On Eating Meat & Other Tangents

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paganvaluesChrysalis challenged the blogosphere to write about Pagan Values. I had hoped to do some writing of my own – and a recurring topic came up today. Here’s what I came up with!

Pagan Values: Respecting All Life

1. On Eating Meat and Other Tangents
For many years, I have contemplated becoming a vegetarian. Growing up in Beef Producing Alberta, I was probably in the minority in my exposure to vegetarianism. My mother’s mother was raised as one, so my mother was also. (She was the black sheep of the family though, and left England to come to Canada to marry into a family of meat salesmen.) I knew that Granny didn’t eat animal products because she felt that animals were our friends and we shouldn’t kill them for food. I understood that we had to look out for things like gelatin, but that cheese and eggs were okay.

Later in life, I learned what the difference was between that and vegan. No animal products whatsoever! Naturally, I thought I should go all the way with this path if I were ever to make a decision and stick with it.
But that has always been a problem for me – making a decision and sticking with it. And also respecting both sides of my family history – my father and his father supported their families by working for Canada Packers/Maple Leaf. To become vegan would seem to be disrespectful of their efforts.

Now, my body seems to be telling me other things. I have been dairy intolerant for some time. Cheese is a dream lost to me now! But lately I am also feeling upset when eating wheat and/or gluten, and last night, a nice steak. So perhaps my body is making the decision for me?

The question of whether to eat meat comes up repeatedly. It began again when I embarked on this path to train as a biologist. Observing life would seem to include an inherent respect for it. Observing life would also include a desire to sustain the ecosystem in which it lives: something which does not seem inherent in our current agricultural practices.

I am a city girl, I know very little of farm life. A few of my classmates have grown up on farms, and we’ve danced around this conversation a few times. I think I might be visiting a farm this weekend – I’ll have to ask some questions!

However, I do know what it’s like to drive past cattle on these rural roads, and past the feedlots that populate the highways in Southern Alberta. I passed one today. The cattle in one of the lots were following behind a truck as it drove through the lot, presumably feeding them. It brought to mind the images of people starving for food, following behind army trucks as they pass out food in war torn countries. It was not a pleasant image. And then, as I drive down a rural road, the calves are gamboling in the fields, and pretend to challenge my truck as if they can take it on. (Okay a little bit of anthropomorphizing here. I do not know if cows feel/think this way.) The two do not seem to fit together, nor does the thought of me eating the calf (and yet, that is what I did last night).

Then comes up the debate with hunting and fishing. As part of our curriculum we have studies mammals, birds, fish, and resource law. I learned about hunting and fishing regulations in Alberta. With my city-girl past, I have never done either. A few years ago I was still much against hunting as a sport. I still am, but have developed a different view of hunting as a way to feed yourself. It takes very little resources – the animals are already there, and they feed themselves. Unlike raising cattle and pigs and chickens. Would it not be better to harvest life that is free-ranging, part of the natural ecosystem, and not ‘poisoned’ with excess hormones, pesticides, insecticides and who knows what else?
(If I were to follow this tangent, I would also have to investigate where I get my vegetables from. I’m not quite ready to go there yet. Also, there is the whole concept of if everyone where to hunt, we’d ruin the entire landscape and everything would die. Humans are a pox on the earth sometimes. Back to my debate.)

While studying the above, we did a number of necropsies – the scientific word for dissecting animals, or, performing an autopsy on an animal and not a human. Why they have to have different names, I don’t know. The whole process was distasteful to me, and I would think if I can’t cut into a dead animal, how can I eat one? Since it was unlikely that I could see myself becoming vegan right then, I got the idea into my head that I would learn to fish this summer, and possibly even hunt, so that I could be the one to kill the living flesh I would consume. While I’ve gotten as far as getting my WIN card, I still need to get a fishing license and rod. I am sure I still have a somewhat romantic view. After all, I have yet to kill something yet. And maybe the wild things would rather be penned and fed lovely meals than to have to search for their own food.

I am writing all this perched above the hoodoos in Dinosaur Provincial Park. After a day of work at my current job: field assistant for Burrowing Owl Research. Learning this has been fascinating. Thank goodness I am coming late to the project and do not have to handle the owls. I find it stressful just watching, and wonder about my path. Can you be a biologist without stressing or harming the life that you study?

I do not yet know the answer to that question. I do know I am going to do my best to find out. There is a bird calling, grasshoppers singing, and the wind caressing my face. I’m going to go enjoy that while I celebrate the life I find here!

Writing this has brought a few other topics to mind:
2. On harvesting wild plants
3. On eating organic and local
4. On offering libations – how does this effect the ecosystem/microhabitat where you do this?

I have also posted “the Creed of my Sacred Journey”.

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The Creed of My Sacred Journey

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I used a journal by Cheryl Thiele for a couple of years, called Sacred Journey. She had some prompts inside for writing, one of them entitled the creed of my sacred journey. As one of my mentors, Grant MacEwan, wrote his own creed, I decided I’d give it a go. I think this is relevant to the current discussion in the blogosphere on Pagan Values.

The Creed of My Sacred Journey

All Life is Sacred. Each Life form on Earth has their own essential role to fill, and we are all Interconnected; all Life should exist in community.

