Why I LOVE bacon (hint: I don’t)
Deployment can be rough sometimes as I have no option but to eat every meal in front of a group of people. Since I never eat the food I am served and make every meal with food I bring from home, my eating habits become the topic of conversation nearly every time we sit down. On my last deployment, one conversation, in particular, stood out. One of my shipmates sat next to me, and his face lit up because he had a real doozy of a question,
I know you say that you don’t miss eating meat, but you miss eating bacon right?
I took a minute to ponder the question and formulate an answer. I simply replied that even when I ate meat I wasn’t a huge fan of bacon. Luckily, that was as far as I got before I was interrupted, and the spotlight was removed from me by a competition of sorts. All of the men at the table immediately erupted into a debate about who liked bacon more. It became apparent that expressing their love for bacon was a show of masculinity and to be the true alpha male one must prove that their bacon infatuation reigned supreme. Sadly, this is not the first time I have witnessed this ridiculous argument, often by extremely unhealthy people likely on cholesterol medication, who then look down on me as inferior because I decline to participate in the bacon masculinity ritual. Once the dust settles and the true alpha male is uncovered, it usually leads into a discussion about what one likes to put bacon on. Evidently there is no limit to the foods you can instantly upgrade and make more masculine by smothering it with bacon.
After this latest incident, I found myself asking,
What in the _____ is going on here?
Imagine this for a second… A group of manly men sitting around the table and broccoli comes up in the conversation. All of these manly men are huge broccoli enthusiasts and a heated debate erupts. They are arguing about who can eat more broccoli, how many heads of broccoli they have to buy at whole foods to feed their broccoli addiction, and the fact that there is no food in existence that they won’t put broccoli on. After the broccoli king is crowned and there is a short awards ceremony, some broccoli recipe swapping takes place. Sounds a little ridiculous doesn’t it? But why? This debate happens on a regular basis regarding bacon. There are whole photo albums, websites and books dedicated to bacon consumption despite the fact that there is nothing manly at all about eating bacon.
Let me first address the most obvious reason bacon eating isn’t manly. It comes from a dead pig. For some reason, this doesn’t seem to matter to many people. I often think that if people made the connection about where their meat comes from they would consume less of it. However, I have been to weddings, work parties, birthday parties and countless get-togethers where a dead pig is proudly displayed on a stick in its entirety and people are going to town on its carcass. This does not make any sense to me. People will look at me like I am crazy because I am not eating anything, but they are pulling bits of meat off a fully intact dead animal. An animal I am quite fond of.
Just a few weeks ago I was at CJ Acres Animal Rescue Farm in Jacksonville FL, where there are several rescued pigs. I stepped into their pen and was assaulted by several of these enormous animals who wanted nothing more than a good back scratching. They rub up against your leg and wag their tails grunting in excitement while you scratch their rough hairy skin. I couldn’t help but notice that their behavior is almost identical to that of dogs. I wondered why dogs get to be man’s best friend and we treat pigs as if they were man’s worst enemy. Most of the research I read claims that pigs are even smarter than dogs, and most three-year-old humans. There is no arguing that pigs are incredibly kind, gentle and intelligent creatures.
When in their natural surroundings—not on factory farms—pigs are social, playful, protective animals who bond with each other, make nests, relax in the sun, and cool off in the mud. Pigs are known to dream, recognize their own names, learn “tricks” like sitting for a treat, and lead social lives of a complexity previously observed only in primates. Pigs have been documented showing empathy for other pigs who are happy or distressed. Many pigs even sleep in ‘pig piles,’ much like dogs. Some love to cuddle and others prefer space.
Despite their intelligence and emotional capacity, pigs endure horrible lives. Some of the atrocities that pigs regularly experience due to factory farming include:
- Mother sows confined to barren metal crates barely larger than their own bodies – unable to turn around or lie down comfortably for nearly their entire lives
- Workers ripping out the testicles of conscious piglets without the use of painkillers
- Piglets suffering with herniated intestines, due to botched castration
- Conscious piglets having their tails painfully sliced into and yanked off with dull clippers
- Large, open, pus-filled wounds and pressure sores
- Sick and injured pigs left to languish and slowly die without proper veterinary care
- Mother pigs — physically taxed from constant birthing — suffering from distended, inflamed, bleeding, and usually fatal uterine prolapses
The saddest part is that all of this abuse is for no other reason than the taste of meat which can be easily replicated without harming any living animal.
