Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Honor Thy Meat?

My wife prepared a chicken and basil dish this morning for breakfast that neither of us liked. To underscore just how unappetizing it was, even our omnivorous cat wouldn't eat a small piece of the chicken I gave him. Yet, I forced myself to eat as much of it as I could not only to please my lovely wife, but also because I felt guilty about throwing in the garbage so much meat that some poor chicken sacrificed its life to provide us. In fact, it almost feels like sacrilege to throw meat in the garbage.

I remember a published dialog in Playboy (yes, I actually did read some of its articles) between Arthur C Clarke and Alan Watts in which Watts said that if we’re going to eat meat, we at least owe it to the animal to honor it with as much gratitude and respect as we can by preparing its flesh with our highest culinary skill so that we might savor it as we reverently incorporate it into our own bodies and being, to which Clarke replied: “Yes, but I doubt that the animal would appreciate that posthumous honor, Alan.”

However, even if it makes no difference to the animal that is already dead what we do with it, doesn’t the way we treat animals either as living beings or as dead food affect us for better or worse? If we callously mistreat living animals or thoughtlessly kill, cook, and eat them, doesn’t this condition us to undervalue if not outright dishonor the precious sacredness of life in general, and if we do not value and honor life, how do we end up treating ourselves, other people, and the world at large, and how happy can we be?

I do believe, even though I have yet to compel myself to always act accordingly, that those of us who have the wherewithal to nourish ourselves adequately with a vegetarian diet should seriously consider doing so. And so long as we continue to eat meat, I believe that we should at least prepare and eat it the way Watts suggested and take pains not to waste it needlessly.

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