When these blog submissions were announced I was excited to really engage with the weird and experience new layers of the world that surrounds us. However, as time went on and I continued to look more and more for “weird” encounters I was getting worried that I wouldn’t encounter anything, so I began reflecting.
Just before spring break, we discussed a lot about animals with Rose and the societal obligation that animals are made to fill. As soon as spring break began, I found myself entangled with the notion of animal vs. human, the right to live, and death narratives (Rose, 68-72). I was continuously reminded of Rose and her retelling of the Dingo hunt along with the concept of Judas the donkey.
During spring break, I visited my aunt who lives in a considerably rural area in Cocoa, Florida. We went fishing and I questioned my morality and if intentionally tricking an animal into biting a hook was something I disagreed with, to which I have yet to arrive at a conclusion. After fishing and taking back what bass we caught, my aunt proceeded to clean the fish (I think it is imperative to mention the wording of the concept of preparing a fish for consumption, we are cleaning it of its otherwise “dirty” self and leaving only the pure). Once my aunt finished up, she offered to take me and my partner Jasmine to a farm owned by one of her friends down the road. Honestly, before arriving I was expecting a couple chickens and maybe a cow or a goat. I was completely wrong in my assumption. We started our farm adventure by feeding the chickens the “dirt” of the fish that my aunt had just finished “purifying” and was then met with a visual of 30 chickens crowding around a pile of fish scraps. At this moment, the farm owner “Judi with an I” started chatting with us and explaining how long she had the farm, running through the ideas she has for the future.
Then we moved inside the chicken coop to meet the hens and then the chicks, while Judi chattered about how much she wants all of the chicks to be girls, even picking one up and saying, “you better be a girl.”
Our next stop brought the reason for why I made this blog post. Bunnies or rather rabbits. When we entered the den of rabbits, Jasmine cried out with “Bunnies!” to which Judi instantly corrected, saying, “these are NOT bunnies, they are rabbits because we aren’t keeping them as pets.” She then explained how it was easier to kill the animals when they call them rabbits, this way there is no concept of a sweet bunny, instead there are just meat rabbits who are bred for eating.
I thought that was really weird, and from the second I heard the words come out of Judi’s mouth, I was dying to bring it up in class for our next discussion. Unfortunately, the conversation never really opened up to a point where I could interject, but at least it can finally find a home here! To me, it just seemed like a way to justify the killing of the animal, it was clear that Judi really cared about the animals and the only way for her to come to terms with killing them was to mentally detach herself using her own system of taxonomy.
When we left the chicken/rabbit hut, we drove some golf carts over to where Judi’s husband trapped three hogs that were tearing up their gardens. These guys were completely wild and, from my understanding, they were also planning on killing and eating them once they got big enough.
Our last stop on the farm was at the goat and cow pastures. Once again the power of naming was demonstrated when Judi pointed out some animals as “milk cow” and others as “beef cow,” indicating the fate the animals were in store for. What I found most disconcerting is the very short life span she would give the cows. When describing one beef cow who was separated from the milk cows and their calves, she claimed that he was getting old and slow and that soon it would be time for him to be killed. Jasmine asked how old the cow was and Judi said about 2 to 3 years old. This came as a huge shock to me, considering cows live around 18 to 20 years on average.
Milk cow (left) and her calf (right)
Aside from changing the taxonomy of her animals, Judi still gave all of them a personal name. We asked why, if she was going to kill them and afraid of becoming attached, would she give personal names to the animal. It seemed like that would just make it more difficult to do it. Judi said that we were exactly right, it does make it more difficult, but she also found that when she doesn’t give her animals names, she no longer cares for them as much. If she raises her cows as just pieces of meat, she said she has an excuse to neglect care since they are going to be killed anyway. Judi didn’t want their life to be poor and the comfort of her animals was more important that sparing herself the attachment.
There are plenty of authors that this post could speak to, but I feel it speaks the loudest to Deborah Rose. Death narratives are imperative to this story, because if Judi did not feel a connection to the animals, had no memories, or transmission of emotional/mental energy then there would be no problem with calling them bunnies, or pigs, of cows (Rose, 72-73). Instead, there is a death narrative, a story to the animal that lives on in Judi and is retold all the time. As we were standing in the cow pasture, asking how she can do it, she reminisced on the first cow she killed and how hard it was, how much she loved the cow, and how she almost couldn’t get herself to do it. She said it took her several days to work up the nerve. In some way, her system of taxonomy and how existing without a name can speak volumes for Earle. Something as simple as a name had the power to effect how Judi treated her animals. Existing without some framework is theoretically impossible, and attempting to disconnect yourself from something also brings with it a lack of care that may only be reconciled by forming a new system or reverting back to the old one.
By Jon Whitman
Douglas, Mary. “Purity and Danger.” Routledge Classics. Print.
Earle, Rebecca. “The Pleasures of Taxonomy: Casta Paintings, Classification, and
Colonialism.” Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. Print.
Rose, Deborah Bird. “Judas Work: Four Modes of Sorrow.” Environmental Philosophy 5.2
(2008): 51-66. Print.