The revelation came to me after an innocuous Facebook conversation about our least favorite insects. Sometime after our one-upping each other on the copious amounts of insecticide we would each use to kill our respective nemesis, I began to ruminate on the larger concept driving those decisions. Therein lay my epiphany.
My transgressions started when I was young. I eagerly learned to enjoy jerking a sharp, pointed metal object through living flesh. If the fish was too small to eat (killing for sustenance is a natural part of the living cycle, though I imagine I might be less open-minded as I was savaged by wolves or picked at by vultures), I would “humanely” release the fish back into the water.
Sometimes, the “sport” was too violent on the fish, forcing it to be sacrificed for bait, some of which might never be used. I’ve enjoyed fishing all my life.
Not enough to bully and hurt fish, I spent half my life with marine aquariums. I would go out and with nets, slurp guns and other equipment, rip fish from their homes, mates, even families and shove them in a pail before sticking them in a tiny glass box. All this for the pleasure to leer at them or the ego of showing others my “accomplishment”.
When I became a homeowner, I learned a new form of oppression: landscaping. Perfectly healthy plants, trees and flowers were ravaged and callously removed in favor of my personal aesthetic whims. If this seems a stretch, consider that plants grow, breathe and reproduce, just as we do. That we believe they have no consciousness is merely a factor of time. 1500 years ago we didn’t know they produced oxygen for us. How long ago did we determine the higher thinking processes of other living creatures, such as Dolphin?
I’m more than happy to shop at my grocer or eat at any restaurant with peace of mind. A peace of mind insured by my refusing to consider the circumstances around the raising and treatment of the animals whose meat I am consuming. By extension, I condone whatever conditions exist with my money spent.
If my personal transgressions weren’t bad enough, I’ve taught others to perpetuate crimes. I’ve brought my nieces to the zoo many times over the years. The zoo. A place where animals are kept in enclosed areas or cages on display for us. So ingrained in us is the idea that we are “master of the beasts” and “lords of all we survey”, that we don’t see what we’re doing. Well-fed with little opportunity to roam, kept safe from society and society safe from them, in well-defined areas around the country. What if we did that with humans? Oh wait, we already do, it’s called prison.
It’s only recently (as life spans go) that I’ve undergone some semblance of penance. I no longer have aquariums. I refused to keep house animals when I was working because I didn’t want to pen them up in concrete while I was away all day and continue to be four-legged friendless. I try to escort insect and reptilian visitors from my home without killing them. I go out of my way to avoid interfering with living creatures outside my house, even going so far as stopping a tennis game to allow a millipede to leave the court (after it refused to climb on my racket for a quicker ride).
I know I will never be fully repentant. I still have my insect nemesis and certain societal requirements constrain my decisions on lawn upkeep. I’ll have to settle for being less cruel than I have been.
If you’ve gotten this far, you must now be trying to decide if this has been a sardonic exaggeration or an odd and over-developed conscience. I’ll leave that decision to you. I need to go pull some weeds out front…but at least I’ll feel guilty about it.