I Took A Life Today

– by The Shitty Activist

20150723_113131I’m not really sure how I feel about it yet. It just happened a couple of hours ago and that’s not enough time for the enormity of the act to sink in.

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.


    • says

      After 20 years of being vegetarian (2 years vegan), this was a difficult decision that I made. I had a great, well-researched vegetarian diet where I got more protein than most meat eaters, yet due to my very high metabolism, I’ve always found it hard to put on weight.

      Further, I’ve been doing more weight lifting over the last two years and haven’t seen the results I should expect, which made me think that my body isn’t being properly nourished. If my muscle fibers aren’t repairing themselves as well as they should, what else in my body isn’t functioning optimally?

      So, ultimately, the decision was a selfish one based on health, to ensure that my body is absorbing the best nutrition it can.

      • says

        I implore you to continue with other aspects of veganism, as its too often people go back to eating meat but also go back to eating dairy, wearing leather, and going to zoos etc. Personally I’d never cause the death of an animal to put on weight, but I clearly can’t change your mind about that.

      • says

        Maybe you have not seen the results that you were expecting because under natural conditions your muscles would not grow that big. Maybe also your body type and your weight lifting routine and some adjustments in your vegetarian diet. Apparently muscles need proteins to grow, you can get plenty from the vegetable kingdom. I think you probably came to the wrong conclusion, if your muscles are not growing as you expected there are many other possibilities as the reason. Also the question “what else in my body isn’t functioning optimally?” Well, nothing. It sounds to me as a whole fallacy of reasoning going from my muscles are not growing as I expected to what else if wrong with me? (with the Oh My God, Oh my God!! added by me for effect…jaja) to it must my vegetarian diet to I must eat a fish…Long road of imagination to get to that fish…:-) It is a shame that I don’t know you personalty, but for what I can see from your public pictures in Facebook and your vegetarian (compassionate) inclinations you have all you need. No need for bigger muscles…:-)

  1. Mel says

    I hope you are no longer calling yourself a vegetarian or vegan. Causing the death of an animal for your own personal gain is deplorable. Given that there are many athletes who are vegetarian or vegan, perhaps you aren’t seeing the results you “expect” because you aren’t expecting realistic results.

    • says

      Mel, It’s clear you are upset by the post and, my guess, is anyone who eats fish, birds, or mammals. As someone who refrained from eating meat for 20 years, I too think taking an animal’s life is an act of brutality towards the natural world, as is driving a car, or destroying a forest.

      However, I’m genuinely curious as to what sort of response you are hoping from your comment?

      • Mel says

        I’m genuinely curious as to why you thought I was hoping for a response; the fact that it was nearly two weeks until I noticed you’d responded should clue you in. However, while I’m here, let’s address something: I’m not necessarily upset by people who eat fish, birds, or mammals – but I am upset by those who, after calling themselves compassionate, caring vegetarians for twenty years, which you keep reiterating as if this somehow absolves the act, go and kill a fish for their own selfish desires (there was no need on your part to do this) and brag about feeling no guilt for it – then post a blog about it to a Facebook group dedicated to vegetarianism as if to gloat. Oh, and I have nothing but contempt for those former vegetarians and vegans who still hang around said vegetarian and vegan groups for, I can only guess, the purpose of being a tourist.

        You did what you did with purpose and for your own personal gain – and as I and others have pointed out to you, if you aren’t seeing the bodybuilding results you hope for, it isn’t because of a vegetarian diet (the strongest man in Germany is vegan, as are many other successful athletes and bodybuilders). Interesting comparison you make, because you are no different from someone who destroys a forest or pollutes the environment.

        How wonderful for you that you have so many other hypocrites coming here to tell you not to feel bad about yourself.

      • says

        Thanks for your response. I wrote the piece because it was something I felt deeply and wanted to share it with others. Since I had been a part of the vegetarian community for twenty years and have many contacts among them, I decided to post in a few groups there, as well as a few fisher groups to hear what people thought about the reasons why I made my decision.

        You, and several others, were clearly upset by my post, which was not my intention, and I apologize if anyone was offended. My intention was not, as you wrote, to “gloat” about eating fish, but to hear a response to the points I made in the article.

  2. says

    A beautiful moral contemplation, my friend. If all those who profess to a religion were nearly as thoughtful about what they do and why they do it, I might have respect for more of them. If an expression of gratitude for sustenance derived from the fish takes the form of a solemn prayer, that’s excellent, too. When you boil down the substance of human thought and language, the, er, “meat” of all “prayers” should be as sacred as your thoughts in this essay – no matter to whom or in what form they be expressed.

