My breakfast menu was different from the usual this morning. Instead of cereal, fruit and milk I had bacon, eggs and toast. I ate it out on my patio and maybe because the sky was dark and overcast my thoughts picked up the mood. As my readers know, I usually border on what some may think of as “La la Land.” I like to risk that accusation because I do subscribe to the counsel of Paul in Philippians 4:8 King James Version, “...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” While there may be no loveliness in what I’m about to write this morning, there might be some justice to it.
I was only five years old when I witnessed a killing. I’ve often wondered why my grandmother, a gentle farm woman, would have allowed me to see the slaughter of pigs that day. I’d been allowed to watch Grandpa feed the hogs and enjoyed their greedy squeals and unmannerly mealtimes, but this was different. The terror, the unholy squeals of fear that those creatures uttered that day seemed aimed directly to me. "Please help! Have mercy on me!"they called and their extremity was palpable. Grandma's hand was on my arm. I could only stand helplessly by. Then the gunshots, the last wiggling of their bodies, the knives, the blood, the absolute horror of it all left an indelible impression on my child’s mind. Maybe Grandma wanted me to carry that scene all my life to urge me into a step of higher humanity, a further rung in the ladder of the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” It’s the only thing that makes sense to me now. She was a devout Bible loving, good woman, a practical pilgrim but with a crusader’s heart. Maybe Grandma thought my innate child mercy would help lead humanity upward from such things as farming animals for food. A step she would not be able to take herself.
If that was her reason, I let her down. That ugly incident in my childhood did not prevent me from eating pork or any other meat. Nor did it keep Grandma from cooking and canning the meat and serving it at her dinner table. We’re caught up in a food chain and it just happens that we’re on the top. I suspect that if each one of us were required to raise the beasts we’re about to eat, kill, wash away their blood and prepare their bodies for the frying pan or oven, we might then reconsider the justice of it all. We’d be too merciful then, maybe. But our mercy is silent when we go to market and casually pick up a neatly wrapped package from the meat counter.
Living on a ranch for eight years and caring for young animals, then sending them to their sudden sad end was enough to make a vegetarian out of me. That is, for a while. After the ranch I turned a blind eye to all of this, went back to joining the others at the table, and carefully keeping my conscience in check. I have placated myself for the time to the thought that most creatures raised for meat have, at least, a life here on earth that they’d never have had were it not for meat-eaters. Maybe they really were meant to feed us? It's easier to compromise conscience than be a pioneer.
I don’t think of this often but perhaps the usual delight in my surroundings this morning got punctured by that old nightmare of the killing of pigs so long ago as I ate my crisp slice of bacon with relish. Was I being reminded of that childhood scene for a reason? Perhaps I should write about it in my blog. This one not quite from La la land.
I remember reading a book years ago called Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. I think I’ll stop by the library today and see if they still have it.