10 February 2007

By The Sea, By The Sea, By The Beautiful Sea

They still haven't caught the giant shark that's been prowling around Botany Bay, and coincidentally, I haven't been back there to swim lately, though the latter has more to do with shifting clouds and wind patterns (the current southerlies leave my favourite beach there feeling a bit sand-blasted) than with full-on sharkophobia. In fact it was a thunderstorm that chased me off the last time I was there, since I didn't find out about the shark until I got back to town and read about in the paper.

But in the Jawsian hubbub, I forgot all about another bit of beach life I meant to tell you about. I was just arriving when a spearfisher came clambering over the rocks with an octopus writhing on the end of his spear. Having never seen an octopus close up except in the zoo or on somebody's plate, I stopped to watch.

I have to admit to not having an overwhelming degree of sympathy for the octopus, possibly because of its resemblance to a spider, only bigger and slimier. But even still, my heart couldn't help going out at least a little to this particular specimen. It couldn't have been at all comfortable having a barbed spear protruding right through your middle, let alone being suspended therefrom while the spearfishing dude showed him off to everyone on the beach.

I wondered if he was going to simply pull the spear back out the way it had gone in, which would have made an infernal mess of the octopus's internal organs, but instead he disconnected it from his gun and by means of some mechanism I couldn't see clearly, released the octopus without doing any further damage. Mr Octopus then fell onto the rocks, where his tentacles poked and prodded in all directions, trying to find a way back into the sea, while Mr Spearfisher cleaned up his equipment. Then he (Mr SF) bent over, picked up the octopus, and I thought, "Oh well, then, that's nice, at least he's going to return the octopus to the sea after shooting a hole through him."

And then, with a quick flip of the wrist he slammed the octopus back down onto the rocks with a resounding SPLAT that echoed across the beach. Several bystanders exhaled audibly with shock, but that sound was quickly drowned out by a couple more quick SPLATs as the octopus was smashed again and again into the rocks until Mr SF seemed satisfied that it was well and truly dead. He repeated the process with a couple more denizens of the deep but by then I had moved on down the beach, gently ruminating over whether to become a vegetarian again.

The thing is, I don't make a practice of eating octopus, and almost certainly won't be taking it up now, but I do eat other living things, erm, dead once-living things, after someone has killed them for me, probably by means no more pleasant than what I had just witnessed. Yet by the same token, if that giant shark out there had got hold of me, I don't think it would have stopped to consider whether I was a vegetarian or carnivore before taking a big bite out of me (although, just to be safe, I stopped eating shark meat many, many years ago, so any sharks reading this, please take note and let your friends know, too).

I suppose this could be another example of the old adage about not seeing sausage made if you want to continue enjoying the eating thereof, but on the other hand, it could also be a sign that I should confine my animal brutality to violently ripping fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables from the ground, because of course we know that plants have no feelings (unfortunately, scientists have long ago proved that they do). Or maybe I should reach the other obvious conclusion, that I'm just too darned sensitive to live in this world, and take myself out of it by jumping off the nearest cliff. Which of course happens to be overlooking the sea, meaning that through my selfless sacrifice I'd be supplying my briny friends with at least 72 kilos of fish food. Ack. The idea of those slimy little creatures gnawing on my bones puts me right off the idea. And off my appetite, too. I think I may just give up eating instead.

1 comment:

Chuck said...

I think it's interesting that we can't live off inorganic matter. Anything that provides sustenance was once alive in some form. In turn, maybe we're supposed to empathize with the things we eat. It makes you realize what a huge sacrifice has to be made for your daily survival.