Monday, June 26, 2006

The dreams of the insane...

I'd like to say something pithy and uplifting to start your week. But that's probably not going to happen. Or will it? Let's just see... Vegetarians and animal lover's beware...

Building on the "you are what you eat" theory, I would like to submit the following: After having eaten delicious lamb for dinner last night (a rarity) I was shortly thereafter subjected to a continuous six-and-a-half hour nonstop fluffy-white bleating dream consisting of pastoral grass-grazing under swirling mint jelly skies. This was set to alternating techno-acadian rhythms falling somewhere between Aaron Copland and Kraftwerk. Now fully awake, I can only surmise that for those six-and-a-half hours, I had tapped into the living memory and consciousness of the baby sheep I had consumed. If this is the case, and I am permitted to generalize, I can report that a lamb's consciousness is somewhat less ordered than our own, but also somewhat more dazzling on an aesthetic level.

So here's my question: If the lion lays down with the lamb, and after a little while, the lion gets hungry and eats the lamb, does the lion acquire lamb-like attributes? Or, nutritionally speaking, is the lion only permitted to digest only those last few moments of terror the lamb experienced while being devoured? It's not a pleasant subject, but I'm told that the tenderness and tastiness of meat depends on how aware the animal was of it's impending doom. A scared animal will secrete hormones, namely adrenaline, that flood the muscles and toughen the meat. This is one reason why Temple Grandin, the visionary (and autistic) "Dr. Doolittle" of our times, has been so successful in marketing her high-walled, curved conveyor belt used for ushering animals into the abatoire. This contraption humanely carries the animals through a slowly ascending spiral corridor rife with eye-pleasing patterns and sound dampening metals. Their eyes are drawn upward to the sky above and fans keep fresh air circulating. Only at the very last moment are the animals brought into darkness, one by one, where the slaughter is swiftly implemented.

Are you feeling slightly nauseated? That's sure how I felt when I woke up. But I'm working through this (and taking you with me!) We're taking the bull by the horns, together... Oh, I neglected to mention that our cat caught the same mouse not once, but four times yesterday. Each time it came into the house the mouse was a little more damaged. But very much alive. Sarah and I would trap it in a box feed it strawberries and place it way out in the garden. Half an hour later, the cat would saunter in carrying it like a baby, by the scruff of the neck. Somehow all of this factors in... As do the unbelievably strange Beatrix Potter books of childhood, which I recently had the opportunity to revisit. (I'm sounding like someone with way too much time on his hands... not true, not true, but what can I do?)

So, back to the abatoire... Dr. Grandin's conveyor belt to the gallows does two remarkable things: It allows for an animal's happier ending and yummier meat for us carnivores. I am intrigued by these kinds of interfaces... places where one set of values meets its opposing set, quasi-harmoniously stitched together by some jerry-rigged feat of human engineering. I applaud the animal-loving Dr. Grandin for understanding the bigger picture and searching for "elegant" solutions that benefit all parties involved. She knows she's not going to stop people from eating meat, she eschews histrionic PETA-style tactics and attacks that only aggravates and further divides the issue. She sutures unlike tissue to unlike tissue and somehow makes it hold.

To complicate things, I noticed that there is an article in The NY Times about the ethics of eating animals (including shellfish). Not sure if I will read it or not. I am a man of very few vices and such writings make me wary... If someone takes my annual summer lobster away, through guilt and journalistic manipulation of facts no less, I'm going to be very upset.

OK, now I've painted myself into a corner. The only way out is here.


Anonymous Joshua S. Rubenstein said...

We like to think we're good people who occasionally do bad things.

Very few of us seem willing to entertain the opposite point of view -- at least about ourselves.

5:39 PM  

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