    • says

      You may enjoy the second and third (if I recall) chapters frmo the Bill Moyers Interviews with Joseph Campbell and the power of myth. He makes a very compelling argument for being respectful of all facets of the world and all life in general, while not separating yourself from it. In many religions, the taking of a life is a sacred thing, and the animal is respected and appreciated for the giving of its life to continue the life of those who had to take it.

      If you believe we are all one, for instance, then every act of consumption is ultimately cannibalism, since every plant you consume was a life, or was full of seeds which could have gone on to become new plants, every fertilized egg could have been a chicken if nurtured properly. The only way to break that cycle is to deny it, which is in itself an unnatural act – most would agree that self-destructive behavior is not a net positive unless done for a greater goal.

      I grew up on a farm and hunting and fishing, and I don’t eat certain meats for my own personal reasons, and I do my best to follow all of the legal and ethical laws I was taught about the treatment of living beings. I feel no guilt for, say, raising a few chickens for a season or two, then killing and storing them for the winter. I respect the animals in their life and in their death, they allow me to remain whole and hale, and I appreciate that.

      • says

        Thanks for your post. Personally, I think the idea is to be aware of one’s footprint and limit it as best as one can.

        I think the “lower” you eat on the food chain, the better this is accomplished, but there’s no doubt that like a fish, or a cow, or a chicken, a kale plant also has a desire to live, reach its roots into the soil to absorb nutrients, suck up water, and lean towards the sun.

  3. Jason says

    I am a fisherman and a hunter. I take the lives of many animals and do not feel guilt. I do however feel a sense of appreciation that the animals that I kill will help to nourish my family. Being someone that eats meat, I appreciate knowing where it comes from. Your blog post is quite interesting. It allows me to see the viewpoint of others that oppose the taking of the lives of animals. Although I could eat a vegetarian diet and enjoy it, there is no replacement for the taste of animal protein. Keep eating fish if you enjoy it, or don’t, either way it won’t change my life.

  4. Blake says

    Don’t know how I got here but damn, it’s a trout. Cook and eat the mother fucker. Don’t be such a drama queen. You need to worry about these people killing big game for sport. Damn tree huggers

  5. Tyler says

    I am probably the thing you fear you’ll become, I hunt and fish and think the idea of vegetarianism goes against nature. That being said what most people think of hunters and fishermen is false (probably like most things people feel about vegetarians and vegan). First and foremost o have a tremendous respect for nature and all life, most outdoors people (I say outdoors people to encompass fishing, hunting, hiking, camping and so on) follow the rule of “take nothing but photos leave nothing but foot prints” now obviously taking and animals life is more than a photo but a true outdoorsman will only take what he needs and nothing more. We outdoorsman love nature and want to pass its beauty on to our children so we strive to manage it the best we can. Yes there are bad apples that give us a bad name but that goes for any group of people and yes regardless of what we do there’s always going to be someone offernded by our actions wether it relates to the taking of an animals life or the way we dress. Our society on a whole is so worried about what everyone else is doing and how the “group” will be affected and it effected, just shut up if your offended then be offended but you don’t have the right to tell someone else what’s good for them or how they need to live your life. I’ve always felt like if I was an animal would I want to live free and die fast or be caged on a farm fattened up and slaughtered never knowing what freedom was. Clearly I’d rather be free and honestly death by a bullet is a lot more humane than being taken down by a predator. We’re all part of the circle of life and one day many years from now you’ll be dead and the distant relations of that worm you used as bait may feast on you and thus state the circle over a new. There’s no shame in taking a life fore a reason I can respect that not everyone feels that way and if you don’t that’s fine to each their own but if we can’t all get alone can we at least leave eachother the hell alone?

  6. says

    Deuteronomy14:9 These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat:
    I am a christian and avid angler (woman) who fishes often who believes it’s o.k. to kill a fish if your going to eat it. I eat what I kill & many of my friends & family enjoy many meals. My parents are both in there late 80’s, Dad is 87 Mom is 85 both each fish 3 times a week, I do think there long life has something to do with diet.

  7. Greg says

    I would much rather see someone take an animal than buy something out of a store. Fishing and hunting isn’t easy, it takes patience and skill, it gets people back to their primal roots and provides a means for self-reliance. I don’t feel pushing hunting, fishing, eating meat or not eating meat is the responsibility of any one of us. We are all free to make our own lifestyle choices, I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me. I do like the way you made it a personal experience, the way it made an impression on you. You took the initiative to walk in someone else’s shoes rather than taking the word of others. Fish on, or don’t… it’s on you. Good job.

  8. says

    There seems to be a lot of people imploring you too stop eating fish, claiming its not respectful to kill an animal, that you took somethings life for no reason.

