I was driving back to work from my lunch break when heard a high-pitched scream. I stopped the car and looked to my left, through the chain-link fence of the high school parking lot, and I saw on the ground a cluster of crows and a rabbit. One of the crows was worrying something on the ground, and that something was a baby rabbit, and the baby rabbit was shrieking: over and over and over again, the high whine like a newborn human in distress.
The adult rabbit, the mother, ran toward the crows and they took to the air and something fell from the sky, smacked the pavement, and took off running.
I pulled out my phone and I began to film.
The crows returned and picked up the baby rabbit again, and it screamed again, and the mother rabbit hopped toward them, and the crows took to the air, one holding the baby in it’s beak. The baby fell again, the mother ran to it, and they ran together, and the crows returned. The sun continued to shine, bright mid-day spring sun, and the sky was a cheery bright blue, and the clouds were puffy streaks along the blue, and the crows again picked up the baby rabbit and took to the air, and the baby rabbit screamed until they dropped it.
The mother gave up the third time the crows snatched and dropped the baby, although it was still able to run, still able to scream. The mother returned to her nest under the hedges by the fence, and a car came up behind me and the driver tapped the horn, irritated that I was idling at the stop sign. I put down my phone, put the truck in gear, and drove on.
The video is less than two minutes long, and I don’t know what else I could have done.
Should I have jumped the fence at the high school in the middle of the afternoon to chase away the crows? I’d be a midday trespasser, running, waving my arms like a crazy person, and security would come rushing down.
Should I have rescued the injured baby rabbit and called a wildlife rehabilitator? I’d be a midday trespasser kidnapping wildlife. In high school I volunteered with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, and I can tell you that the work of raising up and re-wilding an injured baby animal is tedious and rewarding, but I cannot tell you that it’s “worth it” for the little creatures so likely to die on the highway or in the jaws of a neighborhood cat.
Should I have jumped the fence and granted the baby rabbit a quick death? Then I’d be a midday trespasser murdering wildlife.
While that’s the most gruesome option, it also seems to be the kindest, and I have done this before.
Once, living on the commune in the woods in the mountains, I shocked a boy I liked when I abruptly picked up a steak knife and walked out of the kitchen and reached down into the tall grass and picked up baby rabbit the cat was torturing, it’s flank ripped entirely open to the bone, and I sawed that steak knife right through the tiny rabbit’s screaming throat. I had not yet slaughtered chickens or meat rabbits, I did not know how to quickly pop a rabbit’s neck vertebrae, but I didn’t think the slow death being given to the rabbit by the cat was fair. I felt responsible for the little fist-sized clump of downy fur once I’d killed it, and I took it back to my house, and I skinned it and I gutted it and I fried the haunches, little thumb-sized slivers of meat, and I ate it beside a dinner of rice and beans and collard greens.
I eat meat. I eat dead animals, and those animals were once alive, and if I can’t handle facing their death I don’t deserve to eat them. On the long path to connect with the source of what sustains us, I have felt called to fully understand the sacrifices that are made in order for my life to continue. I am driven to understand the fullness of the thing. I have raised backyard chickens, and loved them, and eaten them. I have killed animals to eat them, and I have killed them as quickly and smoothly as possible. I have joined farmer friends on the hardest day of the year to give my hands to the slaughter, so that my skills can remain sharp, so that I do not become complacent. I have forced myself to not turn away from the blood and the shit and the slime. I flinch away from the casual hands of strangers, and I can’t stand to be touched by any child that is not my own – their little hands are the wrong temperature, or too moist, and I feel a crawling on my skin like the wet trail of a snail. But I do not turn away from the death of animals. This being human makes me responsible to them.
I didn’t do the right thing filming, gathering a minute and thirty seven seconds of video. I thought when I started to film that the rabbit had won, that I’d have some epic badassery to share, a mother rabbit chasing away a murder of crows. Instead I have a minute and a half of torture and screaming and sadness – crows doing what crows do, rabbits doing what they do, nothing sentimental. In my eating of meat, I’d prefer a kind life and a quick death, and the same for myself when the time comes.