“Dude, he’s still alive! Just fuckin’ kill him, would you?!” I shout.
I’m up to my elbows in blood. Spatters extend as high as my face, my glasses freshly freckled. People stand around us, staring in various degrees of wonder. Cameras snap and roll, recording these moments for eternity.
His back legs, initially kicking in fear are now clamped in Brian’s rock-climber grasp. His front legs are held by a stranger. And clasped between my hands is the head of an old billy-goat, his neck exposed and gushing as his executioner works quickly to finish the deed.
All of this started several weeks ago with a simple declaration: “I’m going to kill a goat and roast it for my birthday.” Soon thereafter, the sacrificial grounds were selected, friends were assembled, the goat was purchased and before Lex knew it, the desire to expose his inner hunter/gatherer was realized.
I’ll admit, I was stoked about the weekend and the prospect of being so “Peace Corps.” After all, how often does one get to partake in the selection, slaughter, butchering and roasting of their meat back in The States? Sure, we’ve seen farm animals, but how many of us have actually acted according to our lofty position in the food-web? I dare say, not many.
I was excited about the learning opportunity… right up until I saw the damn goat and realized, whoa, that is a living, breathing creature. He experiences pain. He enjoys food. I bet he enjoys sex. We have a lot in common.
There he was, chomping away on elephant grass, completely unaware of the fact that in less than ten minutes, he would be dead. You poor bastard, I thought, you don’t even know what’s coming. I pitied him.
Soon, I was holding his head, splashed with his fear and hoping, as surely he was, that it would all just - end.
Those present at the killing will tell you that I was clearly shaken by the experience. How so? Did I become a vegetarian? No. Did I start believing that “animals are people too!”? Absolutely not. More than anything, I was interested in finding the source of my intense discomfort born of the slaughter.
I found it. You don’t even know what’s coming. What a strange thought. Because neither do I; neither do we. While we know which way our on/off-switch invariably flips, during the interim it has a mind of its own. But the same cannot be said for animals. More often than not, their life-switch is controlled by a bigger, more blood-thirsty being.
I had aided that being. I, too, had blood on my hands.
Perhaps I sound regretful over my participating in the goat roast. I am not. It was a learning experience that provided an extreme adrenaline rush. But unlike the emotions that arise from, say, adventure sports, those that I experienced were of a more brooding nature, and they forcefully opened the “ethics of an omnivorous diet”- can of worms (an extremely healthy food for thought) that I had previously shelved.
Note: For a fantastic investigation of the world-wide economics (Ahem, “sustainability”) of meat-eating, I highly recommend the book Hope’s Edge written by Francis Moore Lappé and her daughter Anna.