October 16, 2011

Animal Love – The Musings of a Non-Vegetarian ~ Catherine Maxwell

Photo: Jayme Frye

Here is the wonderful part about being human: you can choose. Almost anything!

You can choose to be married (although you may have to “settle”) or choose to be single. You can choose friends, a job, a car. You can choose clothes: skinny jeans, flare, or a boot cut? You can choose what to order off the menu.

And, to take this a step farther, you can choose whether to eat animals or not.

So now here’s where you go, “Uh-oh, this chick’s on a vegetarian kick” or “Yay! One of us!” But truthfully, I’m neither. I’m on the fence.

I love a good steak once in a while. Yet I have looked into the deep brown eyes of cows and seen their beauty. I won’t eat veal because I know how veal calves are raised. I’m faltering about cows, but I’m okay with eating chicken. I don’t much care for chickens; I am currently house-sitting a small farm, and I am terrified of the rooster. (And let me say here that I have NEVER before been scared of a big…. Well, never mind!)

But chickens, as individuals, impress me as flighty and slightly suspicious. Is that like saying I would never eat human, except maybe Aries males because they really aggravate me?

I’m definitely conflicted!

At a restaurant last week (in Morocco) I was eating some kind of pigeon-chicken-bird. A mother dog and two sweet black puppies appeared. So cute! I was feeling homesick, and missing the total-body-wag of an old doggy friend, and here were two little surrogates. I fed them all bits of the bird-creature. They wagged and licked. But when I tried to pet them, the dogs fled. What was that all about?

They avoided pets and scratches, to the point where one yelped when I did touch his body. I soon saw why: when they waggled their way through the restaurant, they were kicked by the waiter. I was furious, but everyone else in my party was nonchalant (three Moroccans and two from Malaysia.) I held back tears and gathered more pigeon from my dining partners, who were busily having adult conversations while I was holding back puppy tears.

The next day, one of the guys from Malaysia (of Chinese origin) told me I’d better never go to China, where in the markets they display dogs you can choose to take home – not for a pet, but for your dinner. I’d spend all my tourist shopping money buying these pups and finding a way to ship them home, all the while crying inconsolably!

In France they eat horse. In other countries too. I love horses; I have spent the equivalent of at least a small one-family house over the years on my horse habit, boarding, riding, taking lessons, and showing. Horses have taken carrots from my lips. My tears have soaked their manes as they have listened to my sorrows. Their strength and beauty has also brought me tears of joy. I’ve eaten with them, sharing sandwiches. But I’ve never eaten horse.

Can one be a selective animal lover? Can I assume that the steak I am enjoying was a cow living happily and then killed humanely? (Giving his life for his country, as it were?) Is it simply convenient for me to ignore what I know: that chickens are crammed into cages (much like veal) and raised until it’s time to butcher them (Humanely? Right?) I’ve never spent much time with pigs, either, but I enjoy pork from time to time. Bacon is yummy! If I take cows off the list because of their big brown eyes, is it okay to keep pigs on it if I don’t think they are all that attractive?

These, boys and girls, are the musings of an animal lover/non-vegetarian! And I’m afraid there are no easy answers. Your comments are welcome, but please don’t yell at me; I’m a sensitive Pisces! (That’s the Fish, and yes, I do also eat fish.)




Alexa Maxwell is a writer, teacher, traveler and student of yoga. She is a huge fan of elephant journal and is honored to be part of the herd. You can read more at her blog , follow her on Twitter @catnipkiss, or wait for her upcoming travel memoir which is a work in progress.


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