Meal Appreciation

Disclaimer: This topic may be unpleasant for some readers. As with all of my posts, I don’t impose my views on anyone. If you leave a comment, please be courteous and respectful to everyone.

I eat meat. For that reason, I feel the need to educate myself on the process of bringing meat to the table. If I care about the environment and my health, I should educate myself on the processes of bringing all foods to the table. The fields of study are broad and I’m ignorant of most procedures and issues. I don’t know how to hunt, fish, or trap animals. I don’t know how to raise livestock, which includes dealing with births and illnesses. I don’t know how animal feed is grown and processed. I don’t know where the resources to grow the feed and the produce we eat come from. I don’t know what I don’t know.

There are also the psychological and physiological experiences. I don’t know what it’s like to be a predator. What was once a necessary innate ability honed over thousands of years has been lost for generations in my family. I also don’t know what it’s like to be hungry.

My time is limited and I can only learn bit by bit. There are things I’ll never learn.

We raise chickens at the Retreat Center. They live relatively happy lives with the freedom to roam about, eat insects, and eat the veggies meant for compost. When they see us walking with the compost bowls, they waddle towards us like a comical version of the film “Birds.” They produce delicious eggs which I’m grateful for.

Yesterday, I killed four chickens. I’ve always tried to appreciate each meal I eat, but a certain kind of appreciation can only be had after taking the life of an animal and cleaning it.

On the previous night, the chickens had to be caught and put in a cage. The squawking is difficult to bear and will forever be in my memory. Maybe they know what’s coming or maybe they’re just scared. Once they’re in the cage, they’re quiet. Sometimes the silence is more dreadful.

I did not enjoy a single moment of taking their lives. Luckily, it had to be quick. The faster and more precise I could be, the less the animal would suffer. There was a time when plucking the feathers and removing the organs would have repulsed me. Not today. If I eat meat, all of this has to be done. If not by me, then by someone else. I apologized to the chickens all throughout.

Feeling their lives draining from my hands was sobering. It’s not the same as killing an insect. Although all lives are sacred, this feels different. When I was finished, I had a moment of silence for them.

I can’t thank you for giving your life.
You didn’t give it.
I took it.
I’m sorry.

It’s too easy to devour a delicious dish of meat or seafood without a second thought for the animal’s life. If I choose to eat meat, it means I’m raising or catching it, then slaughtering it. If I’m not doing it personally, someone else is. Every part of the chicken is eaten either by us or by Xiao Hu. Appreciate. Never waste food or water.

4 thoughts on “Meal Appreciation

  1. I have never had to do this but know how vital it is to being in the realm of nature, and I admire your insistence to know what gratitude means. I see bullfights as having a function similar to this, it is not merely bloodlust or man vs beast, it is the very nature of life, the bull with its virility and power in its prime that succumbs to the sword a symbol of eternal truth. I think these rituals of slaughter whether for food and/or contemplation are extremely important to know that from death comes life and to come to terms with impermanence.

    Thank you for sharing

  2. Dear Michelle, what you did is your personal choice. I don’t blame you nor judge you. I also eat meat.
    I just want to put something here that you and everybody could think about:
    “This is the teaching of the Buddha:
    1-Do not harm (abstain from intentional harming as much as you can)
    2-Do your best
    3-Calm your mind”
    You may find inspiration in these words. Good luck!

    • Thank you Martin. I’ve been busy since the semester started so I just saw your message. I agree, there’s a lot more to chickens than most people realize! Thanks for the links. – Michelle

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