– by The Shitty Activist
I don’t regret it, I know that much, because I’ve been planning this for a long time. Does that make me a cold-blooded killer? Did I commit premeditated murder? I guess it depends on your definition of the word “murder.” But one thing is for sure, I took a life today.
The remains are in a plastic bag sitting by my front door. I didn’t want it stinking up the house, so I’ve got to toss it in the dumpster. Though that seems a bit sacrilegious, which is maybe the reason why I haven’t done it yet.
Yes, it’s true. Today I caught, gutted, cooked, and ate a fish.
Why the melodrama? Well, it’s been twenty years since I knowingly, voluntarily ate any form of meat, having been a lacto-ovo (milk and eggs) vegetarian since the age of sixteen, with two years as a vegan.
When I decided that I’d add fish back into my diet, I wanted to do so respectfully and with a bit of ritual – not just walk into some fast food joint and order a filletwich. Nothing less than catching, preparing, and cooking a fish would do.
Eight fishing trips later (yeah, I’m bad at this), I caught a rainbow trout in the Barker Reservoir in Nederland, Colorado, the drinking water source for Boulder.
How do I feel now that I’ve “digested” things a bit more? Do I feel like my life is more important than the one that belonged to the fish? I honestly do not. I mean, I like myself, I think I’m a good person who has a lot to offer society, but I’m sure the fish had a high opinion of itself too. And it definitely had less of an impact on the world than I have, swimming around the reservoir gulping up bugs and stripping the occasional worm from a hook.
Basically, I just selfishly decided that I wanted to better nourish myself and research showed eating fish was a good way to do so. Because my species is larger, stronger, and more cunning than a rainbow trout (most of us, at least), I was provided with a massive leg up and I used that unfair advantage to remove him from his habitat and absorb him into my body.
I don’t feel like crying or anything (although the gutting wasn’t pleasant, nor was hooking the worm, for that matter), but neither am I telling myself I did a good thing. I made a choice for my own benefit to take a life and impact an ecosystem and I don’t need to convince myself that I’m “supposed” to eat fish, or that I did the ecosystem a favor, or that the fish was too stupid to know he was alive and then, as it flopped around on the rock, dying. I’m honest with myself about the impact of removing a fish from its habitat, and my selfish motives for doing so.
I’m not letting myself off the hook here (sorry), I’m just trying to be transparent about the give and take involved in this interaction with the natural world – which, in this case, was entirely take, as I gave nothing back except guts and bones.
Perhaps if we tried to be honest with all of our interactions with nature – be it burning oil and gas for energy, cutting forests for paper, shelter, and heat, or hunting deer for food – and not tell ourselves how we’re meant to burn the oil, or the forest is better for us having cut its trees and depleted its soil, or that a deer herd is stronger for having killed the alpha buck with the strongest genetics – we could accurately measure our impact. Knowing our impact, we could then honestly determine when we’ve taken too much and must pursue less harmful alternatives.
Maybe, or maybe it wasn’t, an evil act for me to evict that beautiful rainbow trout from his home. It’s true that, without my intervention, it’d still be gliding around its watery world instead of being dissolved in my stomach.
I’m just saying that I did it, that I know what I did and how it affects the world around me, and that I am thankful to the fish for having fed me. And that, if I choose to eat fish again, or drive to the store, or power up my laptop, or build a house, I will try to carry that same awareness with me of my footprint on this planet that keeps me alive.