I never understood how deeply animals could feel emotions until I met Emma the Beagle. And part of me wishes I could go back to living in a blissful world of ignorance.
Earlier this week I received news from our homeowners association that the beautiful deer who graze in the fields behind our home have grown too big in population. They will be implementing a “deer management program,” which will allow residents to shoot the deer with arrows and bullets. Because they anticipate a high number of eager hunters, they will hold a lottery to select the lucky few who will get to draw blood.
While neighbors discussed and debated this program on Facebook, I would look over at Emma and inevitably see worry lines across her forehead. No, she was not mourning the deer (at least I don’t think she was); she was worried that we would leave her alone. Emma’s separation anxiety had suffered a regression last week, and so looking at her was a constant reminder that animals do feel emotions. Just like us they can be happy, sad, afraid, angry, etc.
What does it feel like to be munching clovers peacefully under a blue sky one second and then have an arrow tear into your side the next? How physically and emotionally painful must that be? I keep envisioning Emma playing the role of the deer. The sheer terror that would spread across her face. Just the thought makes me cry.
I’m a vegan. I can’t compartmentalize my love and compassion for animals. I used to be able to do it — love dogz, and catz, and birdz, and then chow down on a burger, but I haven’t been able to do it for more than a decade. I have understood that most people do love animals and yet still eat meat, just as I once did. But events in my neighborhood this week are making it harder to get.
While neighbors discussed and debated whether it’s right or wrong to kill the deer, they were also raising money in memory of a baby goat who had died on the farm. The whole community mourned the loss. One baby goat. But killing the deer doesn’t move them in the same way. Why? How?
Hubz and I knew when we bought our house last year that in addition to growing crops for food, the farm also raised chickens to be killed for their meat. The farmer writes a letter each week to CSA members and signs it from all the animals on the farm, including the “dinner” chicks. He loves animals — adores his dog. But how can he cutely anthropomorphize the chickens one minute and then slaughter them the next?
Unable to live in denial any more, I searched Google to learn how chickens are “processed” for their meat on small farms and watched a few minutes of one video. I don’t know if our farm works the same way, but my guess is it is similar. The chickens are placed head down into a cone, with an opening at the bottom big enough for their head and neck to pass through. Then their throats are cut.
The horror I felt for these chickens started well before any sharp object connected with their necks; it happened when I saw them shoved face-down into the cone. You can hear them crying in terror.
And then I imagined Emma playing the role of the chicken. And I cried.
Here’s the video. Watch at your own peril.