Monday, April 13, 2009

Being Prey


"The bank now presented a high, steep face of slippery mud. The only obvious avenue of escape was a paper bark tree near the muddy bank wall. I made the split second decision to leap into its lower branches and climb to safety. I steered [the canoe] to the tree and stood up to jump. At the same instant, the crocodile rushed up alongside the canoe, and its beautiful, flecked golden eyes looked straight into mine.

Perhaps I could bluff it, drive it away, as I had read of British tiger hunters doing. I waved my arms and shouted, 'Go away!' The golden eyes glinted with interest. I tensed for the jump and leapt. Before my foot even tripped the first branch, I had a blurred, incredulous vision of great toothed jaws bursting from the water. Then I was seized between the legs in a red-hot pincer grip and whirled into the suffocating wet darkness."
Val Plumwood, an Australian feminist and environmental activist who died last year, describes a nearly fatal attack by a saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) in her 2000 essay "Being Prey."

In 1985, in Australia's Kakadu National Park, Plumwood's canoe was repeatedly struck by the crocodile until, capsize imminent, she attempted escape into an overhanging tree. Her attempt failed; the croc took Plumwood underwater and "death rolled" her three times. Incredibly, Plumwood survived the attack. Once she'd managed to surmount the steep bank, her injuries forced her to crawl almost two miles before a park ranger found her.

The terrifying experience inspired Plumwood to ponder the frayed relationship between humanity and the rest of the animal kingdom. In the course of doing so, she questioned the usual motivation for adopting a vegetarian diet.
"Although I had been a vegetarian for some ten years before the encounter with the crocodile and remain one today, this knowledge makes me wary of the kind of uncontextualized foundation for vegetarianism that suggests that predation is either a negligible anomaly or an unredeemable ethical deficiency in the ecosystem. The presentation of the food chain as a (potentially) peaceful order ideally subject to nonviolent reconfiguration leads ultimately toward the thoroughly anti-ecological position that the earth is ethically improved by the elimination of predation."
I couldn't agree more. Similar thinking inspired me, five years ago, to become a vegetarian unless I kill or catch the animal myself. Predation is natural, even when we are the prey.

Photo credit: ripped from Virgin Media

13 comments:

mordicai said...

Well-- cooperative hunting is natural. Arguments could be made that domestication isn't unique to humans (besides ants) & is a visible name for symbiosis. & that humans aren't un-natural either. So I'm not sure the logic carries through? I think the impact of sloppy meat domestication (cows! stupid cows) works a lot better.

Donald Frazell said...

We are omnivores, and if we deny animal flesh, we must replace the amino acids with a proper combination of vegetables. Maize and beans can do this, but leads to an out of shape, starchy body.

Some can live a vegetarian lifestyle, some cannot. We are all different. My wife tried it years ago, and she was continuously sick, her body craves and needs meat. Partially because she loves food and working out so much, partially because her system needs it with a high metabolism. She always ate huge portions even when young, and a skinny stick figure.

Some can do this, Bill Walton in the NBA is the only athlete I have ever heard of who was vegetarian, but was rich enough to have a chef to prepare the meals he needed, it is not practical for most. And at my wifes graphic design job, they recently had this weird green drink fast for a week, a weirdo new age spirtual center. Those who were too skinny already going in were dropping like flies. The rest dazed and unable to think, be energetic or do their jobs, or take a joke.

A friend of hers at the job had tried to be a vegan and was constantly sick, wasting away, til she realized she couldn't live this lifestyle. Especially younger women must eat meat because of the loss of iron and energy during menstuation. As artistes are often of sickly and non physical nature already, they dont see much change. But to healthy, vital, physical people, who use our bodies for work, meat is essential, Thats how were were created, we need proteins not easily available in the plant kingdom.

A well ballanced diet includes a small dose of animal flesh, as well as protein from nuts and dairy products. Most Americans certainly do eat far too much meat, especially fast food patties of questionable origin and quality. We can dial it down, and be much healthier. Ballance is always the key. And each persons body is different, we should never go by what others say, but listen, experiment, and find out what works for us.

Though we in the West are the only society in history where the poor are fat and the rich far too skinny. Its usually the reverse, as being fat is a sign of wealth and power throughout history. Warrior kings settle down into old age with larger bodies, much as football players do today. They gotta change their diets as they no longer burn off the calories or need the proteins and fats of a younger athletic age.

