We stopped at Hy-Vee after school yesterday and driving through the parking lot, Rye said, "I smell something."
I looked around. Yes, he smelled meat on the grill. I told him that.
"Oh," he said, "what kind?"
Sausages, hot dogs and ribs, I told him.
"But what animal is it?" he said. And I was proud.
"Pigs," I said.
I could tell he was thinking about this, about the fact that people eat animals.
As we got out of the car, he asked, "But not all animals are killed, right? Some animals get to just live, right, Mom?"
I told him that, yes, some animals like cows and pigs and chickens get to just live but that most of them are raised to become food.
We passed the giant grill with the racks of ribs and fat sausages sizzling. We both looked and then went on our way. What else can we do?
We will never, ever live in a world where animals are not killed for meat. I know this. My wish, though, is that we could get to a place where those animals are treated humanely, where they are not raised in pens too small to walk, where they are not overfed and pumped with hormones, where they do not live in their own feces, where they are not tortured.
I don't think that's a lot to ask.
I didn't tell my 5-year-old all that. For now, I'm OK with the fact that he understands why we don't eat meat. Simply, in his mind, because we don't think it's a nice thing to eat animals.
It feels like heresy sometimes in the heart of the Midwest, in an agricultural stronghold like Nebraska, to oppose eating meat. But it also feels like the right thing.
So that is the path we will continue on.