Today I helped kill my lunch; we killed a rooster for chicken soup. Usually we buy our meat at the market but once before I’d had soup made of a freshly killed rooster, though I’ve never had a hand in the killing myself. I have never been one to kill animals. I only recently started killing mosquitoes and I try to avoid that if I can. I’m that person that puts the spider in the corner of her room in a cup and takes them outside (to a minimum distance of 50m away from the house). I’m still this person, and I don’t believe in killing unnecessarily, but I do understand the fact that everybody that eats, eats something else. And if that something else is an animal than I believe it’s only fair to be involved in that killing, I think it makes you respect your food more.
I’m not so naïve to think that killing for food is wrong. It’s a part of life, it’s a part of evolution, and that’s just how it is. This isn’t always how I thought, though. When I was around 12 years old I decided to become a vegetarian. I didn’t like the taste of meat, but I knew this was not a good enough excuse for my parents so I told them I didn’t believe in killing animals for food when there was plenty of plant food to be had. A couple years later I think I started believing in this statement, and at one point I was dead-set on building my future house out of concrete so I wouldn’t have to kill any trees to make it. I obviously didn’t think this all the way through because I also tried really hard to figure out a way to eat without killing anything. I don’t remember exactly, but I think the theory was to only eat fruits that had already fallen from the tree. Bad idea.
Sometime during early high school I did a short presentation on the treatment of dairy cows where I learned a lot of hideous things about how livestock is grown. I then changed my reasons for being vegetarian from being opposed to the killing of animals to being opposed to the maltreatment of animals. During college, after taking numerous courses on evolution and ecology, and reading more about current events, I started thinking about the human’s role in the world-wide food chain. I read about how much energy (food) it takes to sustain animals for meat as opposed to how much energy it takes to grow plants. I read about how much water it takes to sustain livestock as opposed to plants. I started believing that it would be better, ecologically, for the world if I could be a primary consumer rather than a secondary consumer. The more paths energy takes to get from the sun to our bodies, the more is wasted.
I thought I could do my part to save water and resources by going straight to the energy source, and because I’m an animal and can’t photosynthesize, I became vegan for nearly one year and I ate only plants. I also tried to reduce my consumption of packaged goods, because cardboard and plastic and machinery only represent a different type of energy-wasting. I was pretty happy as a vegan, and didn’t really miss or crave any foods. I did indulge myself in a special vegan/tofu cream cheese, but since I had my bagels and cream cheese all was good. Overall, I think this was the most healthily I’ve eaten in my life.
However, I do believe that humans evolved to eat meat and that meat is a healthy part of the human diet: I just don’t agree with how it’s produced, how it’s bought, how it’s wasted, how it’s packed with hormones, and how the animal that provides the food is so disconnected from the animal that eats the food. My participation today included holding the rooster’s feet and wings as María wrung its neck. It was hard, physically and emotionally. Everybody’s heard the phrase “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”, and this is because the body still does twitch uncontrollably for at least two minutes after its neck is broken and the bird has died. I wasn’t physically strong enough to hold the bird steady while it writhed and squirmed for those following two minutes, nor was I emotionally strong enough to actually watch the neck break. It’s just hard to watch death. But I believe it’s important.
It’s easy to waste food when you don’t know where it comes from, if all you know about your lunch is that it came from a box and the box came from the supermarket. But if you till the field, plant the seed, water the garden for months, then put your hard work into harvesting your crops, I’m pretty sure you’re not going to think lightly about letting that work go to waste. I think the sentiment around killing an animal is the same, if not stronger. If I kill an animal, if I understand what it means to be alive and to feel, to have breathed and eaten and now I’m taking that away, I’m sure not going to waste it.
I’ve been an omnivore now for about 6 months, and I think I’ll probably remain this way for the rest of my life. Though now the belief in killing your own animal is stronger than ever in my mind, and I’d like to continue killing my own food, if only to remind me where or who my food actually comes from.