I am not much of a moral being, I mean, relative to ideal standards, although I will lay claim to at least a certain level of moral personhood. That is, I don’t lie all that often, and mostly just when I’m writing novels, where lies in some magic way become transfigured into truth; I have never knowingly killed a human being; I haven’t cheated at anything, or cheated anyone, since I was an adolescent; ditto stealing; I aim to do no harm to the bodies or the minds of the people I encounter, and certainly not to the people I love. I manage to live this way without the parental-like fear threats of any version of religion.
As I meander steadily, inexorably, nearer the door of mortality at the end of life’s long corridor, and can hear the first creaking as it begins to open for me, I find myself saddened by all the sentient beings I have killed, and disgusted by the moral weakness I continue to display in the names of habit, convenience, and the wishy-washy vagaries of taste. The less of life one has, the more valuable it becomes, and thus, I think, the more one is able to empathize with all living things and understand our mutual fate.
But I do not mean this understanding and empathy only appear to the old. In fact, as it is easy to observe, there are probably more young, vigorous, still-eternal young who “get it” than we among the old. I marvel at them, and worship their sensitivity to reality. Like too many things, I “got it” late.
I did not dropkick these living, feeling, sentient creatures through their own door of mortality well before they may have arrived on their own because my own life was threatened or because I was starving; I killed many of them simply for fun, purely for the entertainment of killing something (which gives me too much in common with the Sarah Palins and the Ted Nugents of the world) . Rarely in my life have I taken life for food, and even then not because I was starving, but I was going to kill them anyway and since often they appeal to my taste, I went ahead and ate their remains. Mostly fish. Once a deer. Squirrels a few times. Some birds. Most of the dying that occurs for my benefit is not done by my hand: not the cow murdered for my shoes and belt, nor the calf murdered for the steak I ate at Rio Alba last week, nor the pig murdered so I could suck the meat off its ribs at Kansas a couple of weeks ago, or the tuna slaughtered so I could taste its flesh … .
There is not one honest moral argument that can be made for killing any sentient being for fun or food. There is plenty to eat to avoid starving. There is not one single moral argument that can support killing and eating a cow versus killing and eating your pet puppy, and in many food cultures they do eat puppies and kittens. Why not? They shoot horses, don’t they?
Yet. I wear leather, I eat the residue from a huge and wide variety of many sentient animals, fish, and fowl, that are slaughtered and prepared for my benefit, to placate my squeamishness. I do not have the balls to stop. All that I think of as moral in my life, in my behavior, is no more than a facade, because the fact remains, many are killed for my pleasure.
At least I do not and will not wear or possess anything of animal fur, not since the rabbit’s foot charm I carried around back when I wore a Davy Crockett coonskin cap and carried a Dan’l Boone plastic Bowie knife. That is my last shred of moral dignity.
Finally, a reminder of the most cowardly “sport” known to man.
Have a nice day.