I am considering ceasing and desisting with meat consumption again. I say again because I went quite a while without eating meat. Well, to be honest I was still eating chicken and fish and eggs when I was in the mood, but until Ex #3’s mother served me beef stew on New Year’s Day 1996, fully aware that I didn’t eat meat, and said, “Oh it’s fine, the meat is in big pieces you can just pull it out,” I had not eaten red meat or the “other white meat” (intentionally) since about 1986. On that New Year’s Day I threw in the towel and took one for the team (a habit that would become the norm in that relationship.)
Now, sitting here in Asia, where frankly, if it moves, it is food and restaurants actually have signs saying things like, “We do NOT serve dog, cat, rat or snake… Come in!” I am considering giving it up again. And I actually mean the whole deal this time. [Okay, probably not eggs.] Why, you ask? When even Jules admits of Big Kahuna Burger: “Mmm-mmmm. That is a tasty burger…“?
Well. I think it sort of comes down to this idea of violence. Yeah, yeah, I know. Just hold on before you get all whatever you are getting. It goes a little deeper than that. Recently I was discussing the rationale behind eating meat with someone who just said, “It is a violent thing. You should not do violence to yourself. You should not do violence to others. It is the same with eating meat. It is doing violence.” And that made me go, “Hmmmmm.”
I am not into self flagellation or mutilation (save for piercing and tattoos) or cutting or anything like that. In fact, I tend to shy away from most types of violence, especially any that might involve me. I have never been in a physical fight – well, I hit my former step-mother once on my way to being relocated from my dad’s house, but she basically had it coming for years, and then this stranger tried to hit me at the DNA Lounge in the City back in 1994, for reasons unbeknownst to me, but she missed and just sort of got my forehead. [And then she got the boot because I was with the band.] So, that pretty much sums up my personal combat history. Not that I haven’t wanted to hit some people on occasion and come pretty close with Ex #2, #3 and #5. And not that I am unaware that verbal violence can be equally, um, violent.
But, every time I have acted with violence it has had some fairly real consequences. So… extrapolating from there, it makes me consider the karma, yes really, the karma… like, the karmic load I might have to bear for eating meat. True, if I punch someone in the head, the karmic result will likely be far more immediate than if I eat some tasty bacon [And if I choose to use my words over my fists I know exactly the kind of load I will bear – it is very heavy.] However, I don’t actually know what the karmic effect of eating that bacon might be. It could be building up somewhere aside from my arteries. Or not. But then, that is really the question behind all our actions… “What is it worth…?”
I am aware that all of this is not without irony and hypocrisy. When I first moved to Asia I was completely grossed out that all my food had to have all the body parts I didn’t wanna eat still attached. Like heads and eyes and feet and stuff. The meat was not all nice and neat and visually harmless like it was at home. Here you are quite literally face to face with your meal. But, in a way it is a much more honest way to be a meat eater – you know, facing up to it. And in other contexts, people are incensed about shark fin and turtle soup and sun bear bile, but fine with veal and caviar and foie gras. I was the same with my not-eating-red-meat-but-chicken-little-and-nemo-were-okay stance. And frankly, there seems to be analogous favoritism towards cute animals as there is towards cute people. Lots more people would stomp on a cockroach than a baby bird.
I have had to really think about that.
I live in the jungle and so I probably deal with more non-human invaders than most. At times some of these ‘guests’ have just been so big that killing them was simply out of the question – it would have been too much of an operation of engagement. So then what? Hope that N & M get them? [They often do – but at least the two of them are equal opportunity karmic load bearers and they don’t discriminate on the basis of cuteness… case in point the formerly lovely bird I had to remove from my home today. In several pieces.] I have actually take to removing the things. Huntsman spiders. Geckos. The occasional mouse. Grasshoppers. Cicadas. Cockroaches. Yes. I said cockroaches. And speaking of cockroaches, one got away. And now I cannot find the damn thing. Frenchie told me to spray. I avoided that on the grounds that I didn’t want to spray poison in my bathroom where there are so many things that touch my body. She thought I was nuts. And maybe she is right… now I am saying things like, “I can’t find my goddamn cockroach.”
I mean, do all these creatures great and small want to die? I kind of doubt it. I read The Metamorphosis. I saw what Gregor saw. It sucked. My students are reading The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell right now. If you haven’t read it you should check it out, it’s got a great little twist.
“It will be light enough in Rio,” promised Whitney. “We should make it in a few days. I hope the jaguar guns have come from Purdey’s. We should have some good hunting up the Amazon. Great sport, hunting.”
“The best sport in the world,” agreed Rainsford.
“For the hunter,” amended Whitney. “Not for the jaguar.”
“Don’t talk rot, Whitney,” said Rainsford. “You’re a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?”
“Perhaps the jaguar does,” observed Whitney.
“Bah! They’ve no understanding.”
“Even so, I rather think they understand one thing–fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death.”
My cousin was telling me about a friend of his who has recently gone of the carne as a response to circumstances in her life that made her acutely aware of the reality that no one wants to die. No one. Nothing. That seems reasonable. Aside from the karmic load or my yogi’s advice or any of that, it seems like it might be pretty arrogant to take in one’s hands who should live and die. Unless you are equally willing to put that choice regarding your own survival in the hands of others.
This goes beyond the animal kingdom though. I mean, when one considers the magnitude of violence that surrounds us all on a daily basis (and I am not talking about video games and movies of which I have a entirely different set of issues not at all related to this discussion) I am talking about capital punishment and war and PETA and Anti-Choice people and poachers and the people in Mong Kok who mutilate the street cats and gangsters and pedophiles and genocidal maniacs. Perhaps throttling back a little on the violence perpetrated in our own little corners of existence could be beneficial.
Of course, this is all speculation. I have no idea if the fact that I didn’t kill the cockroach that I now cannot find is going to end up being the wrong decision and I have not retired my electric tennis racquet, which, much like the electric chair in Alabama, does not deter mosquitoes at all, it simply fries ’em. I am also not sure I am going to get overly concerned about the potentially over-abundant heat/passion that apparently emanates from eggs. But I think for a while, I am at least going to be thinking about all these things and enjoying my salads – boring or not – and hopefully not participating this conversation anytime soon:
Keziah: No thanks, I’m a fruitarian.
Max: I didn’t realize that.
William: And, ahm: what exactly is a fruitarian?
Keziah: We believe that fruits and vegetables have feeling so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that have actually fallen off a tree or bush – that are, in fact, dead already.
William: Right. Right. Interesting stuff. So, these carrots…
Keziah: Have been murdered, yes.
William: Murdered? Poor carrots. How beastly!