26 March 2015

My Life With Animals

I tell you my story. It's nothing admirable but I need you to listen to it.

I ate meat! Variety of meats, actually. Pig, cow, carabao/buffalo, goat, chicken, turkey, ducks and other birds, frogs, fishes, crabs, shrimps, squid, and dog meat.

Yes, you read it right. Eating dog meat is not only in China and its neighboring countries. It's there too in some parts of the Philippines. So even dogs were not spared!

It's gross, I know, but to someone who just wants to have meat without a second thought, it's not!

And that's not it! I fed chickens, I helped to weave chicken nests out of coconut leaves, I watched mother hens laid eggs, I watched these eggs hatched, and, yes, I cooked a few of them, for sure, boiled, scrambled, sunny-side-up! I even helped to trap chickens so we can sell them for food or money to pay for school fees, or just simply for dinner.  

On top of this, I was so proud purchasing a kilo or two from the market or being in a queue for a lechon manok (grilled/roasted chicken). Chicken taste was unbeatable, for me!

I cleaned, cooked, and have eaten chicken meat for as long as I can remember.

And here's another. I fed and bathe a pig or two or more. I even went to the woods to find wild taro leaves -as food for pigs. Yes, I fed pigs. Plenty of times! I watched them grow, weighed and sold. I watched their throats slit open, blood spurting many times for weddings, fiestas, anniversaries or birthdays.  

I heard their cries. Shrill cries! I just didn't think it was a cry...a cry for help, a cry of no escape!

Oh, we had cats! We didn't murder and eat them though. I just carried two or three kittens and left them in the forest. Did I do the right thing? I was not even thinking about doing the right thing then. I didn't even take notice whether they were old enough to survive on their own. We just wanted them out of our house! Why? They were a nuisance. Their mother kept stealing food from our pantry.
~Limpei died of wound infection~
Another atrocious act I did a few times. How I learned it must be from observation. How the elders treat animals. Well, snakes were always thought to be vicious, always aim to attack and bite you. Oh, the ignorance of it all! I mashed snake heads to their death, carried to the middle of the road for a truck or two to do the final blow. That was always the case. No visible snakes were spared.

The list could go on and on.

Horrible, shameful, disgusting, and utterly atrocious! Looking back of who I just made me shook my head in amazement at how disconnected I was to the real world.

I have exploited animals for 34 years! Seven of those years were of exploiting hens and depriving calves of their rights for milk.

Why? Why did I grow up to be such a heartless, selectively compassionate person?

Well, I can blame culture. I can blame my mother for teaching us selective compassion. I can blame my older siblings for not growing to be critical thinkers. I could blame my neighbors for none of them refused to eat meat. I can blame my teachers and peers. Geez, I could blame everyone!

I could blame myself for being stupid and heartless. I didn't develop critical thinking myself although we were encouraged in school.

Does it matter who's to blame? The people in my life made wrong choices. They made mistakes. I, too. Many times.

What's important now? Learning from mistakes and devoting time to righting the wrongs.

I am aware now. I want you to be aware, too.

These animals feel pain and sorrow. They show affection, happiness, embarrassment, and guilt among other emotions we humans know of. They have families and friends. They are social. They play a lot.

Just like us!

Yet we murder them for food. Just to get a 10-minute pleasure of taste that is mainly due to the spices and condiments that we add to a meat dish.

We murder them for a thing called celebration when people enjoy and commemorate happiness. But when we really think about celebration, it is not the food that makes us happy. It is the presence of people- family, friends, neighbors, relatives, etc. talking and chatting, sharing life itself with each other, listening to the chatters and laughter of everyone!

Celebrating happiness need not be at the expense of somebody else's life. How can we be happy if by acquiring it an innocent life was taken? A life that would have attended the celebration, not as a meal, but as an individual who would express joy and belongingness had it given the opportunity to be part of it.

My life with animals then was an unquestioned one, a life of conformity of which my values were of limited scope.

Not anymore!

It is different now! What changed?

~a friend calf~
I changed!

I realized that my life cannot be called life if I continue taking another's life. It just doesn't make sense! Somehow that line between the life of animals and my own life had a gap, which wasn't visible before. But because I chose to look, really look, the gap became clear, much clearer, and I knew then that only I can fill that gap. I reconnected the line. It is holding strong. And it is not going to get torn again.

How about you? What kind of connection do you have with non-human animals?