Where Are All The Happy Cows?

By: LaAerial

I stopped killing insects last summer.

I don’t really remember why. I think it started with a friendly spider. We named her Lucy. She hung out in the bathroom and helped keep the silverfish at bay. Then, for some reason, we decided to evict her. It was my idea to catch her and put her outside. I trapped her in a martini glass, deciding not to make a crunchy toast, and returned her to the garden whence she came. A couple of weeks later another spider appeared. I also found a blue-backed beetle, a mosquito that never stung, and a tiny brown slug, all of whom I either caught and released or let be.

The slug was a quick mover. He slid from point A to point B faster than any slug I ever saw. I tracked his movements out of curiosity. I wondered what the comings and goings in a slug’s life were all about. I decided he had every right to live, even if it was between the crack in the wall and the flooring. Allowing him to aspire toward an up-to-6-year lifespan seemed like the right thing to do, since he was clearly on a mission.

I came to the realisation that none of these creatures were bothering me. The spiders weren’t deadly, nor were the other tiny life forms. Not long ago, I watched an interview where the Dalai Lama demonstrated swatting away mosquitos if they became persistent, instead of killing them. I think this was not only an act of mercy, but that it was almost a form of respect. Why do we think so little of insects when they are just as alive as us, only in a different form? They may be tiny, they may even be annoying, but they are alive and isn’t all life precious?

The killing starts with ‘small and insubstantial things,’ then we graduate to having chicken for dinner. Later we run over a rabbit and keep driving, or discard unwanted puppies by the motorway. It’s all quite subtle really, this gradual disregard for life. It begins insignificantly with a few pesky bugs, then we move our way up to castrating cows without the use of anaesthetic, or shooting humans who aren’t a threat. The killing of insects might be the ‘gateway drug.’

I remember killing bees.

I was probably 5 or so. It was the same day a small southern white girl asked me if I was “a Yankee.” I didn’t talk like the other kids, even though I was born right there in South Carolina. We sat in a semi-circle rounding up dead bees lured by the “bee flowers,” as I called them. They were compact, pale-colored, weed-like flowers that only seemed to attract bees. I don’t know how I got mixed up with this murderous lot. Eventually, I grew tired of killing for sport and went back to planting an apple tree with the seeds from a Red Delicious I had eaten earlier.

I don’t really want to kill anymore.

Maybe it began back in 2011. Someone freaked me out about geckos and had me believe they would latch onto my skin and I’d need to seek medical assistance. Thailand is chock full of geckos. They even make a chirping sound that disturbs my core. I spent a few hot and sleepless nights in a bungalow by the beach on Koh Samui. All alone I stared up at the ceiling praying the gecko would not jump down on my face. At some point, I came across an infant. He was only about 2 to 3 inches in length. I saw him on the floor in the shower room and freaked! I slammed the door on his little body and left it lifeless. His beady eyes went cold. The thought still ruins me. My mother has a fear of lizards and snakes, but I don’t want to live like that. I want to be brave and understand that if it’s not deadly why should I dead it? Perhaps it goes back to the whole ‘choose fear or choose love’ thing. I can act in fear and kill everything moving, or I can practice love and allow things that are not threatening me to co-exist.

I love beef.

I love everything about it; the taste, the texture, the flavors that make it dance across my tongue in a lazy waltz. My favorite burger on the planet is made at Shoreditch House in East London. Most people spend time in this part of the city socializing, having meetings or enjoying a meal with friends. At this au courant members-only club, the beef is expertly grilled before being dressed plainly in a warm buttery bun with almost nothing else. Nothing else is needed. It is the perfectly seasoned patty alone that makes the trek across town worthwhile.

I always feel extremely irritated a day or so after having one of these incredible burgers, I’m sure to no fault of the skilled chef preparing them. In fact, it happens when I eat any sort of beef. There’s just something about it that gets me vexed. It could be a barbacoa burrito from one of London’s Mexican eateries, or an ungodly sized steak at Gaucho on Chancery Lane. It’s as though I can feel what the cow felt throughout, its difficult life as a farm-factory-raised food item. Cows get it the worst. They are bred for meat, milked nearly to death or slaughtered in often inhumane ways. Their whole life seems to be one filled with fear, anxiety and perhaps even depression.

I met a few sad cows once, at a farm in Takasaki, Japan. There was lush green, perfectly grazeable land facing the farmer’s public yoghurt shop, so it was a shock to see the cows huddled together on the floor of their small barn. I asked a local about it and she replied, “I’m sure it’s worse elsewhere.” They looked sad, they seemed sad. Of course I didn’t have a verbal conversation with these cows, but I looked into their eyes and experienced that sadness. The image stuck with me, but I carried on eating meat because it tastes great. I suppose its cognitive dissonance, knowing something isn’t good for you, doing it anyway while each time expecting miraculously new outcomes.

I’m always enticed by fresh-baked croissants, which are in high supply in every grocery store from Sainsbury to Lidl. I can’t seem to escape the soft, warm, gooey goodness of baked bread anywhere in London. Unfortunately I nearly always wake up with a blocked and itchy nose, endless sneezing and other hay fever symptoms due to intolerance to gluten. Then I get well and happen upon the baker pulling out hot sheets of cheese twists, or fresh baked rolls, and the cycle continues yet again.

I think of myself as curious.

Having gone vegetarian twice before, I didn’t find it difficult to make the switch to a predominantly vegan diet. It’s all in the mind really. We can decide what will and will not work for us. We can also psych ourselves out of a good thing. I’m not a champion for veganism. I am simply seeking to experience life at its greatest. I really felt good those couple of times I went veg. I had a lot of energy and as a consequence of not eating meat, I also lost unhealthy weight, my skin was clearer and I generally felt very well.

At the same time, I don’t believe in making this a lifelong decision. I think as humans we are constantly growing, changing and coming to different levels of awareness. Choices need to be reaffirmed daily and assessed frequently to know whether they still serve our highest good. I might not ever call myself a “vegan” because at the end of this 6-month trial, I may decide to eat meat again. If I do so, I hope it will be with the full awareness of what good, bad and in-between, eating meat can do for me. I only pray that I find access to the meat of happy cows, cows that are treated with care and are put to their deaths in the least painful ways possible. Maybe that’s some utopian farm I’m thinking of, or maybe it exists in this world. I don’t know yet.

LaAerialA proud foodie, LaAerial, is also a poet, singer/songwriter, and a well rounded creative with experience in film/video production, editing, and audio production. Coming all the way from the U.S.A., she has traveled extensively with a keen interest in seeing even more of the world and engaging in all forms of art, in particular, screenwriting, acting, and photography. aglorifiedvagabond.tumblr.com