Sunday, November 22, 2009

Eating Squirrel -- Invasive Meat

I haven't eaten a squirrel, yet (or killed one), and it's going to be colossally hard, if I do it. I've had some experience having to kill animals, mostly for humanitarian reasons (like my mink-ravaged pet duck this past Monday). It's always horrible. There is nothing I can say that can convey the way one's heart closes doors in a hurry to let the body do what personal ethics demand.

It's my conviction that I must live honestly, and I don't feel like buying meat on Styrofoam trays is honest. It's just a way of blinding ourselves to the death and often inhumane lives that happened for our tongues' pleasure. So we try to buy "ethical meat" -- but who's to define "ethical"? I struggle a lot with the ethics of diet. That includes most veggies, grains and fruits. Most of it is definitely environmentally unethical. So I guess it's all about where we draw the line.

I grew up in a family that raised meat rabbits, and, while I never had to kill one, I did slaughter many. Chickens, too. It was definitely one of the best things about my childhood; not because it was pleasurable, but because I learned so much about biology, ecology, humanity, nutrition and "ethics" that no classroom experience could ever have taught me. I fed the rabbits we had to eat, and despite my parents' dire warnings, I loved them. Many dinners were accompanied by a deep emotional pain -- realization of the sacrifice on my plate. It was impossible not to love the animals I had cared for.

It was impossible not to love the calves at the auction, who sucked on our teenage-fingers with abandon and trust, and then were sold for meat, or a lifetime of dairy servitude. I loved cheeseburgers.

It was impossible not to love the baby rat who showed up on our doorstep last year, traumatized and temporarily paralyzed, while its parents chewed through the rat-proof compost bin to get at the remnants of our human excess, and shat all over the apples I'd stored in the pantry. I researched and created rat-formula, nursing him back to health through long nights with a dropper before releasing the recovered animal to a fate of certain death in Crippen Park.

Sometimes my compassion is faulty, but I never know when.

So here we are with two highly compassionate children, who love sausages and meat-on-bone. What to do? I'm trying to teach them the way I learned when I was young, here on the same property. I want them not just to love the taste of meat, but to honour and cherish -- with all the grief that is also implied in that -- the life that was taken for our dinner plates. I never want us to eat ignorantly, but always with integrity of mind. We are part of a cycle of life, and I would hate to inhabit this tiny piece of the whole unknowingly.

Wild meat would seem ethical, but not in the face of mass environmental destruction, brought on by humans. This destruction includes the introduction of invasive species, both plant and animal, to the detriment of local populations and, ultimately, of global diversity and sustainability. I don't want to further tax those populations. So just "wild" is not good enough. "Invasive" would be much better.

Still... that leaves the problem of actually killing them. We started with slugs, and so far that is as far as we've come. It is very very sad to watch a hated invasive; taker of banana slug habitat and destroyer of all my gardening attempts, writhe and wither in boiling water as it dies, and then to think that that life given for my enjoyment amounted to only one small bite; part of an hors d'oeuvre. It's pretty shameful, in the context of ethical meat, and sacrifice honoured.

We tried to raise ducks for eggs, but first we discovered my son's egg-allergy, and then the ducks were killed by the mink. We thought we might raise ducklings for meat, but since the mink-incident, and having to put a beloved pet out of her misery, that is indefinitely on hold.

It was impossible not to love the wide-eyed mink, so desperate for food that it tried to take my dead ducks from my hand, so when I nearly trapped it with a bucket I was afraid to hurt it, and let go... It was only doing what it was born to do.

Eat invasive Grey squirrels? They're cute and fuzzy, eat 100% of our edible nut species, and have driven the Douglas squirrels out of the area, entirely. I would like to think they're ethical meat. I hope so. I tried to save a Douglas squirrel when I was a teenager. I found it half-paralyzed, lying in the woods near Collins lane. It died despite my efforts, and probably I prolonged its suffering, for my inability to kill it. There is no animal (or, some say, plant or stone) that does not have a soul, and that cannot merit love or affection. I don't feel I have the right to kill anything -- and yet sometimes I feel I'm obliged.

Somehow we all have to sort out our place in the physical world, and it's different for all of us. This is where I'm at, right now.

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