I don't know how long it's been since I last told this little horror story--probably been since the days of e-Sangha, but when I was in the second grade, and that was around 1967 I guess, our class went to the chicken slaughterhouse on a field trip. Don't ask me why, or what they were thinking. perhaps it was a sort of career day for us little ne'er-do-wells. Or part of our education to teach us where our food came from.
Through one of those confluences of kamma, my uncle and his wife at the time worked there. I say "wife at the time" because I've lost count of which wife that was or how many times he married; like most of the males in my family he practiced serial monogamy. I think with my uncle I lost count at wife number twelve or thirteen. My dad was married seven times and my brother five. Anyway, my uncle and his spouse sat along an assembly-line in bloody aprons, with squawking chickens hanging by their feet from a moving belt. The chickens were clearly terrified. My uncle waved at me. The workers sitting at the line fed the chicken's necks into a guide--two steel rods, basically--which stretched their necks and held them in place as the moving belt conveyed them toward a spinning sawblade, which slit their throats, and death was neither instantaneous nor painless. From the slasher the chickens were conveyed to a scalding water bath, which apparently loosened their feathers, and they passed by people who plucked them. Not all the chickens were quite dead when they hit the scalding area, but all were dead when they left it. I know this: you don't want rebirth as an animal.
Many of my companions thought the whole process was cool. Some of the girls couldn't watch it. Most were indifferent. I was horrified. I identified with the struggling birds and felt a desperate need to help them. It seemed wrong to me that this was being done to them. Remember I was around seven at the time and I didn't quite understand the purpose of it all. I wondered why my uncle didn't do something about it.
Later, I put together that these living birds became the fried chicken that we ate for dinner. This didn't seem to bother anyone and I wondered why it didn't. That summer my uncle brought home a fish he'd caught, dropped it in the yard and came into the house. When I saw the fish was still alive, I got my sand bucket, filled it with water and poured it on the fish in an effort to save it. I kept doing this for a long time until my mom eventually noticed and brought me inside.
I could never eat fish or seafood again, and chicken, fuggeddabouddit. Seeing something die horribly to make a meal kinda ruins your appetite. But I was always a strange kid, I always loved vegetables. It didn't matter what they were, even the dreaded cauliflower. Some of you express serious doubts about past-life imprints; for me there's little question something carried over from somewhere into this corporeal shell. I was born into a family of uneducated, ignorant ruffians and from an early age yearned for refinement and sensitivity. Art, music and culture from the 19th century feels like home to me, and vegetarianism was as natural as breathing. Nothing in my environment accounted for any of this. Make of it what you will. I believe I was a formerly a fop.