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sparing rats, eating sausage


In response to a comment on my last post:

Is the karma still there if you hire someone else to do it? Cause you're only indirectly causing the pain and suffering (which you do every time you eat meat)...I guess I have a hard time understanding that it's ok in your world to eat chicken or lamb but not to set a trap for a rat....but hey - we all have our hypocrisies. -- L. Beth 'Suki "Tsunami"' Yockey

Beth and I have gone back and forth on this. For the record, she does eat fish, but I'm sure she would have little problem killing vermin.

So the question before me is, what is the difference between eating meat and killing a rat.

Involvement with Death

Well, for one thing, it is quite impossible to be on this earth and be uninvolved with death. Our lives work to kill others in thousands of indirect ways. Even the vegan's food habits involve a harvesting process that kills an uncountable amount of small insects. I think there's a certain habit of even many people to value the life of a cow over the life of a rat or spider or even an aphid or tick.

One could arguably say that for sheer lethality, purchasing gasoline for your car has the most bang for your buck.

Yes, I Really Like Sausage

So when I go to the store am I hiring someone to kill the animals for me? I don't think so, exactly. Unfortunately, if I stopped eating meat tomorrow, the stockyards in Chicago would hardly grind to a halt. Would it have some influence? Probably, but that has to be weighed against some other factors. I do, at least, buy from vendors who support ethical treatment of animals (if slaughtering them can, on the whole, be considered ethical).

Traditionally, the Tibetans, who can't get much to grow up in the mountains of Tibet except for some hardy strains of barley, live off of yaks. They eat the butter, and they historically bought the meat from Muslim butchers. Tibetans also do seem to have some weird guidelines. They'll buy meat, but they won't eat an animal that was killed just for them. They prefer to eat larger animals like yaks and such, because you get a lot more meals out of a cow than a shrimp.

However, the Tibetans also have an incredible sense of reverence towards meat, and there are special prayers said when meat is present at a meal in order to make a positive spiritual connection with the animal. They have an attitude that on the whole, for them to eat meat and use that energy to benefit to benefit beings, that the eating of meat is of a sum benefit to beings.

They're Vermin!

So why the big deal about killing a rat, then? Just do it with the attitude that the sum benefit to beings will be greater than letting it live, and then it's easily justified, right?

Well, everyone has to make their own choices. The way my lama presented it to me was that it was a great deal more harm to one's cultivation of meditative stability and compassion to stalk and kill a being than it is to eat meat with compassion. No being wants to be killed, and in a sense you have to close your mind to a being in order to kill it.

And let me tell you about the process. It's been a difficult experience to let this rat live, when it only grows bolder by the day, and it's a lot of work and money to try and capture it. But I've had to take a hard look at what exactly the problem is with just coexisting with the rat. I've had to take its needs and desires into account in some way, and really face my knee-jerk revulsion.

That knee-jerk hatred towards another being is really an obstacle to compassion for all beings, I think. Now, I realize that I can't in good conscience allow the rat to continue to live here. It causes damage to property that I am renting, it is a health hazard, and it freaks out guests.

So today we bought tupperware containers, a securable kitchen garbage can, and a live trap. Wish us luck.

But tonight I am eating bacon. Is this hypocrisy? I guess so, but it's not just intentional blindness. I have thought about all sides of the issue and have tried to come to a reasonable decision. I hope I have.


It seems like you have reached a balanced decision that you can live with. I like to think of "religion" (sorry, can't find a better word at the mo) as a tool that we can use to allow us to live properly in the "real" world; this requires balance and careful thought.

Having said that, I'm afraid I would have no choice but to zip the little bastard. Think of it as payback for the Bubonic Plague.

The question I have Daniel is this: Could you accept the consequences of your beliefs in this matter if, say for instance, the rat bit Rzan or Sam and gave them rabies? Or some other foul disease? I respect your beliefs but if a germ, an insect, a rodent, a person, or yes, even a nation poses a deadly threat to myself or my loved ones, I'm all for wiping said entity out of existance. In a perfect world such actions would not be needed, and I realize that people with beliefs such as yourself help get the world a little bit closer to that ideal, but the world is far from perfect. So I'd off the little critter. Ok, off my soapbox. If the live trap doesn't work, get a pesticator (see previous post)

On a seperate note regarding your post about Tibetans not buying meat that was slaughtered just for them seems like they're a bit hypocritical. It's just me spouting off an opinion here, but if you eat meat you should kill and slaughter it yourself at least once in your life. If nothing else, you'd be being honest with yourself about the process involved. Too many people (and for once the vegan types and I agree on something) just pretend meat magically appears in the supermarket.
"If lobsters looked like puppies, noone would be able to drop them live into a pot of boiling water. But, because they look like some kind of space insect, bring on the drawn butter!" - George Carlin (apologies if I screwed that quote up)

Since I am married to Dr. Dolittle I feel I need to comment on this post. My wife has several "pet" rats and a Gambian rat (south american 10 lbs variety) Rats I observe are the horniest animals in the known world, forget about rabbits, these critters are constantly randy and as such if you do not control the population, they will over run you in no time. I also appreciate the way Bill stated it that it is a us against them equation. Rats are surprising clean when they are domesticated but the wold variety can be quite dangerous. Ultimately I guess I would like to pipe in that we are all hypocrites in some fashion about this. I have no problem going deer hunting yet I do not like to set a rat trap or feed a baby rat to a tarantula.

daniel - I guess what I based my comment on is that I eat fish because I KNOW that I am ok with killing them. I have done so, and it bothers me, but not to the extent that I am sure it would were I to have to make the choice to kill a cow for my own survival.... BTW - I never killed the rats, I had Barry do it with his counterstrike weaponry. :)

I have a mouse saga to tell. When I went to open the hives this spring, I found thousands of dead bees. As I opened the first hive, mice ran out. As I opened the second hive little mice eyes came and stared up at me but did not leave the hive. I began to tear down the supers one at a time. The mouse would come and peer at me but still did not leave. I saw a few middle sized mice and a larger one. I got to the last level and started to remove the furry, fuzzy mouse nest. Then I saw one little pink squirmy thing and I realized that the reason they did not run was that Mom was in the middle of giving birth. A kind of female solidarity thing came upon me and I could not destroy the nest or the mouse family. Even though they clearly caused the demise of all of my sweet honey bees. I went to lunch in town and when I came back there were four squirmy pink babies and Mom was up and about. I moved mouse nest, babies and all to the shelter of bushes and finished dismantling the hives. There is a lot of damage to the structure of the hives and I will not replace the hives until next spring. The orchard owner says that he lost thirty trees to mouse damage this year. He was not happy at all that I did not destroy every mouse that I saw. So I have checked advice on mouse-proofing beehives and will hope for better bee luck next year.

I definately agree that we're all hypocrites about something, I just try really hard to make sure I'm not a serial hypocrite. You know, the kind of person who calls themself a pro-lifer, then guns down a doctor who performs abortions on their way to a pro-death penalty rally. Or a "peace activist" who can't get into a "die in" fast enough when the U.S. is involved in a military action, but was totally silent when the governments being targeted by said action we performing mass murder on their own people (See: Gassed Kurds, forced starvation in Somalia). You know, people like that.

Wow looks like rats and meat are on par with sex and poop when it comes to attracting bloggy attention!

Your post reminded me about Wendell Berry's poem...

Prayer After Eating

I have taken in the light
that quickened eye and leaf.
May my brain be bright with praise
of what I eat, in the brief blaze
of motion and of thought.
May I be worthy of my meat.

I love that poem