For a while now hubby and I have had bird feeders hanging in our yard, supplying our friendly squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks with tasty nuts and seeds scattered around by the birds. We regularly see blue jays, red cardinals, sparrows, crows, a really pretty bright yellow bird or two, starlings and, until yesterday, a pair of doves.
Our cats sit with their noses pressed against the screens of our porch watching the antics of the wee beasties outside, while the pretty silver grey cat from down the road hides under my patio chair, tail twitching. She likes to watch, but I’ve never seen her try to catch anything. I’m not saying she doesn’t try, just that she never does it while I’m around.
But yesterday something changed. I looked out of the window during a pause in the torrential rain and saw a bird of prey standing on my lawn. She was beautiful, with flecked feathers, bright eyes and a small, curved beak. She caught my movement out of the corner of her eye and turned her head to look at me before deciding I was harmless and returning to the task in hand. It was then that I realised why she was in my garden. She was standing on the lifeless body of one of the doves, ripping out his feathers and tossing them aside.
I was totally conflicted. The vegan part of me wanted to run out there, waving my arms (underarms flapping wildly like the arms of old folks tend to do) and yelling “Don’t eat my dove, you murderous beast!” while the other part of me analysed the situation calmly, aided by the engineer standing at my side. “If you take the dove away from her she’ll just kill something else for her dinner. The dove’s already dead, so she might as well keep it.” The falcon (?) decided she didn’t like being watched, picked up her prey and flew off to finish preparing it for supper somewhere quieter. The rain started to fall again, washing blood into the soil and making a soggy mess of the plucked feathers. I need to go out there and remove them at some point. I don’t want a daily reminder of the harsh realities of nature.
But here’s the thing. The bird of prey was only doing what comes naturally to her. She’s a carnivore. She eats other animals. She has no choice in the matter. The dove was in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up as dinner. It’s a natural cycle of life and death. Some folks argue that eating animals is also natural, and therefore right, for humans. We, however, have choice. Eating meat isn’t a necessity for humans, it’s a choice. Taking calves away from their mothers so people can drink cow-milk isn’t natural or necessary. It’s a choice. Raising chickens in huge barns where they never see the light of day, then hanging them upside down and electrocuting them isn’t right or necessary. It’s a choice. Putting a bolt into the head of a terrified cow to make into steak for the barbecue isn’t necessary. It’s a choice. Slaughtering dogs and serving them at a festival isn’t necessary – it’s a choice. Killing pigs in the name of bacon…no, it’s not necessary. It’s a choice. Boiling a lobster alive…do you see where I’m going here? Humans aren’t carnivores. We’re omnivores….with a choice.
Today a lone dove came down to forage for food, and I was sad. Do doves mourn? I don’t know. But this is what is sounds like when doves cry…