Saying grace

Is grace recited before meals anymore? It seems the bigger the dinner, the more preparation or participation that goes into the repast, the greater is the sense that something is missing if we omit the prayer to dive into our food. A private reflection might be payed during the erstwhile silent moment but a word spoken of spiritual thanks seems no longer apropos in this secular thinking child’s age. Religiosity abounds still of course, but it is separated less from state and education than from the other aspects of daily life with which it also conflicts, such as buying and selling, lending and consuming, trading upon the disadvantage of others. End of the lineI too wonder if giving thanks for our abundance need be directed to God or divine provenance in appreciation of our predatory advantage, before a meal or after. For myself I have found a better occasion.

Driving on the highway every once in awhile I encounter a cattle truck, the trailer sides simple sheet metal grates behind which one can see the fur of livestock. You can only see the bodies standing steadily at the edge in semi darkness and apparent silence. I search to catch their eyes but the metal bands seem positioned to obscure our visibility or more probably theirs.

I used to entertain fantasies of derailing their voyage, stopping the driver to offer the animals a reprieve, however futile. But we’ve got a pretty principled meat processing company on our side of town, and I have come to accept the inevitability that mankind wants to domesticate some mammals to eat them.

When you see those large cattle trucks in non-rural areas, there’s little question as to where they are going. It is rare that cattle would be traded between ranches, or taken to the veterinarian, or sent to a State Fair to be exhibited as 4-H pets, or being put to pasture, as happens to horses no longer either. As much as you would like to think otherwise, the cattle in those trailers are being delivered to the slaughterhouse. When you see the unfortunate cows, they are only hours -perhaps minutes- from the ramp which leads to the aboitoir, to a violent ignoble death at the hands of a harried production line.

I remember reading about traditions surrounding the slaughter of pigs. The human-like cries of pigs have always wreaked psychic damage on the men who have to kill them. Some farming villages have ceremonies to ritualize the process. In many cases, a single person is given the responsibility of dealing the fatal blow. The Kosher tradition of food purity comes not from concern for regulating the quality of a meat source, but insuring rather that the animal was properly killed. Again, not by public health standards but spiritual.

When I find myself passing a truck carrying cows or domestic buffalo to their demise, I try to linger beside the trailer for a moment, long enough to give a thought to the beings inside. But I lack for what to say. To hope that their death will be as painless as possible, to pray for their understanding, to give thanks for their stoic, if involuntary, contribution, to thank them.

1 thought on “Saying grace

  1. Those animals don’t die painlessly or oblivious to what is going to happen to them. When they are lined up at slaughter houses, the ones nearest the killing become aware of what is happening and start to stress out as fear creeps in, thus allowing large amounts of adrenaline to produce and pump through their bodies. Guess what? We’re all eating meating that is loaded with animal adrenaline. Yummy.

    I still eat meat , but not as much as the average American, and I try to eat “natural meats” if I can. If you’ve ever been to a slaughterhouse, a chicken farm, or a pig farm, etc., you’d think twice about what you eat as well. Pigs and chickens are about the most filthy animals, and if you saw how chickens were caged, well…I don’t want to gross anyone out!

    The only meat that isn’t loaded with hormones to enlarge growth (bigger breasts on chickens, larger tenderloins) is buffalo because it’s not permitted for some reason. Meat products from companies like Coleman are free of antibiotics and hormones. It’s too bad everyone can’t visit a farm or a slaughterhouse so they can see where that meat comes from–most people would most likely cut down on how much they consumed if they did!

    Grace? Even when I was a waitress through several college degrees, I rarely ever saw anyone in Kansas City say grace in a restaurant. But when I moved to Colorado Springs…lo and behold! But to each his own…

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