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The things we kill

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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.

Fuck you, Hemingway

Have a nice day.

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6 replies »

  1. Domesticated animals are a strange case. They wouldn’t exist if they weren’t being raised for slaughter, and yet there they are, very much alive. Cattle, the ones I know best, are exquisitely stupid animals that wouldn’t survive half an hour in the wild, and that would wreck their environment if somehow they did. They are that way, of course, because we made them so.

    What do with all the domesticated meat-creatures in their hundreds of millions?

  2. Weak, Court. Cows may be stupid, but then, I know way too many stupid people, and we in a vague sense raise some humans for slaughter (those who fight the wars made by people too smart to fight in the wars they make). Virtually no human being would survive very long in the wild, not even the wilds of upper Michigan, and who is supreme at wrecking the environment. Yet, we don’t kill and eat them just because they are stupid.

    Buffalo did damn well on their own until we killed all of them.

    Just because we keep breeding and raising certain animals for no purpose other than to slaughter and eat them does not make it moral to breed and raise certain animals for no purpose other than to eat them.

    Cats and dogs are domesticated creatures.

    Why don’t we kill and eat chimpanzees?

    But back to cows. They may be as stupid as many people are, but do you suppose they do not feel? What do they fear if they have no sense of pain, possibly even some notion of death? Why do they cry out when they are beaten? Why do they run from us?

    What do we do with them? Stop breeding and raising them only to be slaughtered. If someone wants a pet cow, like a pet pig, or pet dog, then get one. It is immoral to murder a sentient creature simply to eat it or wear its skin; there are other choices; we are not starving.

    Lions kill and eat other animals because they have no choice, they cannot live on grains and vegetables. We can. And we, of all creatures, understand the difference.

    • Oh, I’m not saying we should kill and eat cattle because they’re stupid, and surely they are sentient creatures; I was just wondering, in a practical sense, what would you do with all those millions of domesticated raised-for-food animals if we stopped eating them. And, continuing on that practical note, the resources freed up by no longer having to feed hundreds of millions of pigs and chickens and cattle would go a long way to alleviating global hunger. At least some think so.

      We don’t kill and eat chimpanzees. But plenty of chimpanzees have been killed and eaten. In Indonesia they’re still killing and eating orangutans. In Cambodia I tried duck fetsuses, that had been boiled alive in their own eggs, something of a local delicacy there. The locals found it uproariously hilarious that I couldn’t eat more than a couple bites (even drunk). It’s strictly a matter of taste. And while I can’t refute your moral arguments against meat-eating (and I think the practical better-use-of-resources argument is just as compelling), like you, I’m unable / unwilling to give up the meat-eating habit. And if that’s the case, then it’s all, as it were, fair game.

  3. I suppose I am pissed off at myself for having such a weak moral character, when I always thought the real me was the moral facade I pretend. The ultimate sign of pure cowardice is knowing the right thing and then not doing it. So here I am.

    • Don, I got yr notice about the new web site and checked it out. Looks quite lovely. Then I looked back here and see you’ve changed the look and have been very busy. I’ll have to catch. I enjoy everything about Mama Racha and the post about your old home in Magnolia. More about that at some point, I hope.

      Doug

      • This “journalist” template just came out with WordPress and I prefer having more space for writing. So I changed. The Homepage idea is something static about the books, so I link the two together — book and info, then the journal musing. I’ll be waiting for your return.