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A true story about a bird I loved, lamb and produce.


I am remembering a dear cockatiel named “Babe” sat on me or beside me on any available perch she could find, most evenings when I wrote or cooked. She had a habit of trying to remove my glasses and earrings when she landed on my shoulder, much like another dear bird, Minky, a lorikeet in the photo. Before I had my two children, birds were part of my family, and Babe was the baby of the family. One festive holiday when she was about 2 years old, I attempted to cook Cornish Hens. When I thought they ought to be about done, I took them out of the oven and set them on the table. Each of the hens was not much larger than Babe was. I looked over at her where she sat on the back of a wooden chair, and she looked at me. She fluffed her feathers and cocked her head. All at once I knew eating birds was finished for me. It was over 30 years ago. Some call it compassion. I had a deeply emotional reaction that couldn’t be undone.


Paul McCartney tells a story in his new promotion of vegetarian diet for once a week, about lambs. He is working on “Meatless Monday” for school children, to promote reduction in meat eating and variety in the diet. For him, becoming vegetarian was a change he made after watching lambs run around in a field on a day when he was eating, yes, leg of lamb. 30 years ago he changed and has been vegetarian ever since. If you have ever caught yourself eating a relative of an animal you adore at the same precise moment, you’ll know what he means. Unsettling for sure. 


Walking home around Union Square on Farmers Market days, I feast my eyes on beauties like these radishes, garlic, peaches and plums among other lovely herbs, fruits and vegetables. I can’t count the number of times friends and relatives have felt sorry for me when I turn down a meat dish. People ask, “I’m so sorry, what do you eat?” When I was young, I would be obnoxious and say, “Everything but cows, lambs, pigs, birds and fish.” Giving up meat rules out 5 kinds of things, but the varieties of fruits and vegetables and grains seems endless, and wonderful.

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In the fictional story “Rain Dream” in my short story collection “Death and the Dream” a young scientist examines a tank full of lobsters in a restaurant, while drinking and waiting for her meal. Compassion, yes, and maybe even an obsessive attention. If you have a look, let me know what you think.

Have you ever felt your stomach turn, while eating in front of animals?