Last week, I did something I haven’t done in five years — I filleted a catfish. I went fishing Wednesday evening with a friend of mine at a farm pond in Ohio’s Ashland County and the owner told us if we caught any catfish, not to release them.
He had learned, like many people do, that catfish are vigorous feeders and often eat the eggs of bass and other fish, and can have a serious impact on the type of fish that flourish in a particular pond.
I really didn’t mind, because I like catfish to begin with, and for one person, a large catfish can make a lot of good eating. But I must say it took some work and effort to remember how to place the fillet knife and how to properly prepare the meat.
It was about 9 p.m. when I started the filleting, and I did it under my security light in my driveway. The sights of the fish being cleaned were not exactly pretty. And if one of my neighbors would of come over to see what I was doing, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t have covered it up, at least until I explained to him or her what I was doing.
I am not opposed to cleaning fish, although on most trips I practice catch and release out of convenience and to keep the pond numbers high. But what I am opposed to is the belief that everyone ought to be face-to-face with these things.
There are some people who, no matter what, are opposed to slaughtering an animal. And they’re entitled to that view. But there are others who, like myself, respect that things have their proper place and proper context, and that mixing those contexts isn’t right.
What I mean is, I don’t think my neighbor ought to have to see a fish being cut up without a little heads-up. If he told me what I was doing was wrong, I’d probably disagree. But by the same token, I don’t want him to see me carving a fish with a knife without some warning.
I try to respect the fact that people are made with different propensities and different personalities. Some are bothered by blood and others are not, some are into fishing and hunting and others are into other things.
Animal welfare activist Temple Grandin tells farmers that if you can’t sell a particular farm practice to your wedding guests, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. I can agree with that to an extent. But I still don’t think people who show up for a wedding are there to hear about animal slaughter or animal husbandry, no matter how it’s done.
And the same is true of a birthday party, a funeral or your next door neighbor who stumbles over when you’re cleaning a fish. I don’t think greeting them with a dead fish or how you keep or slaughter animals is going to have a good impression. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong. It only confirms that some things aren’t meant for neighbors and wedding parties in the first place.
Perverting the context
Yet, that is exactly what the extremists do. They film the most gruesome scenes, edit them into one anti-meat commercial and then project them to the masses. They invade public events, public displays, beaches and town squares with the message, “look at this, look at this.”
They could have made an ugly video of me cleaning my fish if they wanted. A close-up of the dead-fish moving from reflexes, my silver knife that became red, some scary sound effects and a nasty narration and they’d of had quite the package.
And if I’d of had a wedding guest watching over my shoulder the whole time, I doubt they’d of wanted to go inside and cook up some fish that evening. Even I like a little break between the cleaning and eating, and I like to clean my hands and kitchen and allow the meat to soak in milk for a day.
When it comes time to cook, I’m careful to wash and properly prepare each piece. There is a cleanliness and appropriateness to the whole process, and I follow it.
I think it is absolutely perverted to film scenes of death and blood, and try to suggest that it represents fishing or livestock farming, or that people ought to watch something like this while they’re eating dinner or watching the evening news as a family.
As a proud meat eater, I can handle knowing the meat I’m eating came from a once-living animal. And I can even handle doing the butchering myself.
But I like clean hands and well-cooked food on the day of eating. And I don’t believe in eating over the cutting board, or watching a sick and twisted video when I’m enjoying my delicious Cajun-style catfish.