reflections from the southeast PA rural underground

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To Our Lady of the Wood




He had taken deathlife the day before in the mid-morning hours. This time had not been the usual day-long marathon of past seasons. He wanted to suffer, he said to me, "for the craft." But in just two days and 9 hours of shivering cold he had taken two female deathlifes. This time the suffering would come after the hunt.

When I arrived she was hung from the tree by her two front legs. Her head fell back lifeless now. The brown, white, and black coat that had sheltered her from these cold winter days was now stripped. I could see only the remnants of the fur around her four ankles and hooves. Deathlife was white bone and bright red flesh. The muscles had frozen from hanging outside in the frigid night air of early December. Her coat lay draped over the blue metal summer chair that sat just to the right of her body.

He commented on the amount of fat stretching across her back. "She must have been eating really well," he said. "Yeah, corn and soybeans are everywhere," I responded. How many fields had this deathlife known? What dreams had she conjured in the minds of those that had been lucky enough to see her and pondered at that moment, or in a later reflection, the magic of her beauty? And too, how many had glanced without even the slightest reverence for the creature they had just witnessed? How many times had she lept and bounded through stream and over rock and wood? Such a mighty strength she had mastered in her muscular legs and back! Such keen eyes and ears.

"Look at the amazing black patch just behind her nose," he said. "She was such a beautiful girl." I could not stop looking at that head which now rested like some unknown thing on the bed of dead maple leaves on the ground. The eyes now lifeless as the sky above. Gray and clouded over. As I sturdied the frozen rib cage so that he could cut off the bottom right leg I noticed my hands start to burn with cold. This was only appropriate after all. It was the least I could suffer to be saved from death with this life.

11 comments:

robyn said...

there are many other ways to be "saved from death" as you quote in your last line (legumes + veggies do just fine)---don't romanticize your chosen killing of this beautiful animal as a necessity.

Sorry wayner, just how I feel about people who kill animals and then act like they did it for some noble cause...i feel the same way about people who order gross factory farm meat at weis/restaurants, cicso, and never even question the significance of what they are supporting...i know hunting is better because the animal got to breathe air + touch grass and actually live outside, but I will never think it's a necessity to kill an animal for our own vanity...
Robyn

theeasysubcult said...

totally reminds me of In Watermelon Sugar.
ever read Brautigan?

Eggplant Eater said...

Vegetarians and vegans, along with the rest must draw the line somewhere when deciding which fellow-creatures are worthy of protection. Most of us would not eat another human being or a chimpanzee unless our own lives depended on it. But at which point along the size/intelligence/cuddliness spectrum does the snuffing out of a precious life become the extermination of a bug?

I believe that Human beings are a part of Nature, and are a part of the circle of life, being both predator and prey. There are thousands of microscopic creatures that will make their living at our expense if our immune systems permit them.

Again, everybody, from the cannibal to the fructarian (who eats only fruit, as it does not involve the killing of plants), draws the line somewhere.

Perhaps we feel an affinity with animals which most closely resemble ourselves. We have no reliable index for gauging the awareness or suffering of species other than our own so, ultimately, we base our attitudes towards animals on empathic or emotional responses. (This not to say that we shouldn't save the whale, of course, nor indeed the smallpox virus for future generations to enjoy.)

It is not my intention to explain our irrational biases towards certain classes of animal, but to argue that the killing of animals for food does not alter their natural fate, which is to be killed for food. We may feel that the rest of the animal kingdom would benefit were the human race to turn vegetarian tomorrow, but we must honestly doubt that they would be better off. Rather the contrary: humans may be nasty but Nature beautiful as she is - red in tooth and claw - is nastier, and no amount of empathy or sentiment will change that.

This is not to advocate the gratuitous ill-treatment of animals, and I would never use the above arguments to support, say, fox-hunting, badger-baiting, hare-coursing, factory farming, veal crates, the long-distance transportation of livestock, the force-feeding of maize to geese for the production of pate de foi gras, etc.

Briz said...

Well put Robyn.

Once again another well written piece that has significant strength in placing the reader in both the internal and external. I'm not sure if it's because I've also felt nature’s ability to snap one into the "now", where everything is clearer. Your stuff always has a rare organic (that poor bastardized term, sigh…) feel to it.

