I have a friend that’s a vegetarian, it’s hard not to take it personally.


A friend of mine posted this image on her facebook page earlier today. It’s the new posters that the animal rights group, Mercy for Animals is selling to raise funds.

It made me think.

Now I don’t have the answer to this question. I have my opinion and I am sure the other side could argue against my thoughts quite easily. I think the only answer to this question is one that we each answer for ourselves. The reasons I choose to eat meat from a pig or cow but choose not to eat my dog or my horse even thought they are staples in other diets are my own reasons. They most likely won’t be the same as the next person’s thoughts and I am cool with that. But the point of this post isn’t to debate the question, I want to talk about the reaction I had to a friend of mine posting this….

First a little back story. My friend Sheri is an amazing woman with more compassion and heart than just about any person I know. We have known each other for about 7 years now and have traveled together and leaned on each other during difficult times. I met Sheri when I adopted a dog from the dog rescue organization she worked with. I soon got involved with the organization as well and over the course of 4 years fostered many, many dogs before they went on to their, hopefully, forever homes. When we first met I was not really a “farm” girl and she wasn’t a vegetarian. Over the years we have both shared some amazing highs, like finding the perfect family for a dog that truly deserved the best home ever. There have been lows, she was at our farm the night she noticed her dog was having suddenly showing very serious symptoms of the cancer that eventually took her life. We don’t share the same views on politics or religion and I am ok with that. I am all about personal choice, including the choice to become vegetarian or even vegan. But to be honest when Sheri told me a while ago that she was choosing to exclude meat and eventually easing into a close to vegan diet, I was hurt a little.

I respect and admire my friend very much. The thought that she could possibly think that I wasn’t caring for the animals entrusted to me stings. At the same time I have avoided the conversation about her new diet choices because I didn’t really want to offend her and the right time to talk hasn’t really come around. Lately I have had the opportunity to spend a little more time with my friend. She has a litter of puppies at her house and one of them is reserved for us. While talking on a visit a few weeks ago Sheri said to me that she chose her diet because while she knew that I would never hurt or abuse my animals she couldn’t guarantee that the other farmers out there were like me. So she chose to eliminate the doubt about the welfare of the animals that produced meat and milk by forgoing animal products.  While in theory that should make me feel better, she doesn’t think I am a horrible animal abuser, even though we are dairy farmers, it doesn’t. Instead I am sad and I feel like I have failed her.

It’s easy for someone to find information on the “horrors of factory farming”. Headlines scream out about the newest food atrocity every week. Food, Inc. is referenced as fact by many people. The side against farmers, against me, is loud and everywhere. Sometimes I just can’t help feeling like someone’s personal choice is also personal attack against me. I remember answering a question from Sheri several years ago about the calves we kept in hutches. She had always assumed that those calves were veal calves. I remember explaining to her that the calves we keep in hutches are not veal calves at all but are heifer calves that will be raised to join the milking herd. The other night the subject of veal came up again and I explained that very few calves are going to veal anymore because the veal market isn’t there anymore. That the majority of bull calves from dairy farms actually go on to become steers and are raised as beef animals. I couldn’t help but wonder, if my friend had came to me to ask about farming practices instead of taking what has been put out there by animal rights groups or other agenda driven people, would she still feel confident and comfortable eating meat and drinking milk?  The veal questions are the only ones I can remember her ever asking me and I don’t understand how someone can make such a drastic decision without weighing all sides. Her post today struck a chord with me and in no small part because of the irony of someone who loves dogs so much supporting an organization that wants to end any kind of animal ownership, including dogs. But mostly because I want to answer her questions, or anyone else’s questions. I want to be a source of information, which is why I take the time to blog. But above all else I just want people to take the time to seek out information from the other side, the quieter side, the side out here in the country, the people that are here taking care of the animals.

You didn’t think I would mention a puppy and not show you a picture did you? This is Maybe and she will be joining us on our farm later this summer.

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17 Comments on I have a friend that’s a vegetarian, it’s hard not to take it personally.

