I just like to point out before you read the rest of this entry that I am anti-animal abuse, an omnivore (i.e. a person who will eat both plant and animal products), I don’t wear fur (the things I wear are plant based, i.e. cotton, or plastic, yay polyester blends), I’m a science student (and therefore have, and will continue to do, dissections) and I don’t support PETA (because they’re a bunch of whack-jobs, in general). I’m not quite sure why I wrote that all out (I’m sure, if you’re in PETA, you’re perfectly sane!) but I have, so with that being said, let’s get on with things, shall we?
Also, it’s probably best for me to put a disclaimer here now that it might be best if you didn’t read this if you happen to like turtles. Just a thought.
I went grocery shopping with my family today. We were going out for dim sum this morning (delicious – you should try it if you haven’t already) so that was all fine and dandy. That went well, then we went to a supermarket and started getting things for the week. I generally get the fruits and vegetables that I want for the week while my parents do all other decisions (i.e. meat is a big one that they do, as well as other vegetables because they’ve found that I generally pick the same four things all the time).
And I’m walking along, checking out the packages of cheese (I love cheese, by the way) and then I turn my head to glance down at the packages of frozen meat. There’s some things that I recognize and there’s brightly coloured pieces of paper informing me of what’s on sale and what’s ‘really’ on sale. Sliced meat from various animals at various limbs. Frozen shrimp, mussels, clams. And then I did a double take at a section of the waist-high freezer that was nearly empty except for three packages and I froze there as I read the bright pink piece of paper that was right above it.
Frozen Gutted Soft Shell Turtle – $8.95 each
My hand was shaking (maybe because I was already feeling disgust or because the freezer was cold?) as I reached in to pick up the package. The label told me that it was about a pound and I ran my finger across the plastic wrap to brush away the ice crystals to see a bit more clearly what was inside. I could make out the lines on the shell, four limbs, the head and even the tail. The entire animal was completely intact except for only one side of the turtle where the person who had packaged it hadn’t set the shell back onto it all the way and I could see the bright pink flesh.
See, in my head I realize that being upset over a turtle’s death is irrational since I’ve participated in dissections and I eat meat on a regular basis. There’s nothing that makes a turtle’s life more valuable than, say, a chicken or a duck or a cow or a pig or whatever it is that you decide to eat for dinner. There is nothing that makes a goldfish more valuable than a kitten in the grand schemes of things except for the value that we put on their lives.
We get desensitized when we walk into supermarkets and pick up a package of shrimp with their heads off already and don’t think about the practices used to capture them. We don’t think about slaughterhouses on a daily basis or the living conditions that animals are forced to endure. I look back at the biology classes that I’ve taken before and think about the animals that I’ve dissected (fully knowing my right to decline and to not suffer any penalizing for it) and think about how what I know about where they come from is from the teachers and the professors who are probably used to those questions from emotional girls who want to know where that cute little piglet came from or where that rat came from.
I get told that they come from companies who specialize in breeding animals for universities and pharmaceutical companies. We even watched a video once in one of my biology classes that gave us a tour of the facilities. Clean, white, bright lights. The animals are constantly being checked for diseases and such. A lab mouse (white, red eyes, long pink tail) is a few times more expensive than a common white mouse that you would find in a pet store. They’re bred for a purpose and everything that happens to them is brought before some kind of ethics board.
I know all of this. I know that the fish that I had for dinner tonight wasn’t farmed, it was captured – probably in a large net. I don’t know how long it stayed in that tank in the supermarket. That really overcrowded tank with a lack of food and shabby filter system. Probably not that long, as the store probably expects a high turnover.
I know of all this, but I don’t know if I could cut meat out of my diet. I mean, I can live without the beef and the pork and potentially the chicken. But I am potentially too much of a fan of seafood to ever give up meat entirely (red meat, sure, but not in general).
See, I know all of this. And I knew all of this before today and I will know all of this after today as well.
And it took three frozen turtles to remind myself of a sense of helplessness, regret and sympathy that I forgot existed.