    Well they might think this is true there is nothing more respectful then being a and individual and making this decision for yourself. The decision to catch your own fish/animal/creature and then choosing to ends its life in a respectful and gracious way, that is how we should as a society interact with our food. Be thankful for that animal, appreciate its beauty and wildness and then use it to further you as a person. Natives for thousands of years prayed over their kills and promised to use the whole carcass as a sign of respect for the lives they take.

    I would love to one day be able to support my family with only animals/fish I have taken the life of myself, there is a connection there that I feel is important for we as society to understand and be a part of the process of our own food.

    That being said, there is tons of research that show fish do not experience pain in the same way humans do and clearly fish are not sentient beings.

    • says

      I agree that if you do it, it should be done respectfully. However, while fish may or may not feel pain the way humans do, or have as complex brains as we do, they still have a very strong drive to live and I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

  9. pesca vegan?? says

    It took courage for you to write this! Honestly, some of the comments made me just as angry as comments I read on other sites saying opposite things by people who think vegetarians and vegans are morons! I was vegetarian for 25 years – vegan for probably 15 of those years. I am still a firm believer that these diets are way healthier than others and also really super against factory farming both for meat and dairy. (Have you seen these new pork commercials?? It’s so horrible. Just as bad as the milk mustache campaign)

    Anyway I started eating fish a few years ago. Things get hard when you have been a vegetarian this long- too many meals skipped at different functions because you can’t get vegetarian or vegan food. Too many weddings where you are asked “chicken or beef” (I learned to carry snacks in my purse and eat them on the sly or eat a full meal before the wedding) Too many invites to family or friends houses for dinner where you show up and they say “I know you are vegan so I made you (insert animal product or dairy product here- excluding beef or pork- because all other animals are not really “meat” right? And what does vegan mean again??) I just got to the point where I couldn’t sit there not eating what someone had so lovingly made for me! I actually made someone cry once by refusing, is it worth it to upset someone that much? The fish has already been fried, there is butter in the rice and veggies- (because when I said no dairy they didn’t think that meant butter a well!) what point am I proving in this situation by sitting here starving and watching my friend get upset? Granted had this been beef or pork I would not have been able to do it. Fish was hard enough. There are also too many restaurants that have very few options. I like knowing that if I have to- I can order the fish. Just thank the fish for it’s life and nourishment move on with your day. This sounds horrible to all vegans I know- and there was once a time where I would have not agreed with this at ALL! After all these years of being vegan -and by the way I am still basically vegan, a pesca vegan?? Is there such a thing? I don’t eat dairy eggs or meat of any kind, just fish occasionally- this statement will also piss a lot of people off! How dare you still call yourself a vegan, even if a modified one. The second meat of any kind touches your lips that’s IT! No longer a vegan right? The clock starts over? Decide to never eat meat again? You are NOT allowed to say “I have been vegan for 25 years” Now it’s “I have been vegan for 1 day” Kind of ridiculous when we think about all the other things we consume that are harmful to the environment, ourselves, etc etc ETC.

    All the feelings you are going through I went through myself and I still feel like a bit of a hypocrite and sometimes say I am going back to being full vegan. I probably say this every other week. You do what you can- and this might just be an experiment for you! It kind of was for me too! After hearing 25 years of comments from meat eaters about why I was the biggest idiot ever I almost felt like I wanted see what it would feel like to be “normal” which is a dumb word to use here, but you know what I mean! Like what would it feel like to go out to eat with friends and also order a cheeseburger instead of a crappy side salad and not feel ONE ounce of guilt about it. I’d never do that, and I do value the life of a fish as much as I do a cow- this is why it’s so hard. It’s the same as “why is ok to eat a cow but not a dog? ” I feel guilty when I smell BBQ and think it smells good! Vegetarians often feel the weight of the world on them and I kinda envy my non veg friends who seem to sail through life only worrying about themselves and their families and what’s really dear to them, not some cow they never met and they definitely don’t care to know about any of the details of what’s on their plate and how it got there. If you are like me you also feel like you took a life if you accidentally stepped on a bug. It’s a lot to deal with when you feel this much! Most people never EVER have these thoughts. I also bought a leather couch (awful I know!!!) because I have 4 cats and a dog and got so sick of having to lint roll and vacuum constantly or always keep towels on the couch. Got leather seats in my car too because even when I lint rolled before work, kept my animals away from my clothes I would be lint rolling in the parking lot of the train station on my way to work because there would always be pet hair on my car seat as well.Then lint rolling again at work because there is always this force field of pet hair around me! This has saved me so much stress in my life I can’t even tell you. AND I bet I won’t have to buy another couch again for 20 years! AND I probably saved some trees from not going through a lint roller every week. So, multiple ways to think about it all sometimes. The cow that my couch is made from already died so people could eat it. I put 3 cloth couches before this in a landfill because they were too expensive to reupholster and completely falling apart.

