This was not a question I ever wanted to answer, but there it was, hanging in midair between my son and I we were driving home. Would I take him hunting? I mean, of course not! I have never fired a gun, do not plan on ever firing a gun, have no interest in guns or killing, and I certainly don’t have an interest in teaching Edward, of all people, how to use one.
“No,” I said thoughtfully, “I can’t take you hunting.”
“Why not?!” he demanded, brandishing the bow and arrow he had made at Forest School.
“Well, because I don’t think I could take the life of another animal,” I replied with conviction.
“But you killed those lobsters from the store!”
Well, he had me there. I had indeed killed, very poorly, the lobsters from the store. Why was that different? Why could I kill a lobster and not a deer, or a rabbit? This required some quick thinking.
“I guess I can kill a lobster because they are not mammals, like us. I don’t know that I could kill a mammal. Maybe a bird (maybe), and definitely a mosquito, and a lobster seems more like a mosquito to me than a person.”
“What’s a mammal?”
“Oh, well, mammals have hair or fur, and they have live babies, and…”
“Wait…are WE animals?!”
“Yes, we are animals. We are humans and humans are mammals.”
“So a cow is a mammal…”
“Yes, a cow is a mammal.”
“But you kill cows to get their pork!”
Finally! Something I could contest with clarity!
“No, pork comes from pigs. BEEF comes from cows.”
“Oh. So you can kill a cow for their beef.”
Rats. He had me back on an uncomfortable subject. I don’t want to dissuade him from activities that he might enjoy just because I don’t enjoy them, but hunting? Killing? Could I condone that? On the other hand, when I eat meat it means somebody is doing some killing, right? But it’s not me, right? But I am complicit, right? But my hand never took another life, right?
“No, I have never killed a cow. I let other people do my dirty work for me and then I enjoy the spoils of their death and delicious destruction.”
“But if you were hungry, you would kill a cow.”
“Ummmmm, I don’t know, actually. I guess if there were no other options, and it was either me or the cow, I might kill the cow. But it wouldn’t be my first choice. And even if I killed a cow, I would have no idea what to do with it. I suppose you would have to skin it…”
“Skin it?! What does THAT mean?!”
“It means taking the skin off. We don’t eat cow fur, so we must skin them. And then you have to take out the parts you don’t want to eat…”
“Like their BONES!”
“Sometimes, although sometimes you eat meat off the bone, so maybe not all the bones? Honestly, I have no idea. I am not a butcher or a hunter. I love meat, but I couldn’t stomach personally killing another animal, so I guess I am a hypocrite. Or maybe I am just weak. But that’s all there is to it.”
“But I wanna hunt a COW!”