Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

The view from the top of the food chain.

I focus on absurdity. It forms, arguably, the basis of much of my artistic output; it certainly is the foundation of most of my political observations. I look for that which makes no logical sense and then I either attempt to rationalize it or spotlight it in the hopes that it will be rectified. Failing either, I often use that absurdity to craft a comedy about that absurdity, as often the only response I have to my own inability to foment change is to make a joke out of it. That’s a defense mechanism, and it’s not an uncommon one.

Last week there was a story in the news about a beef-industry worker who had blown the whistle on the practices of his particular meat corporation, exposing their cruelty towards “downer” cows–cattle that were too unhealthy to stand up and walk up the chute into the slaughterhouse–through their use of prods or other pain-inducing measures, directed at the eyes or other sensitive parts of their bodies. The economic reasons behind this are obvious; a cow that makes it onto the kill floor is worth more to the rancher than the other, less lucrative fates for these animals (making their bodies into glue or whatnot).

And my Absurdity Alarms went off.

Understand, the whistle is being blown not to spotlight the cruelty. The whistle is being blown because sick cows are turning into meat, into the very meat that makes it to the dinner table. But the story, for whatever reason, was spending more time on the gruesome practices than on the health crisis making its way to the supermarket.


I don’t know what it was about Friday. Maybe the persistent gloom and boomerang ice storms of this winter, coupled with my continued inability to stop reading horrible tales of wanton massacre and endless war and young, drug-addicted parents leaving their baby to starve to death in their car, coupled with the image of a cow wearing an expression on my face like that of my younger dog, maybe that’s what did it. But I asked myself how we could pretend to feel any sort of outrage over cruel behavior exhibited to an animal that was otherwise seconds away from being processed into pounds of meat. I asked why somebody was attempting to coerce sympathy from the audience as if the act of slaughtering an intelligent creature was only okay as long as it was done nicely.

Whatever it was, I just felt ill and uneasy for the first time in terms of meat ethics. My brain had just had enough of it.

I’ve decided to attempt vegetarianism.

I have attempted this before for personal health reasons and it didn’t take. This time I’m trying it for something approaching ethical reasons, and this makes more sense to me. I couldn’t make “to take care of myself” the motivation for the dietary switch, because I don’t take care of myself right now as it is. If I really prioritized my physical well-being, I would be asleep right now instead of journaling. I wouldn’t be working 38 hours a week by day and rehearsing another 20 odd hours a week on two or more shows. The art I’m making is more important to me, it turns out, than the health of the artist making it.

But ethics? The idea that one should not eat meat because it requires the death of a thinking, feeling life form? That, that, I can apparently get behind.

It’s a sort of conditional attempt, I’m going to admit right here. I have no desire to take this to the extreme perspective; I’m not going to join PETA (an organization that I think embodies Santayana’s warning about fanatics redoubling their efforts while losing sight of their goals) and I doubt I could go to full-out veganism. What prompted this mild epiphany is less about the ethics of killing the animal than it is about the cold, ruthlessly efficient process by which that killing occurs. I find the machinery of the slaughterhouse frightening and too easily applied to any living being that my cynicism then imagines a world in which more than cows get butchered in such a manner.

I could see myself eating an animal that I hunted and killed myself, could see myself resorting to hunting if I needed to do so. I feel that I could eat meat that I had somehow “earned.”

I am aware that this position is rife with its own absurdities. There’s no need to point them out to me; I already told you, I am a master of spotting absurdity and now I have decided to live with it in my own way.

It’s an attempt. Really, it will always be an attempt. I’m too insecure of my faculties to ever think to myself that I’ve kicked the meat habit altogether. And I think I need to speak to a doctor about this attempt, but then again, remember what I said about my ability to prioritize my personal well-being.

I’m trying, I think, to cause a little less horrible death in the world. When I’m ineffectual at fomenting change, I apparently either make a joke about it or I stop eating from an entire food group.

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This entry was posted on February 26, 2008 by in Action Items, Dogs, Health, Mental Health, Politics, Society, Writing.
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