Hello friends. This post is a direct follow up to my last post ‘Thoughts of Thanksgiving‘. That post became longer than I had anticipated so I did not get the chance to touch on something that was of prime importance with regards to the dilemma of eating meat. As an omnivore I wish to be conscientious of how animals are treated. If you are to buy into the theory that animals enter into a sacred covenant with us by allowing themselves to be domesticated and subsequently forming a symbiotic relationship with us, part of that covenant would be to treat them with as much kindness and respect as possible during their time on earth. When it is time for their life to come to an end, the death should also be kind, compassionate and ultimately honored. I will be writing many posts related to this in the future but for now, I am proud and humbled to present this guest post from my friend Eve who runs the cattle ranch I mentioned in my last post. Because she lives in the very area where the infamous Chiricahua Apache (think Geronimo and Cochise) once called home, I wanted to ask her to do a write-up related to how the native peoples of this land honored the animals they killed. I thank you Eve so kindly from my heart for taking the time to write this.
A friend of mine told me recently that he was thinking of discontinuing eating meat, as the idea of animals being slaughtered was too horrible to think about. I think he was surprised at my answer.
I have always loved animals and I have always tried to do my best to make their lives as pleasant as I could – witness, for example, my eleven retired horses, living out their lives in relative comfort. Therefore, I also, for a long time, have struggled with the idea of animals being slaughtered in order that I may eat.
One of my earliest childhood memories, when I lived on a farm in Europe, are the horrific screams of pigs being slaughtered. Those piercing screams have haunted me down the years … But today, as I have become more intimately acquainted with pigs, I know that those screams can be produced for no more reason than being herded through a door the pig does not want to enter …. In other words, a pig’s idea of resistance or protest is to utter those piercing, unearthly shrieks – the moment it gets its way, the screams stop. So, after may years of guilt I classified those dreadful shrieks as nothing but a tantrum against being handled, and made to go into a place the pig didn’t want to enter. It turned out there was a good reason he should not have entered it, as it happened – but he didn’t know that – and I guess perhaps this brings home a lesson to us that we should not read more into things than there already is.
And now I own, live on, and manage a cattle ranch. So how does one square away the idea of those cute little calves being sold for slaughter? I think it all comes down to realizing that we are all born to die, and that for something to live, something else has to die. If you think about it, this is the absolute truth – the something else that has to die may be an animal, it may be ourselves, or it may be a vegetable … you may extend the idea of life to plants and feel the same way about the cabbage as you do about the calf – but the absolute truth remains – for something to live, something else has to die. For something to be born, to take up space on the earth, something else has to make that space, has to vacate it ….. and it applies equally to people, animals, insects and plants. That is the equation of life.
Nobody knows this better than the American Indians, who not only realize the truth of it, but who actually revere the animal they kill, thanking it for having given its life so the human could eat. They realize, I think, that the situation could just as well be reversed – the mountain lion can kill the warrior and have himself a good meal. I think they are wiser in this respect than we are, or perhaps a better way to put it would be to say that they are not blinded by foolish, sentimental, and mawkish feelings which refuse to accept reality.
My friend Danny told me about one of the hunting trips he and his father took in the White Mountains of Arizona. He said they had been coming to this particular camping site for years, and for years their immediate camping neighbors were a Native American family. They had a huge teepee, as the whole extended family all joined in – they hunted, cooked, lived and laughed together. One time Danny shot a deer quite close to camp. Before he could do anything with it, one of the Apaches came by and asked if his grandfather could bless the deer. Of course, Danny said, yes. The old man came and performed a short ceremony over the dead deer, thanking it for having given its life so that the hunter could eat. Danny said it gave him a totally new perspective on hunting, and the relationship of Man to animal.
I often think about what might happen if, God forbid, the unthinkable occurs, and we are suddenly thrown onto our own resources by some calamity such as an atomic war. Would we sit and placidly starve, or would we gird our loins – to borrow a Biblical phrase – and go out there and kill something to eat, so we could go on living?
I rather think it would be the latter…
Written by Eve Searle. You can read more of Eve’s wonderful words at her blog here.
I thank you all for reading and ultimately for your friendship. I wish you all nothing but the best of all things always.
Take good care!
The cover image of this post is from the Edward Curtis collection.
- Dancing Mouse