I have attempted to be an advocate for the many plant-based bacon substitutes including, coconut bacon, seitan bacon, tempeh bacon, and now even seaweed that tastes like bacon. Organic Fakin’ Bacon Tempeh Strips by Lightlife and Hickory & Sage Smoked Seitan Bacon by Sweet Earth Natural Foods are absolutely delicious, and I eat them both several times a week. (For an excellent recipe with Fakin’ Bacon go here) Unfortunately, anytime I try to bring this up it is met with violent opposition as if I am questioning the manliness of the alpha bacon eater. One such bacon enthusiast was on a deployment of mine and proved on several occasions that he was a quintessential alpha male and could never be fooled by these so-called imitation bacons. When the deployment was over and we finally pulled into home port, I ran to Sweet Theory Baking Co. and ordered about two dozen of their donuts and other baked goods. One of their specialties is a maple bacon donut that I knew would appeal to all of these manly bacon slayers. I brought all of these delicious baked goods to the ship, placed them in the common eating area, and watched a feeding frenzy unfold. I saw several grown men elbow deep in the donut box, covered in crumbs and icing, boasting with full mouths how the maple bacon donuts were the best they had ever had and how much I was missing out by not eating them. I played along and when I left that day, I emailed all of them informing them of the truth. Sweet Theory Bakery Co. is completely vegan, so that bacon they had, the best bacon they had ever tasted was coconut. I feel like I may have taught them all a very valuable lesson, unfortunately I know it won’t matter because they think there is nothing manly about bacon flavored coconut.
There is nothing manly about killing intelligent, emotional creatures for a taste that is easily replicated with cruelty-free options.
The second reason bacon isn’t manly is because it isn’t good for your health. A real man is healthy, vibrant, and fit, and there is no shortage of evidence that proves bacon does not contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
Eating pork products, which are loaded with artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat, is a good way to increase your waistline and increase your chances of developing deadly diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and impotence.
There is also an enormous cancer risk associated with bacon and other processed meats.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, just 1.7 ounces of processed meats consumed daily—less than two strips of bacon—can increase a person’s risk for colorectal cancer by 21 percent. No amount of processed meat is considered safe for consumption. Every year, about 143,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and approximately 53,000 die of it.
There is definitely nothing manly about being unhealthy, diseased and impotent.
The third reason bacon isn’t manly is because a real man appreciates the environment and makes choices that are sustainable and benefit future generations. Bacon is a product of animal agriculture which is rapidly ruining our planet.
- Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.
- Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption.
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
- Pigs produce 14lbs. of waste per day, x 67 million pigs.
In Boss Hog: The Dark Side of America’s Top Pork Producer an article by Rolling Stone Magazine exposing Smithfield Foods they also bring up the waste issue stating:
Industrial pig waste also contains a host of other toxic substances: ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, cyanide, phosphorous, nitrates and heavy metals. In addition, the waste nurses more than 100 microbial pathogens that can cause illness in humans, including salmonella, cryptosporidium, streptocolli and girardia. Each gram of hog S@#* can contain as much as 100 million fecal coliform bacteria.
That is just plain gross. This rolling stone article also goes on in vivid detail about several other issues with Smithfield Foods that are so disgusting I couldn’t even repeat them.
There is nothing manly about spreading disease and destroying our planet.
So please remember this post the next time you witness a bunch of manly men engage in a fierce competition to establish alpha status by way of bacon consumption, your Facebook page is adorned with an intelligent “bacon tho”, or your friend proclaims they could never be vegan because they like bacon too much. Remember that real men are compassionate and would never harm any living thing, real men set the example by being fit and healthy, and real men care about the environment. I will gladly be looked down upon by these bacon eating alpha men because I am proud of the choices I make and the impact they have.
Let me know in the comments below if you have had experience with the bacon masculinity ritual.