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Monday, July 7, 2014

The Taste for Life

In order to survive, all of us have to have a taste for life. Which also means a taste for food. And here is an open secret: all food comes from other living beings. So a taste for life includes a taste for other life forms. We don't eat them because we hate them. We eat them because they are delicious!

All forms of life are imbued with some degree of intelligence, even plants. Did you know that plants can sense when they are being eaten?

Empathy is sometimes touted as a way out of all conflict. But it does not work that way. We can be perfectly aware that the cow, pig or lettuce we are eating has feelings, that in many ways all flesh and even all living beings are kin, but we still need to eat in order to survive. And they -- the other beings we eat -- still need to eat, too.  So we feed our families, our pets and our livestock. And life goes on. It could not go on any other way.

On the fourth of July, Bow had ribs and mint ice cream, in addition to his staple foods of apples and a banana.

He separated the ribs and savored each one. He knows what ribs are. He called them by name.

The ice cream was good, too.

On Facebook, I see all sorts of really silly arguments about who is more "pro-life" -- those who want to protect unborn babies at other people's expense or those who want to protect babies who have already been born at other people's expense. What would you do if you were actually paying for it? You would protect your own babies, and leave the protection of other people's babies to other people. You would be for life, but your own would come first. That's how it works around here, both within my house and in the fields and woods all around it.

An ant carrying its prey up a wall

 Everybody is pro-life, but nobody is willing to fight for every life, because it's impossible. Resources are scarce, and even though you may empathize with all living things, you have to pick sides in the battle for existence. So the question is not do you like life or living things, but which life has a priority for you. Life is messy. You have to make choices. And some of us believe that in the choices we make to benefit our own kin and our own kine, even those who are our antagonists eventually gain not individually, but collectively.

I found a feather yesterday. I think it belonged to a blue jay.

Did it fall to the ground naturally? Was there a struggle? Birds do eat other birds. There is no solidarity among them, and primates eat other primates in the wild.  But don't get me wrong. They are not cannibals. They don't eat their own. Not normally.

I saw a katydid outside the pen yesterday. There was a fly next to it. I did not quite understand the relationship between the two. Were they predator and prey? Or friends and allies?

The rabbits in my fields are moving closer and closer to the house. I like to see them, but I am also glad that there are coyotes out there that we hear at night, and feral cats whose eyes shine in the headlights of my car as I return home from late night grocery shopping, and maybe even an occasional fox.  That's what keeps our rabbits healthy and hopping!

If you love life, if you have an appetite for it, and you want to keep all of it around you happy and healthy, then you understand that balance comes not from empathy or universal love, but from a healthy antagonism towards others. Celebrate diversity by all means, but please understand that life feeds off life.


  1. Interesting post. I like hearing about all the animals living on your property.