Jim & friends,
I am so glad you brought up PETA because it remnds me of a story here that I otherwise might not have remembered to tell. In the village/town in which I used to live, Notse, I worked with a nice and sensitive man named Sylvan for an AIDS-awareness and cultural preservation youth group as well as his orphan-support NGO.
Sylvan had a regular job at the prefect's (local mayor, sort of) office and also had a peanut field which he cultivated himself and got single mothers to help harvest and they could keep half of what they harvested. He is a good and thoughtful man, anxious to help those less fortunate than he. He is also much more broad-minded than most Togolese I have had the pleasure to meet.
One day I invited Sylvan over for lunch -- a stew with rice, ginger, cabbage, carrots, and. . . chicken. Sylvan informed me that he was a vegetarian. I started laughing. First of all, I was blown away that he would even know that people in world WERE vegetarians, and secondly (and most importantly), this in a country where most people don't ever even SEE meat, and not for religious or moral reasons, but because they simply can not afford it. The diet consists of completely empty carbs in the form of a manioc-type tuber and cooked down okra and lots and lots of spicy peppers.
I asked Sylvan why in the world he would even dream of becoming a vegetarian. Well, somehow, somewhere he had watched a PETA DVD explaining the horrific process of animal farming and butchering -- in the western world. Here (and probably in a majority of the rest of the world), ALL chickens, goats, sheep, and cows are "free-range". Even in the capitol. Goats and chickens and sheep wander the streets. Somehow they know to which compund to return at night and all people know which animal belongs to whom. When it comes time for an animal to be killed, it is done with ceremony and a blood offering is given to the ancestors in the ground. I have killed chickens and pintades myself -- it is the only way to get fresh meat.
Even the smallest child knows the animal that dinner came from (not that a child would ever get meat anyway, or women either, for that matter) and that child probably also gutted, plucked, etc. happily fighting over the feet or some other delicacy.
I explained to Sylvan that in the West people buy their meat in plastic packages in the grocery store. No one has any contact or hand in the raising of that animal, and certainly not in the killing of it. It is not respected as a life-form, it is simply a commodity you pick up at the store when you stop in to grab your Lucky Charms.
Sylvan was not a wealthy or frivolous man. Honestly, though a full-grown man and strong, he needed the protein. Yeah, he ate his peanuts, but people here that aren't eating meat aren't exactly up to date on getting the right proportion of legumes and rice or whatever to make up the missing protein. I convinced him to drop the silly vegetarianism idea and if he was really concerned about his soul regarding animal treatment he should get people to stop throwing stones at dogs and start a rabies vaccination and spay and neuter campaign.
In summation, animal welfare concern with regard to killing for consumption and sacrifice is just plain silly here. When an animal is sacrificed, it is quickly killed with an expert slash across the throat and it's departing spirit is asked to send a message to the ancestors. It is thanked for it's assistance and for the sustenance it will soon provide. A sacrificed animal is eaten, whether by the preist conducting the sacrifice or by the person requesting the sacrifice.
I know in the United States and other little pockets of the western world where there are still vestiges of voodoo, organizations like PETA cry foul about animal cruelty, but in all honesty, to sacrifice an animal and then eat it is much less cruel than buying a chicken breast in the store.
All that being said, I am a carnivore. I eat foie gras and veal and lamb and sweetbreads and every other politically incorrect meat that has the poor judgement to wander my way.
I hope this message didn't come off as being aggressive, but I thought the Sylvan/PETA story was germane. I thought it truly was one of the most hilarious things I had ever heard here. And as for how that video even GOT here. . .
This was taken 4th of July 2007, a month after arriving in country. We made fried chicken for our celebration.
Killing the chicken for the 4th of July
"Free-range" sheep in NotseGratuitous picture of doing the hokey-pokey with kids in Badou