You know that what you eat you are


Cows confuse me. I appreciate that they are raised, fed, and then brought to an abattoir, a butcher, and finally end up on my BBQ. I appreciate that we have much in common with cows, and that we share a common ancestor. We’re distant cousins. Let’s say I felt uncomfortable about eating my distant cousins, or at least about eating cows – would I feel uncomfortable about my other cousins, cats, eating our common relatives, mice? I find it a bit of a conundrum. If no one ate cows, and so farmers did not raise them, I suppose there would be no cows, or very few of them. Like I said, a conundrum, at least for me. Same thing with corn – raised, cut down, BBQ’ed, common ancestor – worthy of thought on the uncomfortableness meter.

I know some men who are hunters. I won’t repeat the common caricature of hunters, except to note that these men are far removed from those caricatures. All have a great respect for those they hunt. And all, if they are relaxed enough to let their guard down (their guards are often up as the common caricature of hunters is broached to them repeatedly for their edification and potential feedback), have a strange identification with those they hunt. More than I have with my hamburger on the BBQ.

This summer, my wife and I visited family in the Maritimes. One of my wife’s sisters works at an animal shelter and we almost adopted a puppy. The puppy looked like a smallish version of our former dog Sam. It was a nice dog, as was Sam, and the adopt-or-not decision was a close thing as we had a strange identification with the puppy. Yes, we were projecting a little of ourselves onto the puppy, just as we presumably had with Sam years ago. Cartoons like Bugs Bunny show this sort of projection is pretty common. But there is no question in my mind that Sam, a distant cousin, was a thinking creature with feelings and a personality (I would not say Sam was thoughtful though).

We are so close and involved with other species, sometimes we forget just how close and similar we actually are. If an alien were examining a cereal box with a picture of a cowgirl riding a horse, I suppose the alien would see them as almost identical, no more different than brother and sister. A respectful consideration of our close relationship with our brother and sister species is merited, especially when we are concerned with the possible mass extinction of many species, the loss of biodiversity, and even a change in our shared world’s climate.

Addendum: In the end, after many adventures, the Nova Scotia puppy we didn’t adopt in July ended up at our house and adopted by us in September. Fate and puppies. Neither can be denied.


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