Never go blindly by what others claim to be true. Search for yourself, and listen to your body. Theory is after the fact, an autopsy of life, and you will be a cadaver, mentally, emotionally, and physically if one slavishly follows current fads and ideologies. Of anykind, political, ecological, or artistic.

art collegia delenda est

Hungry Hyaena said...

Mordicai:I'm not sure that I follow you. Plumwood is making the point that humans are natural and are part of the food chain. If you return, please expand on what you mean.

Donald:Certainly this is true, though I know a great many "big" vegetarians. Moreover, there are an increasing number of athletes that a vegetarians. And what of entire populations (most notably the Hindus)?

But, yes, balance is critical. I certainly don't demand that everyone adopt a vegetarian diet. After all, I haven't truly adopted one myself.

andiscandis said...

Ah, but how many Hindus are in the NBA? See? SEE?

(I'm sorry, dude. You're trying to have a serious conversation here.)

Donald Frazell said...

None I know of, though Hakeem Olajuwon is Muslim, and had to play during the days of Ramadan with no food or water. Now THATS conviction.

Thought most Hindus did eat meat, just not cow, as Muslims dont eat swine. My wife wont let me eat any. Boohoo.

Cant think of any other vegetarians in sports, though do believe I heard there were more. Cant see it in football, and would have to have a very structured meal, these guys can afford it these days, at home, but difficult on the road unless you know where to eat.

andiscandis said...

Nope, Hindus aren't supposed to eat meat at all. Some do*, of course, but beef and pork are strictly prohibited.

*(Much in the same way that Christians aren't supposed to eat bacon cheeseburgers. It's right there in Leviticus. But a lot of them do it anyway. Because bacon cheeseburgers are AMAZING.**)

**(I do not eat bacon cheeseburgers. I actually think they're nasty.)

Donald Frazell said...

Wiki says 20-42% dont eat meat, many because of religious stances, some probably because they cant afford it anyway. Bet most of the rich and middle class do. It's difficult to keep up a hihg metabolism and energy level without some kinda animal flesh.

I mostly eat poultry, chicken can be marinated in so many ways, usually start with Italian dressing, salsa, lemon and wine, had teriyaki with added herbs last night. mmmmmmmmmm
Had lamb with guests over, dont like veal and its disgusting what they do to calves to get it so soft and textureless. Weird, like pate. Goats are nasty animals, birria quite good when prepared well, and turkey. Damn noisy arrogant sqirrels on the wires out back, fight all the time, but too bony to go after, Rats with cute tails.

Used to fish, but not real good at it, and havent caught any of my other tasty meats. Anyone else getting hungry here? Pasta with some chicken sausage tonight. Better be off and get it ready.

g'nite, y'all

art collegia delenda est

Hungry Hyaena said...

Donald:My favorite vegetarian athlete is Prince Fielder, first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers.

I do have a hard time imaging a vegetarian lineman, and I definitely don't know of any professional football players that have adopted a vegetarian diet. We may yet see it though!

Also, yes, an increasing number of Hindus have adopted an omnivore's diet, owing in no small part to the "westernization" of their economy and the influx of money (the growing middle class).

Also, just in case they get too noisy for you to bear, you should know that squirrel meat is lean and a little oily, but quite tasty in stew. My father loves to shoot squirrels for Brunswick stew, and my mom particularly enjoys the results!

Donald Frazell said...

Really? gotta go NRA and buy me a pellet gun then. They sit in my front pine tree, or in back on the wires, when the two aren't fighting one another. Sometimes turning in each direction, twitching tail and chattering, letting the world know they are top rodent. Arrogant lil suckers, you would think there were human. Guess we arent that evolved afterall, and they go after the baby birds. Birds of a feather, eat one another. Perhaps in a nice curry. Or jerk squirrel.
Or in a nice home grown salsa verde. mmmmmmmmm

Andy said...

Squirrel meat? Hmmm.... well, I know my my dog definitely craves it. Brunswick Stew sounds quite good, but I'd prefer mine with seitan.

On the amazingly unnatural side of this argument, most space foods are vegan, with a fine culinary menu of 'sweet potato pancakes, lentil loaf sandwiches, seitan tacos, carrot drumsticks and chocolate soy candy.'

And two* links for the I can't believe it's vegan! folks:
Brendan Brazier is a successful professional triathlete (and vegan).
— The China Study is a comprehensive research-based 'experiment' which suggests a vegetarian diet can be very healthy and disease free.

* well, three really.

Cheers!

abhe said...

Woow so wild, i like it

Rusli Zainal said...

Wild and ..... nice post

Rusli said...

cool man.........