Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Loving the Animal

Maybe, based on my often-florid descriptions of eating and preparing products that come from animals, one would infer that I do not love animals.  Perhaps, even that I only enjoy the slaughter and suffering of animals so as to procure them for my own utilitarian aims.  For about six years previous, I would have thought the same about my present self!

Such a characterization is, in fact, not true.  I love animals.  I share my apartment with a rabbit (that is her in the photo) and two toads.  I like dogs and cats.  I even like fish, having once had a Gourami that lived for 6 years, in three different towns.  I actually prefer the company of my rabbit to other humans some of the time.  I don't think that my love for animals is inconsistent with the fact that I also am or have been in some way responsible for the deaths of a number of them each year, whether via eating or the direct slaughter of sea-dwellers through my time in the seafood/fishing trade.

The death of another living being is never something I would take lightly, whether from 'natural' causes or ones more directly taken by the actions of beings higher on the food chain (see why I put natural in quotes?  What is more natural than killing?).  It is for this reason that I think that the kind of systematic slaughter that we have devised to dispatch thousands of animals a day is profoundly disturbing, and represents a serious level of disrespect for the living beings with which we share our land.  Let's not stop there though - of course the bloody spectacles we witness in a certain organization's videos affect us viscerally.  We feel terrible for the suffering that living beings go through at the hands of cruel humans*.  

I don't think that to simply swear off animals and animal products as a whole really gets you off scot-free though.  Maybe a crushed dandelion, a pulverized mosquito, or a poisoned centipede has trouble evoking the same reaction as a half-alive cow spurting blood while hanging from a metal hook - but where does our ethic of animal love (or life-love) stop?  When relative verisimilitude to humanity does? Seeing the aftermath of an over-planted, burned-out field of soybeans or corn depresses me as much as people killing 500 cows a day for fast-food hamburgers. 

So, in my post-vegetarian years I have tried to learn to love living things.  Sometimes that involves laughing when my rabbit spontaneously springs high into the air in her own jubilant dance.  Other times it is loving a steer's quadruple stomachs - marveling at the ability to convert cellulose from grass into muscle fibers that I can then digest with my own acidic stomach.  It is even loving the hidden mystery of the honeycomb interior of cow stomachs and the ways that it can even nourish.  Moreso, it is the love of that fact that one day, I myself will lose hold of that fleeting force that we call life.  I will become nourishment for those amazing carnivorous insects, release my stored nitrogen to that carnivorous soil, and be utterly transformed from the shit of worms into the gold of glorious green things.  

* I feel for those animals that daily suffer due to poorly placed knives or sadistic workers, but have you ever seen a cat and mouse?  A fox and a rabbit?  The natural world is a cruel place.  Taking the last example, a fox will grab a rabbit by the throat and shake it for a bit.  Eventually it is decapitated or killed, but judging from the screams and gargling, the rabbit lives for a good bit.  In terms of excess, foxes also will mow down an entire hen house or rabbit hutch, far more than it could possibly consume.  I'd choose a shot to the head over having my throat torn while being shaken until I died.

No comments:

Post a Comment