Sunday, November 16, 2008

Philosophical Monday or chicken slaughtering for beginners

Mysweet slept badly on Saturday night.

Sunday morning was going to be the moment of truth for Tom, Dick and Harry, the cockerels.

Mysweet had been agonising about the procedure that would ensure the least suffering. He seemed to feel that it was an important part of being a meat eater…the readiness to assume responsibility for the death of the animal. It had taken on a spiritual dimension, the respect for life and the animal that had given up its own in order to feed us.

I feel it myself when I pop the live crabs in the boiling water. I find myself thanking them silently.

It is because we all have it in common, don’t we? Life. Followed by death.

It also seems to be more difficult the closer an animal approaches us in intelligence.

But it is a spectrum. Intelligence and complexity.

I watch the dogs working on Sunday morning on my cliff top as they intelligently search for bits of wood to drop at the feet of their God-like masters and meditate on the ease with which we permit ourselves to take life from those we consider our intellectual inferiors.

I think of my autist students. Some of them live so very much in their own world that they are sometimes unaware of their surroundings and problems posed by their immediate environment, and are perhaps the happier for it.
But on Thursday morning the boy with the red hair looked at me for a moment with trapped pain in his eyes, aware that something was happening that he did not understand… understanding that he did not understand.

When I return, the deed is done and Mysweet is cleaning the last bird, pleased that he has completed his task quickly without causing suffering.

I wonder if there is an intelligence, somewhere, that would consider us as dogs or chickens in comparison with itself...
My problem is the same as the boy with red hair’s: I understand just enough to know that I don’t understand.

11 comments:

Dingo said...

I frequently wrestle with vegetarianism. On one hand, if I espouse the kindness to animals and compassion that I do, then shouldn't I put it into practice? It seems so hypocritical to rail against factory farming and inhumane conditions as I eat my fried chicken and wear my leather shoes.

I would like to say that Matthew Scully's Dominon: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy changed my life but all it did was make the cognitive dissonance between what I say and what I do more absurd.

Zhoen said...

I accept that I am food for viruses and bacteria, and eventually for worms and beetles as well. Fair enough.

Rosie said...

Dingo, Mysweet was vegetarian for 10 years when he lived in America (before my time with him!)
He says that the only way he felt able to deal with turning to meat again was to kill it himself the first time. Mind you, now adays he is the one that is constantly steaming pigs heads and boiling hooves. Perhaps he just has to remind himself every now and again, hence the chicken scenario.

Zhoen, I am with you. There are a lot of small beasties and microbes that are constantly making a meal out of me before I am even dead, so might, intellectual or otherwise, doesnt always win out

meggie said...

I too, feel a hypocrite every time I eat chicken or pork or even fish.
I read that Buddhists can eat fish, but the fate of the fishermen is carved on the temple walls. Are we not all complicit, in this 'murder'?

Dick said...

'I understand just enough to know that I don’t understand.' That's my commonest state of consciousness as I get older and the world appears to become more vile!

Lucy said...

Suffering's is suffering, but I can't go along with the vegetarian's idea that eating a mollusc is as bad as eating a dog. I don't want to kill chicken's, but I do feel their comparitively simple awareness of the world makes their death a bit less abhorrent. The screaming pigs in the trucks round here bother me somewhat, and pigs are clever.

I don't even kill crabs, but I do apologise to bugs and stuff when I kill them!

I was watching those amazing land crab migrations on Natural world last night, and the people moving among them, and wondering if the crabs had any notion at all of other larger, more complex, beings coming along with them. Probably not. Not to worry, I don't think the human race needs to add being a god to land crabs to its burden of hubris...

Omykiss said...

I think the bit about reducing the suffering is the most important.

Jo said...

Unfortunately, we are all part of the food chain, and there are animals who would quite happily eat us with no conscience at all. Our misfortune is that we understand about suffering, life and death, all the while needing to nourish our bodies. Even vegetables are life forms that we have to kill in order to eat and get the nutrients. We need living things for nourishment.

It's the understanding part that is so hard to live with.

tristan said...

Walter de la Mare- All But Blind

All but blind
In his chambered hole
Gropes for worms
The four-clawed Mole.

All but blind
In the evening sky
The hooded Bat
Twirls softly by.

All but blind
In the burning day
The Barn-Owl blunders
On her way.

And blind as are
These three to me,
So blind to someone
I must be.

Rosie said...

meggie, there does seem to be something in the idea that if you cant kill it you shouldnt eat it, but I cant and I do.
Dick isnt it a case of the more you know the more you know you dont know?
Lucy I have found someone who makes English sausages from gloucester old spot pigs, and I know they are smart but I think they are also tasty...
Omy you are right about the suffering...it makes me feel better about the whole business
Jo I cant help thinking there must be a better way to organise things.
Tristan that has to be the most apposite comment I have ever had...

Julia Michell said...

Putting live crabs into boiling water!!!?