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Killing for food

Yesterday night I closed the gate of the roosters' shelter. Today I went into the shelter and cathed one of the roosters. They didn't want to be catched, they tried to get away from me. But as soon as I managed to grab one, he went into a freeze mode, absolutely quitting all of his efforts to escape. I carried the rooster, holding him next to my chest. I felt him shivering, and I did my best to offer him a feeling of comfort. I took him farther away, and quickly finished him with an axe. I certainly don't like to kill a healthy animal who doesn't want to die. Yet I do it, to have food. So, one by one I took their lives. The last one was the hardest, as he didn't go into a numb freeze state - he tried to peck me, he made some noise and he was somewhat restless. I waited for him to calm down before swinging the axe.

Is it right to kill an animal for food? Killing a human being is a crime, so how come killing a rooster would be any different? Doesn't killing other animals mean that we humans think that we somehow are above the animal kingdom, that we are the rulers of the planet, and that we have the right to make decisions over the other living beings? Or, at least, how can one kill and eat the very animals one has been taking care of - doesn't killing them necessarily mean that all the love and care was just false and dishonest?

Well, somehow this makes me think of the Jehovah's Witnesses who visited me some time ago. They told me about a paradise where nobody dies, nobody gets killed and even the wolves and sheep are friends. There's something I don't quite get here - if death is a bad evil thing, which ultimately should be avoided completely, then why has The God created animals who reproduce? Why are there parasites, viruses, bacteria, accidents and injuries? If I understand this correclty, those Jehovah's Witnesses think that the current state of affairs is wrong and evil (because of the original sin committed by the first humans) - and that the situation has to be corrected, essentially by getting rid of death. Very well, if they feel so, then that's what they do. But I somehow feel that there is nothing wrong with nature. Instead of trying to find ways avoid death, I've been seeking ways to maintain my peace of mind, to learn to accept the life and the universe the way it is.

So, at least for me, I feel that death is a natural and essential part of cycle of life. And it also means that I can't pretend to be outside or above that. My roosters aren't just items or resources for me - they are living beings with their own emotions and intentions, their beauty and energy of life. The roosters eat grain, bugs and worms - they do kill for food. And so do I. It makes me feel humble and thankfull - after all I'm nothing but meat myself, just a part of a foodchain, and my life completely depends of the flow of energies in nature. Some die to give life to the others. Today it was the roosters dying, and the day will come when it is my turn to go and release my energies for the others to grow and prosper.

But if it is OK to kill roosters, then where is the line? Is it OK to eat dogs, horses, dolphins, monkeys, or humans? I think this is one of the examples where strict rules fail. Of course, on the level of the society we need to have detailed legislation determining how and when it is not a crime to kill. But I feel that what is essential here is not about finding a universal moral rule to be followed. I mean, for me it doesn't make sense to reason like "Killing a rooster is OK, therefore killing others is OK, and therefore killing humans is OK." - for me life and morality is not about following rules, it is more about being able and willing to respect the others, doing one's best in unpredictable and unique situations, taking responsibility of ones own actions. All this might sound a bit arbitrary and vague, but I don't have a problem with that. I feel that the Life and the Universe are so complex that they are far beyond capabilities of human reasoning to capture completely. And that's why we never can be absolutely certain that our decisions are the right ones - actually I think that it is dangerous to believe that one possesses the ultimate truth and the final moral code. For me morality and ethics is based on humility and honesty; admitting and accepting that everything is always bit uncertain, yet we have to make decisions the best we can. (And, speaking of ethics, I feel that eating meat of a homegrown animal actually is more ethical that eating vegetables grown by poor workers in nearly slavelike-conditions, using toxic chemicals, shipped to another side of the globe, tranported by burning fossil fuel.)

So, do I really think that keeping animals for food is the best I can do? I really don't know. But as I like to eat some meat, I felt that I have to do it myself to see and to experience what it really means. Instead of living in theories I want to live practical life, get immersed into the world. Removing the internal organs of a rooster with my bare hands sure makes me to face the bloody reality of eating meat. I usually do feel slightly nauseous after butchering lambs or roosters - for some reason fish are bit easier. So I guess that at some point I'd better try living at least couple of years eating only vegetables, fish, berries and mushroom.

I've also heard people saying that sensitive people can't kill animals. And of course it is like that, killing is ugly, and the more sensitive you are the more ugly it feels. Still, personally I don't feel that killing animals has made me less sensitive. With these same hands I work as a massage therapist, which is essentially about bringing comfort and relief to others. When my son was small, I spent my days at home taking care of him. If my hands are capable of killing an animal, it doesn't automatically mean that my hands would become less capable of taking care of others. I think it is possible to do both, to have a wide range of abilities. Cutting down trees for firewood, touching other people to ease their pain, or killing a rooster for food - they all are ways of getting immersed into the beauty and mystery of the life.

No pictures this time...

tags: 
diary
homesteading
philosophy
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Comments

Its an age long question, my friend. I will not pretend to know the "correct" answer, but here is my stand on this - if I need to kill to survive, I will. All drama aside, we humans are omnivores. While I greatly enjoy fishing, mushroom picking and duck hunting (suck at hunting though), I would never do it just for the hell of it. True, I do not have to do it to get through the day, but I'd rather go catch my fish, rather than buy it from a store. Same goes for the mushrooms. I am pretty bad shot with a rifle, so majority of my hunts end with a trip to poultry section, but when I do get lucky - its not for sport.

Aye. I guess in the end what matters is our attitude - do we behave like we were kings of the earth, just exploiting and using the soil and killings animals as we please - or do we humbly recognize ourselves as being a part in the food-chain, completely dependent on the rest of the biosphere.

"Is it OK to eat dogs, horses, dolphins, monkeys, or humans?"

Well you did put "human cuts" in Unreal World, so...

But on a less flippant note, I will say that as a Korean I am sick of when foreigners call us dirty brutes for eating dogs.. a practice that is getting rarer and rarer. The Aztecs, having little other use for dogs, kept them primarily as livestock. Also, if "dog is man's best friend" then what about, for example, a child's treasured cow that was a 4H project? Is it any less cruel to eat that?

There's an old trope in Korea (don't know how true it was in reality) that if a family has a promising child who does well in school, they give that child a calf. The child is responsible for making sure the cow grows up well, and once the cow is grown up, it is sold to make money for the child's university education. Much is made of the tearful separation from the cow, and it's an example that proves to me how value is relative, and is what we make of it.

It's a special form of arrogance, I think, to believe that we are above doing violent acts to eat like any other living thing. I am not for or against religion, but maybe "original sin" is a way of looking at the fact that one has to commit violence just to stay alive.

The "wolf and the sheep" living peacefully together, that part made me laugh. If the bible is to be believed, God created the wolf and the sheep from the outset, in Eden before there was ever any such thing as killing. Maybe that means God intended the world to be violent from the start, and Eden was just a joke he played on humankind.

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