Contradictions of cattle and trout
Whenever I see one of those gigantic stock trailers loaded with livestock rumbling down the highway headed for slaughter, I get a sad, queasy feeling in my guts. Now, before the entire Garfield County ranching community collectively decides to string me up, let me say I am equally saddened that ranching and its way of life is slowly giving way to development of another kind. So, how can I feel bad when I see a stock trailer full of cattle, yet still enjoy a steak? Am I a hypocrite? I used to be a pretty avid fly-fisherman, er, fisherwoman. I knew my knots, could tie my own flies (well, at least nymphs theyre easier), and loved to spend hours moving slowly upstream in hip boots in one of our local rivers or creeks. If youve ever felt a strike on your line, you know the appeal of fishing. Its a surge of energy, a feeling that you and the trout are connecting, maybe not in the way the trout would prefer, but youre connecting nonetheless.Once Id hook a trout, Id decide whether I wanted to keep it or not (if we werent fishing in catch-and-release water, of course). We never wasted the trout we caught, and we always made a fine meal out of them.I learned a technique for killing my catch and putting it out of its pain scrambling its brains with a knife inserted at the top of the trouts head. Whenever Id kill a trout, and watch the life go out of its slippery body, Id get that same feeling that I get when I see a stock trailer loaded for slaughter. I respected the little guy, too, but that doesnt mean its death didnt make me sad. I can remember at the time, when Id explain how Id kill the trout, some people would be appalled At the same time, though, those same folks wouldnt think twice about ordering a nice piece of grilled salmon in a restaurant. For me, I felt like I was less of a hypocrite for actually going through the act of finding my prey and catching it rather than having someone do the dirty work for me. I guess it was all those Hemingway books I read. (If youre a Hemingway fan, you know what I mean.)Its the same thing in the wild, among animals that stalk and eat their prey, even though I get the same sad, queasy feeling whenever one of those nature programs comes on a station like the Discovery Channel. Its almost impossible for me to watch a lion attack a water buffalo, taking it down and eating it, often while its still alive. Images like that literally haunt me. But how out of touch am I? Hungry wild animals have a pure, instinctive need to eat. They do what they have to do. In modern society, we rarely have to consider what goes on behind the scenes since our supermarkets are filled with perfectly packaged meat, fish and poultry.And even those who dont eat meat still displace and sometimes inadvertently kill creatures that once lived in fields and on land where lettuce, carrots, corn, wheat and every kind of fruit and vegetable now grows. So, I wont deny those little pangs of sadness when I see a loaded stock trailer heading east. And at the same time, Ill still smile when I see a new calf romping next to its mother. Its those contradictions of life and death that will tug on my own emotions for the rest of my days.Carrie Click is a reporter at the Post Independent. Her column appears on Tuesdays.
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