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Letters to the Editor

Happy Without Killing

REGARDING the Feb. 3 cover story article by Gabe Meline, "Meat the Maker," or, as the cover quipped, "The Carnivore's Agenda" (in clever allusion to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma): I am reminded of then-governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, when she pardoned a turkey at Thanksgiving 2008 and was then interviewed while several other turkeys were being slaughtered behind her.

I agree that if one is going to eat meat, one should be fully aware of how that meat came to be and be entirely conscious and responsible for the karmic consequences. The vast majority of meat-eaters are not.

I hasten to add that a vegan (or lacto-ovo-vegetarian) diet can be complete, nutritious and delicious. We can be healthy and happy without killing for food. As humans we do have a choice.

Jon Bjornstad,

Santa Cruz

The Offal Truth

MY FATHER took me hunting from an early age, so I can appreciate the honesty of killing and butchering animals oneself rather than paying someone else to do it. But what to do about that pesky inner voice?

When the My Lai massacre in Vietnam came to light—hundreds of unarmed villagers gunned down by a U.S. Army unit—people were incredulous: "How could our boys do such a thing?" Easy, I thought; I'd suppressed qualms of conscience innumerable times chopping off chickens' heads and blowing away squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs.

And it's not just that we desensitize to cruelty and violence; we can get off on it. I remember the sensual delight of my cold hands plunging into the warm, steaming entrails of a just-killed, slit-open deer, the pungent smells rising into the crisp autumn air. I also recall an acid trip years later in which, gazing at an anti-war poster of a baby impaled on a soldier's bayonet, I became that soldier, felt the pleasure of power-over, of smooth blood running down my hands and forearms.

Given our alienation from the basic processes of life, given how we discount the suffering of human and other beings "not like us," and given our ethical plasticity, it's no surprise that butchering classes and carcass-carving entertainment are enjoying some chicdom.

When asked if Nazi atrocities made her ashamed of being German, Hannah Arendt is reported to have said, "No. I'm ashamed of being human."

Billy Ray Boyd,

Santa Cruz

Poetry in Emotion

A RECENT Santa Cruz Sentinel story described Gary Young as "one of the country's foremost practitioners of the prose poem." Prose poem? Well, what the heck does he write? Prose poem sounds like fictional nonfiction. Make up your mind, Gary. Otherwise, it sounds like the new county poet laureate lacks the skill or patience to express himself with an occasional rhyme; but we are a laid-back nation. Though Robert Frost wrote excellent blank or free verse himself, he compared the writing of it to playing "tennis without the net." 

In agreement with that, I'll offer a limerick to Gary Young. Though pure doggerel, I still feel it demanded greater skill and effort than any of Young's "prose poems" accompanying your Feb. 3 Streetsigns feature ("Local Poets, Local Inspiration: Prose Poems by Gary Young").  

There once was a poet named Young

Who wrote in a non-rhyming tongue.

It couldn't be sadder

That on the poetry ladder

He seems on the bottommost rung.

"Wilt Whatman,"/

Santa Cruz  

Navy Was Better for Midway

REGARDING "Trouble on Albatross Island" (Currents, Feb. 3): I was stationed on USNS #3080—The Midway Islands—from June 1956 to July 1957 and saw the station begin its transition from caretaker status, with approximately 200 personnel and dependents, on its way to the hundreds brought over in the Barrier Flight Program and as a way station during Vietnam.

Historically, and statistically, we lived with the birds and both of us did very well. When I served on the island, it was in caretaker status. To my eyes, the denizens, avian, human, and marine, co-existed quite well. The birds were a humorous addition to life on an isolated station. Access to the lagoon for snorkeling and fishing was unlimited. There was the requirement to bring the 2.5-horsepower outboard boats back to the dock before noon chow, and again a half hour before sunset. We saw the turtles, the sharks, the sea snakes, the eels, and the dolphins as interesting and made our isolated life there more bearable.

I still remember a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson remarking that any pollution problems that arose were the Navy's responsibility and "they would have to come and clean it up."

It was only when the Base Realignment and Closure took effect and the U.S. Navy officially closed the station that the decline began. There was never a problem with lead-based paint flaking off the buildings when I was there for a simple reason. We maintained the integrity of the buildings by repairing and painting them when necessary.

I returned in May–June, 2000, as a student of the University of Hawai'i-Hilo's eco-based education program on the island. I was appalled to see how the historic buildings had been permitted to deteriorate since I left 43 years earlier. It was infuriating to see the restrictions FWS placed on our movement on the island.

Midway-Phoenix did extend themselves to keep the island cleaned up, mowing the grass, removing the worrisome verbisema (introduced sometime after I left) and operating the former station as an eco-tourism facility with a really splendid infrastructure including the two quaint restaurants, The Clipper House, and Captain Brooke's Tavern.

Since they left, I really wonder at the amateurish emphasis by FWS on isolating the island from outside influence, the restrictions on movement about the island, and the rather authoritarian introduction of foreign species, counter to the original, published intent to remove such influence from the preserve.

The groves of ironwood trees are gone, as are the light standards, claimed to be a hazard for the birds. This is something neither I, nor anyone else I associated with, ever saw.

The fact that these introduced Laysan ducks have suffered from avian botulism, introduced into the mini-wetlands based on the sewage-treatment leach-field, is sufficient to make an outside observer wonder why these actions were conceived, then executed.

If the FWS is so concerned about the island, why do they persist in maintaining a presence while introducing an alien species?

Wayne L. White

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