MISS MOOX + person


There has been a little drama last night and this morning surrounding one of the most unpleasant aspects of living on the farm: the slaughter of animals raised for meat.

Let me explain at the outset that I am not against this per se: I fully believe that eating meat and killing animals is ethical and allowable. Personally, I dislike it. I rarely eat meat and never would given my own choice. My love for animals and fierce instinct for the preservation of life mean that I could never be a farmer. Last night at the dinner table when everybody was discussing the joys of the various cuts of meat that resulted from the recent slaughter of the pigs, all I could think about was those hilarious four gamboling up and down their outdoor pen in the gentle evening sunlight, snorting and whirling and kicking up their heels. Not for me, this life: too raw, bloody, and realistic.

The particular discussion that arose last night surrounded one of the turkeys. Several months before, a brood of about seventeen wee fuzzy peeping things arrived in a small ventilated box, via US mail. The box was stamped with all the appropriate warnings about containing live animals and This Way Up. Who would have thought that chicks could be transported in the post? But when we opened the box, there they were. Most of them had survived their harrowing two-day journey from somewhere out west, sans food and water. Sadly a few had died and, weakened by the trauma, a few more followed them in the succeeding days. Finally, we were left with only twelve.

It soon became apparent that one of them was different. A couple of the babies had been blind and visibly weak, but had quickly died. This one somehow survived. But as it grew it became more and more obvious that it would never be like the others. It was about half the size they were, and never caught up. One eye bulged out surrealistically from its head in a translucent globe; the other was small and shrunken into its skull, giving it a comically old-man appearance. The whole head had a slightly cockeyed look, as if it had been squashed in the shell. When it looked at you, it looked with its head pulled to one side, peering at you out of the shrunken eye. From observation we learned that this eye was only partially sighted. The large eye was completely blind.

But somehow that made this turkey endearing. As the others grew large and bold and fat and sassy, this one was left behind. It wandered feebly around its pen to get food and water, and in the large group of vigorous and curious birds, always looked lost. It seemed to be in its own little world which only incidentally interacted with the others. When poles were inserted into the walls for the turkeys to roost at night, this little one didn't stand a chance of hopping up with the others. Once, I put it onto the roost and its feet tenuously and then firmly gripped the pole. But soon I came back and it was back on the ground: its sightless eyes could not cope with being that far off the ground, with that much uncertainty.

When it was held, it "peep-peeped" in the gentle, burbling, querulous, half-alarmed way that young turkeys have. Stroked, it would gradually doze off: head drooping more and more till it finally fell fast asleep. Put back down on the sawdust, its legs would collapse and it would nap. It loved its neck stroked: it would extend its head high in the air, eyes closed ecstatically.

I suppose it was my fault getting attached to it. But something in me is drawn to the weak and the outcast. My landlady asked me today if I identified with it. I didn't know what to answer.

So, we are currently trying to find a home for it. My landlady knows of a refuge for handicapped birds, and of another farm which has taken animals from her before. So I hope poor Beebles (for that is what I christened it, after the noise it makes) will survive to live yet many more happy turkey years scratching for its food and turning around and around in the bewildered little circles it does when it is trying to get away from something. Yes, I suppose I do identify with it. And much as I know it is foolish, I can't bear to have its life cut short.

Update: Beebles, Part 2

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