  1. IrishmaleinAmerica (@ianhmoore)
    June 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm (7 years ago)

    I find the poster has flawed logic. For instance, I dated a chinese girl some number of years back. She didn’t choose one but not the other, she had happily eaten Dog and Pig! ( I can’t say if she had eaten cat or not, but she did have a pet cat…. that she used to make long distance phone calls back to China to talk to….). Ahem, point being, I don’t think I’ll ever stop eating meat, it’s darn tasty. I would happily pay extra for meat if I knew for a fact that the animal was raised well, looked after and had a pretty happy animal life. However, in the mean time, I think that poster needs some adjustment.

  2. Colleen Newvine Tebeau
    June 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm (7 years ago)

    I don’t want to offend you, Carrie, but I’ve been mostly vegetarian for about 20 years — sometimes nearly vegan, sometimes just limiting red meat, but always with an intent of eating fewer animals.

    I think the point of the poster is that it’s a big decision to take the life of another living, breathing creature so that you can eat it. In many cultures, there is much ceremony around giving thanks for the sacrifice of that animal before consuming it, but in ours, the life and death of that sentient being is so far removed from cooking and eating that many people don’t even associate a cheeseburger with a cow.

    I know you do. I’m talking general public, not farmers.

    So the poster is asking people to have that internal dialogue, to ask if they are comfortable with the decision to take a pig’s life, for example, and putting it in terms of animals non farmers are more familiar with.

    My cousins are hunters and fishermen and they eat meat with great care and respect because they’ve looked that animal in the eye as they personally killed it. Many of us don’t ever get blood on our hands and we don’t have to ask that question as we go through the drive thru. We’ve divorced the killing from the eating.

    I don’t eat meat because I can’t be sure how the animal was raised or slaughtered and if the farmer was as conscientious as you — but even if the animal was well treated and met with a compassionate, painless end, I don’t feel I need an animal to die for me to eat a flavorful, nutritious meal.

    One of the things I like about the local food movement is that as people raise backyard chickens, they participate in the decision to kill a chicken for meat, and as people take butchering classes, they remember that pork chops came from a pig with a face. If you’re a carnivore, I think having that awareness and respect for the animal is valuable.

    I hope you and your friend can have a positive, respectful conversation about this because it sounds like you share a love of animals and enough shared history to be able to learn from each other’s perspectives.

    • dairycarrie
      June 25, 2012 at 5:29 pm (7 years ago)

      Of course your choice doesn’t offend me. I am glad that you took the time to comment. I am on the road at the moment but will respond more fully when I am able to sit down.

  3. Justin Hager
    June 25, 2012 at 5:25 pm (7 years ago)

    Carrie! I love the blog post and think that issues of food choice are unbelievably important and often go undiscussed in the public forum. I especially want to commend you for asking her about her choice to go vegetarian and not assuming that you know what her motivations were. I for one choose not to eat beef or pork, but it has little to do with farming practices or animal cruelty and more to do with environmental factors such as CO2 contributions and my own personal health.

    I also agree with you that some animal rights advocacy groups have taken their message too far. My home-town of Duluth, MN for example recently experienced a massive flash flood. The water levels rose so quickly that 11 of the animals at the zoo were unable to escape their enclosures and unfortunately drowned. Rather than having the opportunity to mourn and care for the animals who did survive, the zookeepers and veterinarians, who have dedicated their lives to caring for these animals were greeted the next day with a court summons from PETA, who was suing for the negligent care of the animals who died.

    Thanks again fro sharing your thoughts, we’ll have to have a mo0re extended face to face conversation some day about “special interests” as I have far too many thoughts on that topic to express here. 🙂 Best wishes and lots of love from out west,


  4. Jamie Rhoades
    June 25, 2012 at 5:29 pm (7 years ago)

    This is a tough one. Honestly, if it were me I don’t think I could consider her much of a friend when she would trust flawed propaganda over you. I would hope that if she was my friend she would feel comfortable with asking me questions about farming or at least hearing my opinion. I’m sure she’s a great person but I don’t see how you couldn’t take it personally. I honestly don’t understand why most of the people in this country say “well, I understand that you don’t abuse your animals but I think most farmers probably do.” If you trust HSUS or PETA (which are known for not being honest) why not trust me/other farmers?

