These days, many people have chosen to abstain from meat. Some for dietary reasons, some for philosophical and some just because they don’t care for the flavours of the various meat products. Myself, I don’t mind a burger or steak, occasionally, and chicken parmesan is one of my favourites. For that matter, my aunt Marny made a chicken a la king that was oh-so good.
Yet, there was an incident recently that made me seriously consider giving it up. People in favor of meat often point to our need for amino acids and other nutrients found in meat. Although true, we can get those from other sources. They also say that lower animals don’t have the same feelings and emotions as humans, and thus taking their lives isn’t such a big deal.
At our apartment complex, we have a small lake and it has wild ducks. A few months ago, one of the duck couples had some ducklings. I saw the momma leading them around the pond on various occasions.
Then, one day, I was out walking our dog Juliet and I heard loud quacking. We followed the noise and saw a duck sitting on the shore all alone and quacking, repeatedly, and quite loudly. Although I’m no Dr. Doolittle, I have to say, the quacking had mournfulness to it, a deep emptiness and sadness.
I later learned that most of the fish in the lake had died due to a chemical dumped in the water to fight algae growth. It seemed it had been too strong. It was then that I knew which duck had been wailing.
It was several weeks before she got over her loss and had another batch of ducklings. I watched as she cared for them, fed them and taught them all that they needed to know. Then, just the other day, I again saw her alone on the shore. The rest of the flock was at the other end of the pond and she was just sitting by herself and looking up into the sky. I looked up. Several young ducks were flying off toward the setting sun.
Again, I didn’t have to be good old Doc Doolittle to know that those were her babies. Only this time they had grown to maturity and were flying off to start their own lives. Momma sat there a moment, until they were specks on the horizon, and then she took off herself. Not to join them; no, she flew across the pond and landed in among the rest of our flock. Sitting there in the water with them, she paddled around and, although I can’t swear to it, it did seem as if she was smiling.
Maybe the lower creatures don’t feel love and hate, pain and pleasure or any other emotion the way we do, but it’s clear to me that they do feel something. Watching momma deal with loss, rebirth and the joy of sending her children off to live their own lives was quite the privilege for me.
Just the other day, I saw a new brood of babies on the shore. For her, it was another generation of ducks. It’ll be interesting to watch as they grow and begin the journey of their lives.
From now on, I tend to think we’ll eat less meat in our house. As my daughter tells me, it is the healthy way to go and maybe the kind way, too.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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