16 August 2010

Day 142: Lavinia

Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin.  ISBN: 9780151014248.

This book called something to my attention that I think we need to reintroduce into our lives: animal sacrifice. We already raise animals specifically for sacrificial service on our plates and our bodies, but they no longer receive the respect or the reverence they deserve during slaughter.

It used to be that the only times we ate meat was when it was available - during slaughter season when all of the animals were, uh, “ripe” at once. We butchered them and then we had fresh meat and we cured or treated or sold whatever we knew we wouldn’t be able to consume before it went bad.

Before that, when most of us were mere peasants who couldn’t afford to own meat animals, we might have been able to eat meat whenever some squirrels stupidly tripped our traps, but you can pretty much forget big game hunting. Who has time for that when you’re busy plowing fields and trying to prevent your daughters from being raped by your “betters?” Other than that you might get some during feasts if it was a particularly good year for your village. Honestly it was a miracle that peasants were able to maintain enough nutrition to breed at all.

But back to the sacrificing of animals.  I like it because it respects that individual animal.  It’s like saying, “Here god, we give this back to you because we know and respect its value.”  Why not show that animal a brief moment of respect before quartering it into “good” and “bad” meat parts? Sure, maybe it would make our steak dinners more expensive or it would be harder to find bacon in the grocery store, but we already eat far more meat than what is absolutely necessary for our dietary needs (I’m mostly looking at you Americans who eat it at every single meal).

I honestly don’t find anything reprehensible about animal sacrifice for religious purposes. What I find is wastefulness. I don’t condone killing an animal only to let it rot, or killing an animal only to take one part of it for a trophy. If we’re going to kill and eat these animals anyway, why not provide them with a show of respect for the life we take? If we can buy our Chihuahuas designer carrying bags and outfits to match ours, or our cats custom engraved grave stones so they can be buried next to us, I think we can afford to have a priest/reverend/rabbi/voodoo doctor/whoever say a few words over our dinner before it gets its head dragged through a pool of electrified water.

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