Divinity is Immanent. Every person can connect to the Spirit that unites all Life. Some call it the Holy Spirit, the Force, Universal Energy; I choose to refer to it as Spirit.

Know Thyself – if I know myself, I will know god. When I am true to my sense of Self, unwavering and steadfast in the face of challenge, I can offer more to the world.

Act Responsibly and be Considerate of others. It is important to look after my own needs and desires, but not at the cost of another’s feelings or safety.

Speak Truth – wherever I may be, whatever I am doing. Use honesty, compassion, and respect when dealing with others.

There are many Paths to Spirit. Any one Path is not suitable for everyone; I have chosen my own Path, and must be tolerant of others.

Use Wisdom and Reason to discern Truth. Always ask questions, and pursue lifelong learning.

Strive for Balance; Moderation in all Things. Our consumerist and materialist society encourages waste and greed, and this greatly upsets the Balance of the Earth. We take but do not give back. I hope that in striving for Balance, I can temper the dualities at work.

Exercise Love whenever I can. Love and accept all parts of myself, and give my love with an open heart. Do not deny beauty, joy, laughter, pleasure, or happiness in any form.

I believe in Mystery. I believe that neither religion nor science is infallible – there is too much that cannot be known, and that I am not ready to know. Energy is always shifting, creating Change in the Universe.

~April 20, 2005.

Skills Required for the Field (or Not)

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1. practice peeping with a video camera
2. handling hooters
3. looking at chicks to guess their age
4. baiting and trapping the male of the species

two ways you could read that! 🙂

Or not:
1. crouching in the tall vegetation beside the road, and then standing up right as a car passes. (It would be especially good if I said ‘Surprise!’ or ‘Jack-in-the-box!’
2. disregarding the maxim of ‘if you didn’t put it there, don’t pick it up’, i.e. picking up ordinance found on the range at the base.

I’m sure there will be more to add as the field season progresses! 🙂

Suffield #1

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Things I learned today:

1. Commissionaires at CFB Suffield vary between grumpy and extremely helpful.
2. The land at the base is actually quite pretty.
3. They decided to introduce elk to the base to allow for more browsing/grazing as would be found in natural ecosystems.
4. Talking to Range Control is not as hard as it seems. Except when I get dyslexic and say the numbers wrong.
5. Driving my yellow truck is great! Tomorrow I’ll get to drive it some sandy, hilly, dirt roads. Woohoo!
6. If you need to get the spare tire off of your truck, you need to find the magical hole that lets you crank the winch and lower the cable. This can be quite tricky!

if I learned anything else, it’s gone from my brain. Sleepy time now!! 🙂

Burrowing Owls #1

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Things I’ve learned about burrowing owls after my first day:

1. they take over badger burrows, not ground squirrel like I had stuck in my head.
2. they use cow paddies to line their nests – they shred them and use the fibres.
3. they can choose a new mate each year, although sometimes the male might attract the same female.
4. the male is the one that returns to the nest site annually.
5. the female does most of the brooding.
6. they eat insects and small mammals – they eat many insects, but the biomass of the mammals make them the larger part of the diet.
7. they eat the shells of the eggs after they hatch to reabsorb the calcium.
8. the eggs and the eyes of the female often shine brightly in the camera we send down the burrow!

Stay tuned for more exciting updates! 🙂

Fruitflesh

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Fruitflesh: seeds of inspiration for women who write
by Gayle Brandeis

When I was visiting with *magicduck tonight, at the end of the evening she suggested that we should work through the above title together. I think it’s a fabulous idea, so here we go!

The book chapters are named after the parts of a tree. Which is perfect i think! It also fits in well with my idea to be working with plants in a spiritual manner, not just practical and botanical. It reminds me that I would like to browse through the library catalogue for some more information on that topic….

I am also keen to keep this idea of exploring myself going. There are some other spiritual books that will encourage me to write my own path, so I will have to do that too!

Part One: Seeds
The preface and introduction

Part Two: Roots
Where do your words come from?
Delve deep into your roots – the roots that connect your body to your family, to the earth itself, the roots that dangle beneath your desire to write. Your words will blossom most freely when they are grounded in your own fertile soil.

The Cellar
The apples in the cellar
are black, and dying inside their skins.
They pray all night in their bins,
but nobody listens;
they will be neither food nor trees.
~Anne Dillard
Step down into your body’s own root cellar, the dark place where you store all your yet-untold stories. Perhaps it is tucked beneath your liver; perhaps it is under your heart. Shine a light into the corners. What can you see? is there a musty box of potential poems you’ve been meaning to unpack for years by haven’t found the ‘right time’ quite yet? is there a germ of a story sealed in plastic because you were too busy or too afraid to begin writing the real thing? Can you still hear the unwritten words singing under their packing materials, or have their voices been muffled by time?
Now is the time to do some unwrapping, some airing out. If we don’t tell the stories that ask to come through us, they die inside their skins, under our own skin; they become neither food nor trees. Choose one of these stories, hold it close to your hear, and carry it back up into the light. Even if you write just one paragraph, just one line of the piece, you’ll prevent it from rotting away. And who knows? It could blossom into something beautiful and nourishing. It could be the treasure you didn’t realize you were carrying inside you all this time.