I was standing in the deli section at Shaw’s, staring dumbly at a display case behind the counter. There, whirling gracefully upon roaster spits, the golden brown chicken bodies went up and down, up and down, like headless riders on a strange Ferris wheel.
It was a sight I’d seen dozens of times before; hundreds, maybe. Only on this occasion, daydreaming while others shopped for cold cuts and cheese wheels, it occurred to me that we’re a completely barbaric society. We slaughter creatures that live among us, chop them up to precise specifications, and cook them in a display case for all to see. The strangest thing about this practice is that it doesn’t seem strange at all.
Now don’t get all huffy and try to beat sense into me with a drumstick. I’m not here to rustle up social awareness. I wasn’t having an epiphany at Shaw’s or any kind of spiritual awakening.
When I am visited by thoughts such as these, it is almost always without any sort of political or moral basis. I did not feel disgust as I watched the dismembered chickens spitting grease against the glass. Not absolute disgust, anyway. I was merely provoked into strange thoughts by a very prosaic sight and I allowed that new perspective time to develop inside my cranium. The thought process went like this.
Oooooh, lookit them chickens. Damn, those look good. Unless you’re a chicken, of course. If you’re a chicken, they probably look like dead and mutilated kin. Which is kind of funny, when you think about it, because that’s what they are. We’re all from the same primordial ooze, after all, and I guess that makes us cannibals when you get right down to it. And lavish cannibals at that. I mean, not only did somebody whack those birds on the head and then hack them into pieces, they passed the carcasses along to somebody else who proceeded to publicly roast them for the tantalization of passersby. I wonder what an extraterrestrial visitor would make of this. They might radio back on the plasma phone and report that butchery and public feasts of flesh are commonplace on this blue rock close to the sun. And man, imagine if that extraterrestrial had landed at the slaughterhouse instead of the slightly more civilized supermarket? What would old ET have made of that? Furthermore, why the hell am I standing here gawking at the display chickens when the game is starting and I haven’t even hit the beer cooler yet? Do they still sell Fig Newtons these days? I haven’t had a Fig Newton in decades.
And so I wandered off and held on to those ideas for a while. We kill and devour just about everything on the planet. And the beasts that we hunt, in turn, hunt smaller prey. And so on, and so forth. It’s one, big flesh orgy here on McEarth.
Not that I’m going vegan anytime soon. Shoot, no. Ninety-five percent of what I eat is something that had to be killed, torn apart and tossed on a skillet. Have you ever seen me go at the prime rib at Bugaboo Creek? Get too close and you could lose a finger. There IS precedence.
So, I learned nothing from my strange fugue at the chicken counter, but I gained a little insight. We live in a savage garden where living things tend to eat each other with unfettered gluttony. You can boycott animal products and condemn the cruelty of the slaughter, but the carnage will continue unabated.
Most of us wolf down cooked flesh in blissful denial. We know that the thick steak was once a cow that was bashed in the skull with a sledgehammer. We know that clubbing a cow is different from clubbing a baby seal only in that you don’t have to bend down as far. But we also know that we need to feed and that eating slow-witted, tasty creatures is the way of our species. I guess you learn to live with that or you hitch a ride with ET as he flees, nauseated, back to his peaceful, leaf-eating world.
Make mine rare and don’t skimp on the au jus.
Mark LaFlamme is the Sun Journal’s carnivorous crime reporter.