It's Not MY Pet; Therefore, I'll Eat It

Augie March -- King of Doodles was recently sited as a resource on Backyard Chickens Forums for the article Signs of Intestinal Blockage in Pet Ducks. We hope our experience with Mista Clyde helps save other ducks and geese.
Last night when I picked up my Chinese gander, Freddie, and felt the shape of his thighs in my hands, the way he relaxed his body in trust as I carried him into the garage where he sleeps, it dawned on me that most other people only think of those thighs on a plate. In that moment I could see a plucked bird in the frozen section of the grocery store--that sterile place where meat was never a conscious being. Often throughout my life I've had such thoughts that separate me and have, at times, made me feel like an "other".

There's the truth. And then...there's the TRUTH. The truth is we tell ourselves, comfort ourselves, if you will, when it comes to facing truths we've been raised with.

"But that's the way my MOTHER did it."

Sometimes we don't question traditions or customs we're raised with, so-much-so that every day we contradict ourselves in frightful ways.

Do I love Freddie?

How do I define love?

Do I love my son? My boyfriend? My sisters?

Do I eat them?

I finally reached a point in life where something clicked. Why did I love my dog, say I loved all animals, and yet...I'd eat veal, but not eat my dog? I thought calves were adorable. Just babies. And piglets. Ahhhhhh...piglets. With their wee eyelashes and pink bodies, much like the bodies of human babies.

It's what we did. Everyone did it. There was something separating us from the realization that this roast was once a blinking, sun-bathing, I'll-be-your-best-friend being like you and me.

Now, I pick Freddie up and he relaxes in my arms. He's not my pet goose. Not in the same way I had a pet goose when I was a child. He's not MY pet goose. That's not what makes him special. He is a goose and geese are special. Freddie doesn't need me in order to be special. He has preferences. Needs. Wants. Friends. Even favorite songs. There are people he likes, people he's attracted to and wants to spend time with.

I imagine him lost in the mess that is the livestock industry. Freddie--shoved in a pen with a hundred other geese. In that sense he's just meat. Just another goose. And not many people understand geese. People underestimate geese--and most other animals--but geese do not underestimate people. Not most geese, anyway. Unless they're geese like Freddie, a fully imprinted gander. Smart as a whip. He'd never guess that people could eat him. He trusts in us.

Animals aren't dumb. Intelligence is relative. I laugh each time I see those documentaries where apes are studied in human environments to see if they're as smart as a two-year old human. What use does an ape have for a Coca-Cola in a locker? On the other hand, put a two-year old human out in the jungle and see how long he survives. For that matter, put the average first-world adult out in the jungle and see how long he or she survives. Is she smarter than an ape? Is it fair to test an ape in an unfamiliar environment, one for which he has no need, and not test a human in the ape's environment for comparison? How sanctimonious is that?

Freddie isn't a bird for the roast. I don't find it funny when people make jokes about eating him. Do people like it if I make jokes about eating little PhiPhi the chihuahua? NoooOOOOoooooo. So what makes these non-empathetic human beings so sure I want to hear how they will eat my beloved Freddie, or any goose for that matter?

Freddie isn't special because he's MY goose. He's special to me, yes, but every goose is safe from harm when it comes to my decisions to eat them, or harm them. I have no need to eat my friends and equals. Do I feel unnerved calling a goose my equal? Why should I?

I do not think I can stand upright and declare myself a higher species, above all other life on earth, and bark a God-given right to use and abuse every creature I consider below me and actually BE a higher species. There is no higher species if one thinks about it.

Because I've been taught that eating a turkey for Thanksgiving is the way it is and I have salivated at the thought of a pot roast, does not mean my conscience even agrees with eating pot roast or turkey. Lest I turn my thoughts off at the dinner table, I may be reminded that the beautiful cow I patted and fawned over last week at my neighbor's barn is gurgling in a crock pot. Can I have both?

The TRUTH is: I WON'T.

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