Monday, June 11, 2007

No good Aristotle lives without a platypus:

The distinctions that we make between food and pets are odd ones.

My last post was about cooking tilapia – and conversing with the food before I cooked it. Tonight I euthanized a pet fish who was suffering. I’ve killed plenty of fish for food, caught them with hooks, cut their heads off, gutted them, scaled them, breaded and fried them. I’ve pulled plenty of dead pet fish from my tanks after sickness or rivalry ended in death. I haven’t ever taken a fish that was a pet out of the water before it was totally dead. I think it was the right thing to do, but it was very sad for me – I hope that it was an end of suffering for the fish.

My father told me once how odd it was to have grown up on a farm where cats and dogs were regularly killed in tangles with tractors and pitchforks, and then to adjust to how his children were with their pets. He was always kind to his pets, but more than once he’s walked an old dog out to the woods. He was a farm boy who raised city kids. My mother’s father kept livestock inside the city limits until it was outlawed. She’s talked before about her brother strangling his pet rooster, which they then ate. I am caught in a syncretism – more than one actually.

My friend Kim’s dog caught a mouse this weekend. She saved it from the dog, couldn’t kill it herself, and didn’t want to let it go. She thought I might want it to feed to my snake. Live food is a risk for pet snakes, especially when you’ve caught the “food”, as it could have any number of diseases. I told her to take it to the park and let it go, that’s what I’ve done in the past.

Psychologists might call this haphazard identification with fish feelings a kind of intermittent “anthropomorphizing” – ing (active verb) morph (to change into) anthro (as in human). The false assumption here is that humans are something apart from the animal kingdom. Of course I can empathize with animals in that I too am an animal. Talking monkeys often make this mistake, failing to see that attributing human feelings to animals is attributing animal feelings to animals, and vice versa. Many notable intellectuals have oddly (and perhaps correctly) blamed the talking (and the writing) for this delusion.

I am forced to conclude most rationally that we are clearly all insane. It’s the syncretism; it’ll get you every time.


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