Discover more from Raids on the Unspeakable
On the act of killing
Notes from a city-dweller pretending countryside, an effort to overcome abstraction.
Distance renders death abstract. This is why poison is a particularly pathetic method, operating also abstracted in time; and one especially reprehensible when used against animals—or is it better not to understand? I would panic, but then to be pierced by even a small slug is probably about as bad; and then to be stalked, walking wounded. Death itself is perhaps less frightening than the way in which it will occur; for it is never so abstract as we might imagine it. Our mortal fate is always concrete and particular: all carry this point within themselves, tend toward its inevitable realisation. The tree and its death alike are in every seed.
Man alone of all animals pities his prey; and are we also the only to show mercy? I came across a rabbit standing stupid. Suspecting it dead, I stared through the scope; completely still, now and then its nose would twitch. Still I stared not knowing what to do. I had come here to hunt a rabbit, and yet—not like this. This and another were frightened away; then the next night two were not so lucky. The first ran a distance and then leapt, seemed to somersault; approaching I found it already dead. The second was even less lucky. Distance renders death abstract; it is not.
I know that they are pests, and have heard well of the damage wrought; but still I cannot see the way. Those that would slay and dispose easily, or poison and leave to rot. This I cannot condone. Of course, who cares what I think; it happens all the same. Yet better that young boys and girls learn to hunt small game, that they might know what their food is—where it comes from, what that involves. I am all for eating meat; but better that we know the need for respect rather than thinking it made in factories.
Yet still: was what I wanted that it be efficient? The messiness of it all pained me; and so I desired that it be quick. Here my motive was to reduce suffering, whether of the rabbit or myself. I would, given the available resources and competencies, have liked the ‘best way.’ Panicking, I did not pick that; but I thought I had. The option I chose what that I believed would be most efficient: the quickest way to kill the thing—sorry, the rabbit. Pain was assumed to be more or least at a maximum already, though in hindsight I’m sure it could get worse. A knife slowly slides through your neck, leaving you choking further and—far more pain, surely.
What is the alternative? That it be done properly: halal. This is the difference between technique and tradition; that once there was a right way, where now there is only the best.