The case for fish – a meditation

February 26, 2007 at 12:57 am (Meditation)

I had to kill my own cow to make a burger. In a lucid dream the cow, Minnie, shared with me the reasons it looked so grumpy, and complained it was not getting on with its therapist. We had managed to bond even though we both knew it would end up as my burger.

Then I had to stick the knife in, not proverbially but literally, and breach our unwritten contract of friendship. Minnie accepted its fate with dignity. It did not resist, it let me slaughter it, or at least attempt to, and was patient when I couldn’t dislodge the machete from its neck.

“Do you need a hand?” it mooed. Imagine someone – something – you’re trying to kill offering to muck in. But Minnie was no ordinary cow. This was no ordinary dynamic. I wanted a burger. All I had to do was kill the cow. But I was covered with blood and had barely started.

When awoke up I remembered having cooked my friend, Serge, a lamb stew the night before. Then I recalled the piece of meat that might have triggered the dream. It was a small chunk with two holes in it, made by two tubes – tiny bone-like things – that were staring at me. Serge said they were arteries. ARTERIES? Weren’t they for the heart? I’d thought this an innocent piece of leg. When I squeezed the meat, the “bones” changed shape. Each was a few millimeters wide and a centimeter apart. A lifetime as a carnivore had not prepared me for this. I wrapped the offending piece of lamb in a kitchen towel and placed it in the bin. Then, I wanted to throw the bin away.

It’s always a relief to wake up and know you’re not actually soaked in blood. You’re not at death’s door, or killing anything; in a few hours burger shops around the land will be serving pre-killed cow in decorative boxes. In the dream there was no such luxury. The burger bar was in Pakistan. They showed me to the back of the shop and told me I had to slaughter my own cow because Usman, the butcher, was out praying. It was a dark, dank space. There was only the cow and I. Its lips did not move when it spoke – it was a voice in my head. You might say Minnie’s role was symbolic, that the process of slaughter was about my relationship with myself, that when I struck the animal, I struck me. But, at the time, the cow was the cow. Given my grandparents were farmers, it might have belonged to them, or even BEEN them.

I had my first burger when I was five or six. Burgers were not so frowned upon then. In fact, a number of my friends’ birthday celebrations were held at burger chains. Now, this encounter was chaining me to every burger I’d ever eaten. To kill the cow, and enjoy doing so, was the only way to atone for my sins. But then I would be another lowlife. How could I pretend not to care about the arteries of a fellow mammal?

All of my might could not shift the machete. Now, I was swimming in blood. Then I realized that the cow’s problems with its therapist were in fact my own. I decided to change my therapist and turn vegetarian. So today, the arteries in my food carry no blood. There is no need to slaughter lettuce, mushrooms and tomatoes. You pick them. Occasionally, I eat fish. In fact, I have decided to eat more and more fish. Yes, they have arteries, but they are nothing like we are. They cannot walk. And I can’t swim underwater for too long.

Permalink 7 Comments