The Challenge

The Challenge

As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: in their behavior toward creatures, all men were Nazis.  The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that “might is right.”

 Isaac Bashevis Singer  Enemies: A Love Story 

Meat eating is the most frequent way we interact with animals.

Carol J. Adams – The Sexual Politics of Meat

Screams, whites of eyes, 
blood geysers, plasma flowers 
bloom on slaughterhouse walls,
hell’s carnage and crimson profits pool 
on cement floors, fill sewer lines, sop soil,
spill over trawlers’ decks, staining oceans 
heme red as gaping mouths open, shut, open—
gasping, gurgling.  Headless bodies thrash—
flipping, jerking, spilling guts…

If you are what you eat, then what was I?
I asked myself and confessed, I was savagery—
even though I paid others to do my dirty work: 
rape, kidnapping, treachery, suffering, murder— 
my body made of corpses, who’d had every right  
to live, to life—corpses on whom I fed my base 
off-base needless tastes.  There is 
no requirement to eat them,  
the innocent, who suffered horrific deeds 
to be forked over meal after meal.  
Here’s a partial list   
of the trillions killed per annum:

cattle, bolts shot into their brains, hanging 
upside down, throats sliced open, bled with
hearts still pumping, choking on bubbling 
blood, legs jugging; 
hooked fish, lips ripped, cerebrums punctured by 
barbs or caught in vast drag nets—drawn up, 
flopping anguish, desperate, drowning in air; 
amputated pigs squealing in pain, their tails docked and
teeth ground down without anesthesia to raw nerve endings, 
packed in pens and confined in small metal crates on 
filthy, damp concrete slabs, depressed, unable to 
nuzzle and comfort their nursing young; 
sick chickens de-beaked with hot irons, covered in 
feces, bred with grotesque breasts that topple them over 
into suffocating shit, and eggs from layers, dropping dead
embryos into the stench of foul sheds—the newborn roosters, 
useless to the industry pureed alive—slide cheeping  
into whirring blades—or die slowly, 
suffocating in plastic bags;

kidnapped calves’ and kids’ milk sucked out for us, 
a dangerous species, by machines from grieving 
mothers—bellowing cows, bleating goats and sheep enslaved, 
frantic, calling their young, stolen almost moment they’re born, 
who come of semen guns men thrust deep into their 
terrified mothers, impregnating them in rape racks—
again and again, molested until they can bear no more, 
until their uteri drop out, drag on fecal-smeared 
floors, then their exhausted bodies sold for meat,
having been delivered of too many babies.
Their daughters slated, too, for sexual assaults 
and young sons—bull calves and kids—
who missing their moms, suckle
their killers’ fingers on their way
to slaughter,  little ones once eaten by
me and currently by most of mine, 
probably by you and yours as veal and 
lamb with cabernet and mint sauces—
fine dining by candlelight.

Whom did I become?
I rejected this abject cruelty, and here’s
what happened.  I thrive not eating my finned, 
furred, shelled, and feathered kin, not eating
their unborn, their babies’ milk.  
(And no more grooming, no more clothing me 
with products harvested from them, as well.)

Vegetables, nuts and seeds, fruits and roots, flowers 
and grains now nourish this body in question.  (Also keep it 
warm and clean.)  With every bite and purchase, I push  
back against our chiefest wrong: wasting those 
deemed weaker than unequal to 
to no good end. 
Wholesale horrors we refuse to see
(destroying Earth’s ecology—
another but related topic).
Where’s our mercy?

I resolved myself into a plot—soul’s soil, heart’s 
story—in which compassion grows, her totem flowers: 
white jasmine, holy basil, peonies and chamomile.
With plants, I purged the holocausts supplied by 
family farms and big ag, starved the pathology 
from myself, day by day, but not the memory 
of my ignorance and sin—that holds.  It took 
ten years for total cell regeneration.

Atoning, reborn, reformed, conscious, 
whole-foods wholly flora-fed, this body moved on,
crossed into a meta state beyond the human species, 
remade as i
neither a greater nor a lesser being, but
a different matter—
the i who hears animals’ unfettered terror, feels their 
agony and grief, imagines them dying as human hands 
rip from them what is not ours for our palate 
and fashion pleasures—
our existential crisis . . .

Now knowing this, what will you do?