In my pug wanderings this week there has been a definite theme of survival of the fittest and it’s brought to mind the sort of ‘shower thoughts’ about life, love and philosophy – you know the ones where you have arguments with yourself and plan what you are going to say about something or what you wish you had said because it never comes out that way in reality?
Well, it all started with the poor little hedgehog that clearly had a battle with a car and lost. I first saw this sad picture three or four days ago and noticed today on my walk with Princess Peggy, that it still lies there to all intents and purposes intact, but definitely dead . That set me thinking, because yesterday on my early morning pug wander, I saw a wild rabbit mangled into a very odd calamity of tangled front and back legs lying in the middle of the road and clearly having breathed its last.
On my way back from our constitutional however, the rabbit had moved and unless it was supernatural forces at work, it certainly could not have been of its own volition. That said, moved it had, to the side of the road and lying in a different position with a trail of unpleasant insides behind it.
Suddenly in front of me, a couple of magpies swept down, having patiently circled above us unseen like buzzards. Watching them I realised that the little corpse had been dragged to the side of the road by the local carnivores, who clearly did not want to follow in its unfortunate footsteps, so pulled their prey to a safer place to eat at will
Sometime later, the time for afternoon pug fest was upon us and I casually looked at the spot to see that the little carcass had gone altogether. This seemed hard to credit. I would at the very least have expected to see remnants of some kind. Then catching my eye, was a very neatly ‘french trimmed’ set of bones way over in the field where they had been casually taken as carrion and picked quite clean, all in the space of a few hours.
This sad little tale led me to think about our passion for rabbits and dogs and horses and other animals and the angst we rightly feel when they are treated with cruelty, abandoned, run over or stolen.
The Yulin scandal has in itself alerted the world to the plight of common cats and dogs when the time for traditional eastern delicacies comes around. I understand and sympathise with the outcry, but wonder why we distinguish between those we cherish as pets and those other animals for whom we do not have the same regard and in effect live comfortably with double standards side by side.
Now, before I continue my ramblings, let me clear something up.
I was a vegetarian for 11 years and have been verging on the vegetarian for most of my life. So, knowing this fact may lead the reader to presume that I write this with a bit of leery eyed ‘new age ‘ prejudice.
My vegetarianism was entirely to do with a lifelong dislike of many meat products and nothing to do with the ethics of eating other living creatures. I believe we were born to eat a wide and varied diet and developed to do so as hunter gatherers. I personally however, quite simply like fruit, veg and carbs much more than I like meat but in the end, a bacon sandwich did for me and I do now eat meat in moderation, if I can face it, or be bothered, which more often than not I can’t.
So, in those shower thoughts I muse as to why it is that it is ok to eat pigs or cows but not cats or dogs. Why do we feel very little for a wild rabbit mangled by the roadside, or a flattened hedgehog which was just too slow on that lazy summer evening, but freak out when the domestic rabbit escapes from its cage to a similar fate, or when we see rabbit on the menu of our favourite restaurant
In Peru we know that guinea pigs are a delicacy but in our house they were beloved pets full of personality with almost human like qualities – we could no more think of eating Domino or Bailey – they were fully fledged family members! Similarly our little Sherbert, accidentally dropped onto his head at birth due a mishap from which my son Jamie has never recovered, was simply the quirkiest and most lovable, if somewhat intellectually challenged little rabbit in the world.
But it is true whether we like it or not, that there is in all things a degree of evolution that leads us to forage for what we need and to eat it. I know that we could live a life without meat and survive, but we won’t. It simply isn’t generally in the majority of our natures. We can, however, live a life with meat that doesn’t involve cruelty and does not enrage those, of which I am one, who prefer that we don’t kill other living things for our pleasure
So, at one end of the spectrum, to see a hunter grinning inanely over the dead body of a newly killed giraffe, its life extinguished in the whisper of a moment in the name of sport, frankly makes my blood boil. I accept however that we breed cattle for meat and provided we look after them well and give them a good quality of life, I think I can live with that – it seems to fit into the proper order of things.
Having worked on a battery farm as a very young girl, I simply don’t ever want to eat anything but free range eggs. If you have any doubts, do a couple of shifts on a battery farm, there is absolutely no glory for the human race in the way those chickens are treated. It’s appalling.
I suppose what I think I’m getting to, is that there is a fine boundary between the natural way of things and killing for pleasure.
A local cat killed our lovely rabbit but left it largely intact just for a bit of wicked feline fun. It made me murderous and I’ve often been tempted to swerve when I spot it sitting smugly at the bottom of my drive and take the ultimate revenge – but I don’t have it in me and in the end if I did that would reduce me to the level of the callous hunter myself, so I turn the other cheek.
Killing a beautiful animal for a trophy or some extreme apothecary to increase one’s libido is just beyond the pale. I can not and will not ever understand it.
Breeding animals for basic foodstuff however, is the natural order. How we do that leaves us to be judged as to whether we cover ourselves with honour. If the Yulin festival involved pigs or sheep would the western world protest so much ? I abhor it, but that’s because in my head cats and dogs are domestic animals but they may be basic meat products or delicacies elsewhere in the world alongside Guinea pigs, deep fried crickets and many other unmentionable things that don’t tempt my palate. Irrespective of that, the way those dogs and cats are treated shames the world – it is barbaric.
When I was little, whilst I disliked most meat, I adored rabbit gravy on pancakes followed by rabbit stew. I did not like the fiddly bones but the meat was sweet and melted in the mouth. My daughter Caitlin, a lifelong rabbit lover, cannot bear the thought of eating her pet, but happily eats most other meats and is undoubtedly a carnivore of the first order.
So when I ‘shoo’ the local cat away from the bird table, I do so to protect the birds which I love to watch and encourage to feast for my pleasure. But in the natural way of things, that’s not my job . Just as in the same way it’s not my job to protect the worms from the birds or the flies from the spider. These things are part of a delicate balance and it’s not for me to yank the precious food chain and weaken its intrinsic links.
Just like the rabbit as he disappeared swiftly into a pile of cleanly picked starch white bones-he was not killed by the magpies, but they wasted and wanted not in his honour and that is the way it should be in the natural order of the world.
Now back to my cheese sandwich …….