Guest Blogger: Eclectic Dialectic – The Deer

6 Mar

Our newest contributor is Tonya, author of Eclectic Dialectic. Tonya is an aspiring writer who loves to write, reflect, and edit; refine the creative process; and explore language. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude with bachelor’s degrees in English (honors) and Women’s Studies, earned a graduate certificate in Social Theory, completed the coursework for a master’s in Geography, and attended law school for a bit. Hobbies and interests include reading, writing, yoga, activism, meditation, documentaries, foreign and classic films, music, Kentucky Wildcats basketball, and being open to whatever life and the universe place in her path. Veganism is an integral part of her worldview; she has been vegan since May 25, 2010 and was became vegetarian in June 1998. Follow Tonya on her blog and Twitter account. Welcome Tonya!

I was never much of a meat eater. When I was a kid I was a persnickety eater. Vegetables were always eaten before meat was; meat was pushed to the side or pushed around on my plate. This was years before I learnt about factory farms or began to examine ethical ramifications of subsisting through the suffering and perishing of a sentient being. For whatever reason I was repulsed by meat. When I was growing up I never handled raw meat and subconsciously did everything whatever I could to avoid the horrifying reality of animals’ slaughter.

My maternal grandparents kept chickens. Some were used to produce eggs and others raised until they were “fat enough” to kill for that Southern delicacy of chicken and dumplings. When Mamaw had to wring a chicken’s neck, remove its feathers, and harvest parts deemed suitable for consumption I beat a hasty retreat. At the time I groused that I couldn’t watch because the work was “gross.” Now I wonder if I was too sensitive to witness the ending of a life and protected myself from the horrors of death by removing myself from the scene of the slaughter. When Mamaw made chicken and dumplings for Sunday dinners I tried to not think too much about where the chickens had come from. I was disconnected from the source of my meat.

Years later I was forced to make that connection. Papaw and many of the men in my family were and are active hunters who regularly “bag” a buck or few. Meat is always processed and parceled out to any family member who wants venison. For years I adored venison; the sweet, gamy, pure, lean taste greatly appealed to me. It was the exception to my take it or leave it approach to meat. Eating venison was almost orgasmic. Never mind the cuteness of Bambi. I loved my venison chops, steak, sausage, burgers, and chili. I often saw deer my family had slain; they were displayed while points on antlers were counted and hunter(s) congratulated. I never really thought about how those deer had felt as they pirouetted and pranced until their lives were cut down with a crossbow.

My apathy and appetite shifted when I was confronted with the visceral, textural proof of a life cut down. Mamaw was cooking dinner on a typical summer day, and I was helping her. When she asked me to handle the venison burgers I reluctantly agreed. When the tender, cool meat touched my palm something shifted in me. Handling the bloody venison awakened something in me. I saw the deer’s life and death. Images of a buck protecting, feeding, and loving his family were juxtaposed with him running, shrieking, and taking his last breaths. My vision startled me. I sobbed, nearly fainted, and vowed to become vegetarian on the spot because I couldn’t be part of and live through his death.

My family was understandably startled, amused, and confused by my reaction. I didn’t tell them I had connected to the buck’s spirit on such a profound level. They chalked my reaction up to typical teenage weirdness and teased me. Being a vegetarian in meat and potatoes country was definitely a novelty. They didn’t think I would last a week. My initial dalliance with vegetarianism lasted for well over two years and took me throughout much of high school. It was the impetus behind my refusing to dissect animals in anatomy. At that time I didn’t know anything about factory farms or how to balance my diet and cook delicious, nutritious vegetarian meals. Considering what I was up against lasting as long as I did was quite a feat. Years later I permanently recommitted to vegetarianism and eventually transitioned to veganism, and I can thank that fallen deer from my youth for being the light that illuminated the darkness.

 

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