Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Must We Kill to Eat?
Do we have to kill to live? Turn fellow-creatures into dead flesh to eat?
Been thinking about this ever since I found out Harsh, one of the guys who started up hART - the new coffee/hookah lounge across from the NewSchool of Architecture in East Village (see blog Great Bathrooms (continued) — is a Jain.
That is, he belongs to the ancient Jainist movement of India which tries to do no harm to any living creature, to only eat what Nature offers. Like fruit, or grains you can get without destroying the plant. Not potatoes. You have to rip them out of their environment and kill them.
And killing a living mammal, like pigs or cows, that's another order of murder.
Guess I was never more guilty than when I worked a summer on a sheep farm. As the newest kid, I got all the dirty jobs, of course, including feeding the sheepdogs.
That involved going to the little paddock where the sick and lame sheep were kept. I had to go, select one, then, basically (hard to admit this), slit its throat. Once a week.
That first sheep. She let me roll her on her back. No resistance. She was lame. She looked up at me like, you're going to do this, aren't you. The worst thing was, she seemed to forgive me. And as the life pumped out of her, she just faded away.
And then I was skinning her, cutting up her warm body, as the dozen dogs yelped and danced at the end of their chains. Then, as I tossed out the parts to them, she was just meat, a memory, and a pelt of wool.
It got easier, as the weeks went by. Guess I got hardened to it. But it was never easy.
And then something else happened. I felt a kind of grim pride, that I was at least taking responsibility for taking the life of something I or the dogs were going to eat. It's easy to be preachy and sensitive when someone else is doing your dirty work for you.
Maybe we should all have to be prepared to kill the things we eat. Or else not eat them.
I guess I sit easiest with what I heard many native Americans do. Apologize and ask permission at least from the animal or tree they're going to kill. And be very sure they need to do it for survival's sake.
But Harsh, at hART, is at a whole 'nother level. I want to learn more.