    • Ellen @ Real CA Dairy
      June 25, 2012 at 5:58 pm (7 years ago)

      I am with Jamie on the “trusting organizations known to mislead” point. There was a video that was compiled and spread by none other than Mercy for Animals (the very organization pushing this poster), where their “undercover” operative filmed 2 weeks of abuse “for evidence” before reporting it. Let’s get a grip here. We wouldn’t be in business if the majority of us farmers were on the wrong side of the fence. Kudos to you for asking her reasoning, which I do take personally.

  5. Janice aka JPlovesCOTTON
    June 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm (7 years ago)


    I think many of us in agriculture have an incredibly tough time separating our jobs and personal lives because we are so personally invested in what we do. We miss events we have planned to be at because something comes up that has to be dealt with, etc. And hearing that someone else doesn’t understand how the people we work alongside sacrifice as we do our jobs with respect is hard not to take personally. However, I think the fact that your friend is wiling to share all of this and continue having conversations with you on the topics means she respects you at such high levels that you really make a difference.

    My brother decided years ago he wanted to raise his own food. He wants to know what goes into it, how its done, etc. He had been mostly vegetarian for years but the connection to how it is raised makes a difference for him. It doesn’t for me. I feel comfortable having talked with and visited so many farmers…. I’m fine buying meat from grocery stores, meat markets and the farmer direct.

    I do think that people should be respectful of the fact livestock provides our food. We should not waste it, shouldn’t treat it as an unending supply, etc. Some of that personal introspection can be valuable. I think looking for that common ground may be what you need to do with this friend as the difference just seems so huge right now and there is a lot more there.

  6. Hannah (@ambitiouscattle)
    June 26, 2012 at 11:31 am (7 years ago)

    Great post! I agree that everyone has right to their own opinions and as long as everyone is nice about it then we can continue to have this discussion with vegans, vegitarians, and meat eaters!

    I know that animals that are killed for consumption at my house are treated with respect and care until death. It is hard for many people who have been disassociated with farming and ranching to understand how someone could so easily kill an animal. I was taught growing up that it is the cycle of life and that animals, while still a part of our diet, are to always be treated in the best possible way.


  7. Robin Rastani
    June 26, 2012 at 2:59 pm (7 years ago)


    Great post! I’ve become a believer in food choice. I eat what I like because I like it and feel it does my body good (like MILK). That said, others should have the same freedom to do as they please. It is hard for me not to get offended by people who don’t want to consume the same foods as me. But I always try to go back to the same core belief.

    Thanks for encouraging others to think more about this issue.


  8. Brenda Akins
    June 26, 2012 at 10:51 pm (7 years ago)

    Great post and so relevant to what my daughter (an animal science major) and I were discussing after this evenings milking. As farmers we need to do a better job of PR. Way too much misinformation out there and people too far removed from the farm.

    • dairycarrie
      July 3, 2012 at 11:22 pm (7 years ago)

      So sorry I didn’t approve this comment earlier Brenda! I believe with all of my heart that part of every farmers job is to reach out to the non farm folk however they are able to and be available to answer questions for them.

  9. The Queen
    July 6, 2012 at 6:19 pm (7 years ago)

    Sorry I’m late to the party, but been busy keeping my squash, beans, tomatoes and okra alive!

    There are many issues to address here and you guys have covered most of them…yes, those of us in agriculture need to do a better job of PR! No…we shouldn’t trust PETA and whatever above what we see with our own eyes. But first and foremost…the point that we need to know where our food comes from, how it was raised, what chemicals have been used, how fresh is it…all of those can be applied to our veggies and fruits too as well as our meat supply.

    Do I trust an orange that was raised in Mexico over one grown in Florida? No brainer. Florida gets my vote every time. Do I trust Florida oranges over oranges grown say, 200 miles from me? No! I want a more local farmer’s oranges. How about oranges I grew in my backyard all on my own over those 200 miles away? Well yes I’ll take mine any day! But can we always have those choices? Nope. So we do the best we can.

