Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fish are friends, not food.

From the WTF File: Baltimore’s National Aquarium is hosting a sustainable seafood dining series. After enjoying the bodies of oysters and other marine life, guests are invited to tour the Aquarium. You know, to meet the relatives of their dinner.

Is it just me, or is this shades of the Humane Society of Missouri, which recently held a (non-vegan) fundraising barbecue and polo match? The cognitive disconnects that we are capable of astound me. “Greetings, honored donors: here we have our rescued cows, and the buffet is right over there. Try the ribs.” Aaaaarrrrrggghhhh.

Oh, Aquarium. I used to love the Aquarium. It was a place of magic and wonder: the fantastic dolphin show (I never minded getting splashed), the rain forest with its resident sloth, all the millions of species of fish and other creatures. The Australia exhibit was full of the most amazing animals I’ve ever seen. And the seals! I could watch them for hours. Always a water child (I’m a Cancer), I wanted so badly to swim with them. I’m so sad to realize that they don’t have the happy lives I thought they did. They’re bored and penned-in, unable to swim freely and find their own food. Having a dead fish tossed to you must be a pale imitation of the real thing. And the sharks, used to ranging across their territory for miles—a tank, no matter how large and interesting, can’t compare.

I appreciate the conservation and rehabilitation work the Aquarium does. But our oceans are so depleted: why host events where the very creatures you’re trying to save are the main course? (Here, someone will argue that Chesapeake oysters are fine, since the moratorium gave them time to recover their numbers. Good luck with that, oysters.) It’s okay to eat fish, but not dolphins or seals or sea turtles? They’re harmed by fishing too. They’re caught in nets and their food sources are stolen. I’m sad because most people don’t think of sea creatures when they decide to give up meat. Want to rile me up? Tell me you’re a vegetarian who eats fish. I’ll understand, because I was there once, but I’ll make sure you know you’re not a vegetarian.

I think I’m saddest because there are so few ways for people, especially kids, to really interact with animals without those animals being exploited. Farm sanctuaries are wonderful, and I look forward to taking my kids there (you know, once I have them). Then I’ll have to explain why we can’t go to the zoo or the circus or the aquarium—and I know I’ll be conflicted because I’ll want so much for my children to meet a dolphin or a monkey or a giraffe, to experience their sheer awesomeness face-to-face. It’s ironic that because we love animals so much and want to ensure their ethical treatment, we can’t always interact with them in the ways that society tells us we can. Having a conscience sucks sometimes. Red calls it falling down the rabbit hole. I just wish there was a foolproof way to make people acknowledge the connections.


  1. Take your kids to Africa and go to Chobe Nat'l Park. They'll experience wildlife in a truly unforgettable way!

  2. Ha, we were just talking about going to Africa! It's on the list!

  3. VB, this is an issue vegan parents face all the time. I have an urban child and sometimes I really feel he is missing out because of his lack of opportunity to see a variety of animals up close. He is seven now and has gone through different periods of being very fascinated by different types of animals, from sharks to bats. When you become a mama, it's just one of those things you face. I'd be happy to discuss with you how we work things out. (And, yes, it includes animal sanctuaries.)

  4. Thanks, Marla! I appreciate your willingness to share. We're a couple years off from having kids, but I figure I'll try to prepare as much as I can now. :)