A treat to read although I definitely don’t understand the narrator’s adoration and nostalgia about the animal that he or she had murdered. I don’t see how one can value an animal's beauty and life and take it at the same time. There isn't anything mystical or noble about the fact she will never exist again because the narrator chose to take her life ... She was once something and is now nothing...

Casey Martinson said...

Eggplant Eater said:

"Vegetarians and vegans, along with the rest must draw the line somewhere when deciding which fellow-creatures are worthy of protection."

Vegans draw the line by saying that those of us who have "moral agency"--i.e. the ability to make ethical decisions--have an obligation to avoid harming other sentient beings that have a central nervous system. Pretty simple and rational. Microbes and plants don't have pain receptors, nor do they experience fear.

"We have no reliable index for gauging the awareness or suffering of species other than our own so, ultimately, we base our attitudes towards animals on empathic or emotional responses."

On the contrary, our anatomies and physiologies are very similar to those of other animals, and we can use those similarities to make inferences about how other animals experience the world. We can--and have--verified those inferences through carefully applied scientific study. A bullet or an arrow hurts and terrifies a deer much as it would hurt and terrify you.

"It is not my intention to explain our irrational biases towards certain classes of animal,"

That's good, because your bias in this case is indeed irrational.

"but to argue that the killing of animals for food does not alter their natural fate, which is to be killed for food."

It may be your natural fate as well to be killed for food--whether by wolves or microbes. That doesn't alter the fact that it would be murder for another human to kill and eat you. Sentient beings have a right to be free from harm, and as moral agents, we should not infringe on that right.

"Nature beautiful as she is - red in tooth and claw - is nastier, and no amount of empathy or sentiment will change that."

Arguments about the nastiness of "nature" are irrelevant. "Nature"--as you seem to be defining it, as a metonym for carnivorous predators--does not have moral agency. We do.

genevieve said...

Philosophical and moral discussions aside, deer are overpopulated in the southeast PA region, and hunting does the ecosystem a favor by keeping populations in check and restoring balance. Without delving into the complex vegetarian/vegan debate, if you're going to eat meat, eating deer meat is probably the most sustainable and practical way to do so, not to mention the fact that wild meat is more nutritious. Compared to factory-farm raised meat and even most dairy cows and layer hens, the lives and deaths of deer are humane (if the hunter aims properly).

genevieve said...

...and perhaps it's the most honest way to be a carnivore. You are confronting the animal you kill for food, and acknowledge the fact that you have blood on your hands. Unlike the vast majority of us who eat meat but don't really know what death looks like.

Casey Martinson said...

"deer are overpopulated in the southeast PA region, and hunting does the ecosystem a favor by keeping populations in check and restoring balance."

The idea that hunting has ever been an effective or wise method of managing wildlife populations is full of holes.

In fact, hunting usually leads to population growth. For more information, I recommend this factsheet from World Animal Foundation, which explains not only why hunting is a poor method of population control but also suggests safer, more effective, more humane alternatives:

http://worldanimalfoundation.homestead.com/FACT_SHEET_Deer_Population_Control.pdf

Check it out.

Casey Martinson said...

Looks like my link got chopped up.

So copy and paste the following into your browser as one continuous URL:

http://worldanimalfoundation.homestead.com

/FACT_SHEET_Deer_Population_Control.pdf

Casey Martinson said...

"...and perhaps it's the most honest way to be a carnivore. You are confronting the animal you kill for food, and acknowledge the fact that you have blood on your hands. Unlike the vast majority of us who eat meat but don't really know what death looks like."

Killing another animal yourself is a bit more honest than paying someone else to do it, but I wouldn't exactly call it "confronting" the animal, as if you were on some kind of even remotely equal terms.

And why should we be comforted in knowing that hunters have no problem with, and may even enjoy, shooting and gutting a helpless animal, even when it is totally unnecessary? Why should we want anyone to participate in something that desensitizes them to killing, blood, and suffering?

genevieve said...

A farmer probably kills more animals than any hunter. If you eat food raised on a farm, you are responsible for the deaths of thousands of rodents (from mice to groundhogs) run over by tractor tires or chopped up by combine, along with innumerable birds and insects. Animal habitats (running the gamut from bottom to top of food chain) are always destroyed as land is cleared for agriculture. Many farmers trap squirrels and groundhogs, because they would not be able to grow food otherwise. I guess we should all revert to gathering wild food (plants and fungi only) - otherwise animals get hurt.