I’m not sure how old I was — maybe nine, maybe ten — and the “Boat, Sports, and Travel Show” had come to town as it did every year, and every year we went. (We hit the Home Show and the Auto Show, too. I think a lot of families did that in those days.) Anyway, I got an hour’s leave from parental supervision to explore the big exposition hall and there was a tank where kids could catch fish. That sounded fun. I didn’t really think about it. I just took the rod, dropped the line into the water, and almost instantly felt the powerful flailing of a creature fighting for his life. I was horrified when the woman working there tore the hook from the fish’s mouth and blood shot out. I never realized that fish had blood, red like ours.
The violent removal of the hook didn’t kill the fish, however, so the woman held him (her?) by the tail and smashed the body hard on the stainless steel table. There was more blood, and then, stillness. She handed me my “prize” in a baggy. I was horrified. I knew that a life had left this earth because of me, but I also knew that if I told the priest in confession that I’d committed murder, he’d tell me that I hadn’t. There was nowhere to go for absolution. I threw the corpse in the ladies’ room trashcan, but before I did I promised that I’d try to make it up somehow.
I hope with all my heart that I’m making it up to that being, and all the other fish and birds and mammals I ate, now. I’m not proud to admit that it was years after that event that I was finally able to swear off, for good, eating animals that live in the water.
And because it took so, I have all the more reason to want to speak out for them now.