    The markets have a way to adjusting to consumer demand. I think we see that happening now and that trend will continue re: the beef demand has changed drastically in the last 20 years. Everyone wants leaner cuts. And by golly, that is exactly what they’re getting now! This trend will continue if gas prices keep going up. We’ll be forced to buy more food locally. And that is a good thing.

    But never assume that because a vendor claims to be organic, whether is hamburger or carrots, that it’s safe, ok and all is well. And don’t assume that going vegan makes you healthier/more savvy than those who still enjoy a steak occasionally. You eat what you want and I’ll eat what I want and I’ll love you all the same. Balance is the key word!

    And I read once that a carrot screams when you pull it out of the ground. It had to be true. It was on the internet!!!

    Great discussion and great post, Carrie!!

  10. Eddie Borst
    July 6, 2012 at 10:09 pm (7 years ago)

    Carrie, You are a great advocate for the Ag industry. If a topic comes about that you are not familiar with you research it before giving an opinion. You make no excuses, instead you come right out and say “you know, at this time I don’t know the answer to that but give me a couple days and we will discuss it then”. It is that type of honesty that everybody should have when it comes to discussing a topic as important as our food supply. I have talked with and known personally many farmers that are like you. One cannot expect a crop farmer to know anything about dairy and the dairy farmer has no idea what all goes into hog farrowing and they will tell you as much. It doesn’t mean though that they are not passionate about what they do. One thing for sure is that they will point you in the right direction to find the answers.
    The ironic thing is when I think back to when the Ag industry was celebrating Dominos Pizza by having a worldwide pizza party for making sound informed decisions about where they purchase their ingredients from. The non meat eating people invaded the Facebook page, that was meant for people to have fun and recognize a worldwide company, with negative comments and videos that were taken from context and meant to demean the Ag industry. Now Iam not sure how many farmers do this to vegetarian/vegan sites or pages. I do know that I personally don’t do this or do I believe that anybody I have associated myself with in social media forums does this either. I will however support and respect anybody’s right to their own opinions and decisions.
    Hats off to you Dairy Carrie for taking an informed and honest approach to everything you so passionately blog about.

  11. heatherclemenceau
    September 24, 2012 at 9:11 pm (7 years ago)

    Honestly, I don’t think there is any reason to be offended by your friend’s vegetarianism. To me, it’s no different than if she decided to send her child to a private school instead of the public school in your neighbourhood, or chose a different dentist. Besides, if your friend is a vegetarian, as opposed to a vegan, this only means she won’t eat meat – most vegetarians still drink milk, cheese, and eggs.

    • dairycarrie
      September 24, 2012 at 9:37 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks for commenting Heather. I wouldn’t say I was offended by her food choices at all. As the title says, it’s hard not to take it personal when a friend chooses vegetarianism because of concerns over animal welfare issues. As I also said in my post she was very close to being vegan.

      All of that being said I am all for food choice and allowing people to pick what they want. But I am not going to lie and say it doesn’t bother me when a friend or anyone else for that matter chooses to not eat meat because of fears about animal welfare issues.

  12. MarianaMmontbriand
    September 2, 2013 at 8:18 pm (6 years ago)

    For me personally, the concept of unessessarily raising a living, feeling being to be slaughtered or used only for their body is cruel. Even if they’re not beaten and bloodied daily, animals are usually not treated with respect. “I love my cows!” Do you keep the bull calves? Do you keep your cows that don’t produce milk? Why not? Because economically, it doesn’t make sense. It’s about the money, not only for animal farmers, but any other industry. I get that. However, when living creatures are in play, it’s unethical to use them in such as way.

    • dairycarrie
      September 2, 2013 at 8:23 pm (6 years ago)

      It’s up to each of us to decide what we will and will not eat. You’ve made your choice.
      I choose to eat meat. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care for or respect the animals. I believe that the majority of people out there that farm treat their animals with respect as well.