Good morning. It is 5:59 a.m.
I’ve spent a good part of the last 24 hours working on a creative nonfiction piece about the diamondback terrapin and my experiences with turtles 20 years ago. I took two trips with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation at that time, one for a week along the Chester River, and another for just a weekend on a sand spit just south of Sandy Point State Park. The fact that I’m writing about those experiences today gives an indication of just how significant they have become in defining who I am today.
The end of the story is this: I experienced the death, the life, and the death once again of turtles (diamondback and snapping) in the Chesapeake Bay region. Much of the killing is done by us for profit; the seafood industry treats the snapping turtle no differently than we might treat a number one jimmy (large male blue crab) or a 10-year-old rockfish that weighs in just under 25 pounds. Somebody, somewhere, sees turtle meat as a delicacy and pays enough money to warrant their slaughter.
I am uncomfortable with the hypocrisy, and this is why I will remain a strict vegetarian — at the very least — when my 40 days end this coming Sunday. I find the killing of turtles no different than the slaughter of animals where we’ve worked very hard in this country to spin a positive, feel-good image.
The temptation is there, though, to look the other way. Chick Fil-A has done a marvelous marketing campaign to pit the almost human-like cow against the chicken (an animal image we never see, by the way) to encourage us to “eat mor chiken.” Maybe the difference is that I’ve been to the turtle slaughterhouses and have seen firsthand the methods used for execution. I know of the methods they use for cows, pigs, and other creatures, too, not excluding our own state crustacean, the blue crab.
None of it is pretty.
So we’ll see how this story turns out. It’s not a “save the animals” piece as much as it is about the turtle’s plight for survival in an ecosystem burdened by our own measures of over-harvesting.
I hope the parallels I draw with our own lives are not too obvious. As my good friend reminds me: If it’s not a how-to piece, don’t give us instructions (on how to live).