Thursday, February 21, 2013

Farewell Tutu

The exclamations of Lady Macbeth rang in my head as I hosed the blood off the driveway. I couldn’t erase the memory of Tutu following me like an expectant puppy until, like Judas, I poured his last supper on the drive, and turned away from the pop of the butcher’s gun behind his ear.  I tried not to watch his final convulsions.

I left the remains of the pig pellets, edged with red, for the deer or birds to enjoy. I had electrical fence to disassemble before I could scatter tyfon seed across the area Tutu had so thoroughly plowed. That was why I acquired the little organic rototiller eight months ago.

He wasn’t so little this morning. The butcher estimated 275 pounds as he hoisted the carcass into his specially designed trailer with the other four he had dispatched elsewhere this morning. I could no longer lift him, as I did the time he got into our house, or even drag him, like the end of his last escape to the neighbor’s rhododendrons. It was too much work to even feed him. So he’ll be feeding others.

I recognized the tug on my heartstrings from stories of friends who were in 4H. Memories flooded back from the apex of the glorious hunt, the uncomfortable reality of the death of a magnificent creature at my own hands. It is the meat eater’s eternal dilemma.

Any analysis of the natural order must acknowledge the necessity of critters eating each other. Death feeds life yet killing remains taboo. People of all cultures uphold the path of nonviolence as the way to enlightenment.  Is it possible to efficiently kill other species while maintaining absolute compassion for our own?  How wrong is it to slide this circle of sanctity from the species divide to the ethnic or tribal level?

I fancy that I can teach empathy and compassion. I cannot escape grieving the demise of my fellow omnivore, nor examining my complicity.  Sure, modern pigs are bred to feed humans. They could not survive without us. This gelded hog could not reproduce. Nobody else wanted him alive and I’ll be lucky to recover the $2.50/lb I invested into him.

I wonder about José, the butcher’s helper. How is his soul impacted by this career of killing? How similar is the callus across his natural compassion to that of a soldier or a serial killer? Is the very act of consuming meat a denial of our highest ideals? How can we hope to dismantle the institutions that teach us not to feel empathy for others?

Clearly, this is cognitive dissonance. Will I resolve it by becoming a vegan or by redefining my opposition to violence and war? Stay tuned…