Death in the Country



I guess life and death and the food chain are more in your face in the country, you know? It’s fairly common to grow up with an intimate knowledge that the chicken curry on your plate was actually made from a bird with feathers that once pecked and breathed and crapped on the verandah.

We ate from the supermarket, the garden and the paddock as I was growing up. Mum used to name the stock for human consumption in ways that would leave no doubt about their intended use, like the lamb named Chop Chop or the steer we had called Freezer. It didn’t stop me from falling in love with them. It didn’t stop me from wrestling with the feelings I had for them when it was time to give them the chop. They were beautiful creatures. I don’t think killing the animals you eat necessarily makes you a cold-hearted person. It can make you more intimately aware of your role in the cycle of life and death and, like a traditional person; you become less sentimental about the process. I think it’s possible to become less sentimental and at the same time more understanding and respectful of our place in nature.

I had a go at being vegetarian for a few years. Not because I was against killing animals for food but just to see what it was like. It was hard work eating out as a vegetarian in the country. Oh, so you don’t eat meat, you might have to go for the fisherman’s basket then, mate. No, there’s no meat in the carbonara, just a little bit of ham.  My brother is a committed vegetarian and he made his decision on ethical grounds: he doesn’t like the idea of killing things for food. We grew up in the same household. I respect his decision and I have no trouble cooking for him when he comes over for dinner. We have a few bizarre things on the barbie like slabs of zucchini or eggplant. My wife makes a mean vegie burger.

The attitude the locals have to road kill here is pretty ordinary. I find wombats and wallabies and roos smeared across the road and I think how hard would it have been to stop when you ran over that creature? How difficult would it have been to drag it off the road, make sure it’s dead, check its pouch or whatever. A dead beast left in the middle of the road is a hazard for other road users, too, and it’s not hard to show a bit of respect. Yes, but itis the country. I’m sure a dead roo in Swanston Street or in The Cross wouldn’t even warrant a second glance.