hopes to add a abattoir soon.

Jonas adds that the meat industry can’t ignore climate change, the need to reduce animal suffering and consumers wanting to eat more consciously and locally.

“We’re emitting too many greenhouse gases. We need to draw down carbon and trees are one way of doing that but well-managed grasslands are an even bigger carbon sink,” she said, explaining that she’s maintaining “good grazing practices (which) will mean the (soil) will hold more carbon in.”

While she doesn’t want people eating fewer vegetables, she stressed that overgrazing of farmlands is a “real problem” as much as “tillage of annual vegetables is a disaster for soil.”



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