    Anyway all you bullies are the ones who give vegetarians a bad name. I am so sick of the joke “How can you tell if someone is a vegetarian? They will tell you after 3 minutes” I never preach anything unless I am asked specific questions. Vegetarianism is not for everyone, and people are also allowed to be vegetarian and then change their minds for whatever reasons. I never ever give my friends shit about giving up vegetarianism. I often wonder, even though more people are vegetarian these days have we actually saved any animals?? All we can say is that we don’t partake in any of it- but the meat industry is not hurting at all and probably won’t be for a long time. Dairy as well, that is even worse sometimes. It’s all going on around us and there’s not much we can do about it. We are still very much in the minority.

    Don’t let anyones comments guilt you into anything- you will know what’s right for you in time, but it does take time to get used to it! Honestly after about 5 years of eating fish I still feel like the biggest jerk sometimes! The fact that you caught it yourself and gutted it is impressive, because that is way harder than just ordering it at a restaurant. I also don’t have anything against hunting- personally I can’t do it- I would never be able to shoot an animal, but I have respect for those who do and who are also against factory farming (very few of these specific people out there I know) I live in an area with a large Native American population and I admire the fact that they hunt for all their food and use every bit of it including the leather. Imagine how many vegetarians there would be out there if everyone had to hunt for their food and factory farming didn’t exist??

    I know this will get so many opposing posts, I probably wont’ even check back to look!

      • pesca vegan?? says

        Thanks- clearly you are very compassionate and thoughtful as well! Some of the comments really bother me, I just feel like some people can be so hypocritical. I have two friends who have been vegetarian for as long as I have and when they found out I was eating fish I got a lot of crap for it. The thing is- they were never vegan and eat dairy and eggs- no matter how you cut it, the dairy and egg industry is just as bad if not worse than the meat industry (not to make anyone feel bad to eat dairy!) I am sure free range is better, but by how much? I mean unless you are literally getting it from your own backyard or a small local farm. These people also drive big gas guzzling cars- point is, it’s nearly impossible to not harm another living thing in this world, especially living in the states. Unless you live 100% off grid, grow all your own food etc etc you are making some kind of impact on something. Everyone needs to just chill out and realize that people like us are doing more than others, even if we eat a fish once in a while. No one needs to be shaming you for this!

  10. says

    Bony fishes have the same capacity to feel pain as birds and mammals. Wild fishes have much better lives and less painful deaths than really any animal raised in modern farming. If anyone is serious about fitness that does not harm animals, veganbodybuilding.com can help.

    • says

      Yes, I’m sure fish want to live as much as we do. And you bring up a good point about wild vs. farmed fish, too.

      I agree that most people can probably get all the nutrition they need from a plant-based diet.

  11. says


    I appreciate the comment, however I think you are reading some things into the article that aren’t there.

    My choice to eat fish again doesn’t have to do with fun or pleasure, but an experiment with nutrition for the next year. Also, nowhere in the article do I try to justify my choice, I make mention several times how it’s a selfish act, and I’m fully aware of that fact, without trying to pretend otherwise.

    Nor I’m not suggesting that a plant-based diet is lacking for others, or in any way malnourishing, though I do think many vegetarians don’t do a good job of representing a balanced vegetarian diet.

    I initially went vegetarian because I didn’t think my life was more important than another animal’s life, and I still don’t, really. Environmental issues are also a a part of it, of course (if you protect an ecosystem, you protect millions of species). However, I don’t think any of us is pure, and it’s a matter of degree. If you drive a car, you have killed thousands of frogs, toads, newts, rodents, etc, by running them over. If you eat food that isn’t grown in your own garden, it’s likely a part of industrial agriculture which has displaced countless species.

    I’m not saying directly eating an animal is the same thing, I’m saying it’s a matter of degree. Everything we do has an impact. The best way to be alive and limit one’s impact on another species is to become a Jain. Those are the folks who crawl on the ground to avoid stepping on insects, and wear gauze on their mouths to avoid inhaling them. They might be on to something.

    Though this argument can be seen as justification, it’s true that we are regularly killing bacteria and viruses when we wash our hands. No one cares about that, but it is true they are life forms, just less complex. At what stage in evolution does a living creature deserve to live?

    I know exactly what I’m doing when I kill a fish to eat it. It’s selfish and it’s cruel. I just don’t think that’s the only selfish and cruel action I take as someone living in society in the 21st century. And I don’t think that refraining from meat absolves us of our other sins.

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