Many of you know that I am a long-time vegetarian and a forever animal lover. I think I came out of the chute part-bird, part human, and fully empathic (thank you for this, ma!).
My animal compassion decisions and actions have never been difficult; they’ve been givens, as if my soul just can’t do certain things when it comes to animal suffering of any kind. This just is. There is no hierarchy I build, no harsh comparisons I make, no holier-than-thou judgments I put on others. I have eaten my baked potato and side salad next to steak eaters and had a grand time. (Okay, it was a little gross, but I could handle it.)
Do I wish that our culture would eat fewer animals overall? Yes. Do I wish that factory farms didn’t exist and instead animals were free to roam and without being injected with harmful hormones and other yuckitudes? Yes. Do I wish that sometimes I could save every animal on the planet? Yes.
And yet, I know life is complex and eating habits run deep and that I can’t save every animal. But given the chance, I try my best. I even save the littlest creatures of this earth. I save spiders, ants, potato bugs, flies, bees, and yes, even slugs — even slugs that are chomping on my garden. (I can hear some of you gasping! It’s okay, really, I am fine with it.)
I don’t think I’m crazy. If you were part-animal and all-empath, wouldn’t you feel compelled to do the same?
In honor of the animals of this world, I give you a poem I wrote in graduate school in 2002. Okay, perhaps I’m a little crazy, but a big heart and a strong conviction are kind of sexy, right?
in slimy goodness,
You slide up the railroad ties
to the vegetable garden
like land-born leaches to suck
the life from the bush beans,
red leaf lettuce, baby carrots.
I creep outside with a flashlight
to remove you from a slow
salted death from my father’s
slug bait, follow your silvery
mucus trails, those lustrous
streaks painting the garden bed.
I pick you up with maple leaves,
clumps of grass clippings, place
you under the deck, away
from the garden, sprinkle
raspberries near you as a gift
for this sudden relocation,
this interference. I did not know
you’d become bigger,
stronger, and multiply
from these sweet meals,
that I’d run out of raspberries,
that my father would set more bait,
or that you’d summon your friends,
their swelled bodies hungry
for the surge of succulent red juice.
c. 2002, Courtney Putnam