Anna spent many years following a vegetarian and then vegan diet...until she did her advanced learning in interspecies communication. During these studies and practical case studies, it became apparent that plant beings had as much sentience, self-awareness and soul as animals, the elements and indeed all aspects of the material world. Conscious communications with vegetables where they expressed how they felt about being grown in commercial agriculture, being food for humans, etc. threw a new light on an until-then conceptual and principled approach. This breakthrough allowed Anna to deeply feel into - and have conversations with - all the possible forms she might consider for bodily nourishment. Connecting with the divine essence of and within all life forms is now her guiding practice. The result is that she does eat organic vegetable flesh and occasionally wild/free range animal flesh; in both cases choosing to honour those who have had the privilege of a natural life.
This short story (which Anna found useful on her journey with this dilemma) may give further insight:
excerpt from Tom Brown's Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants (1986)
It was in the summer of my twelfth year when Grandfather said that I must learn to hunt like a man. I had to seek out the truths of the real hunt and understand what the hunt was all about, accepting the awesome responsibility and knowing the sacred act the Creator intended the hunt to be. Certainly, I had killed animals in traps and with throwing sticks but never any big game. Grandfather wanted me to use close-range and primitive hunting techniques to bring me nearer to the actual kill. Previous to this, hunting had been matter-of-fact, with only token thought, prayer, and appreciation given to the killing of the animal. We were young and not very experienced in survival and the laws of Creation. We meant no disrespect, we just didn’t know any better, and our prayers and appreciation were mere imitations of Stalking Wolf’s devotion. There was no awe or intensity of feelings, we were mere babes in the woods, connected to, yet still removed from the soil. We didn’t feel the reality of the umbilical cord connecting us and Earth Mother.
Grandfather’s ambition was to show me the reality of the hunt, of killing and dying, and of appreciation and sacrifice through the only way it could be truly learned – by doing it. The rules were simple enough. Within one week I was to locate a small deer, track it, stalk it, and take its life, using a stone knife lashed to a short stick. Traps had been so very easy: I had only to set and bait the trap, then walk away and do something else for the rest of the day while the trap did the rest. I was totally removed from the act of killing. The trap provided a supermarket-type effect where the animal was already dead and near to cook. The close-range hunt took all of my skills, so much patience, and a tremendous amount of time to complete. It was the real hunt, lost to the hunters of today.
Modern hunters kill from long distances. They sit waiting in the stands or blinds, use binoculars, scopes, and so many other modern devices, all designed to remove the hunter from the actual killing. I strongly doubt if many of today’s hunters can track their game, stalk within a few feet, and finally kill it. Their long-range arrows with compound bows and their high-power rifles make the task of killing easy. Modern hunters lack the basic and ancient skills, and thus lack the understanding of what the true hunt and hunter is all about. Grandfather did not want me to fall into this same complacency.
I began my hunt with many hours of deep thought and introspection, spending time alone to try and put things into perspective. I fasted for four days so that I could understand hunger and appreciate the gift of food the deer would provide. I took sweatlodge to purify myself and asked the Creator to help me with the hunt. Without the Creator’s approval, there would be no hunt and no game. Grandfather helped me through all these things so that I would fully understand the sacred act I was about to receive. I had to realize that I was a predator and a very intricate part of Creation. I had to recapture my birthright.
I left the camp in the early morning, armed with a flint knife. I wandered miles away from camp, relying on my inner feeling to guide me to the proper hunting area. I kept careful watch on the tracks and the landscape, looking for signs of a crippled or sick deer. I had to follow the laws of the predators, and could not take a healthy animal. Predators kill only those animals that are too sick or weak to survive, thus contributing to the continuation of the herd. I did not want to break that sacred tradition. Finally, my eyes caught the tracks of a small yearling deer with a defect in his right rear leg. He couldn’t have weighed over forty-five pounds and I was sure that he could never make it through the summer, far less through the winter. Choosing him as my deer, my gift of life, I prayed that the kill would be quick.
I tracked him for hours. His tracks followed his mother’s, but showed much trouble negotiating the tougher areas of the landscape. He tired easily and spent much of his time resting or trying to catch up to his mother. The more I studied the tracks, the more I understood this little deer. His bad leg was not as a result of a recent injury but either some kind of birth defect or an injury that occurred around the time of his birth. After a full day of tracking, it was painfully apparent to me that he could not run, but hobbled away feebly at the approach of danger. My heart went out to this little deer, so desperately hanging onto life, and I grew sick with the thought of what I had to do.
For several days I watched the little deer. I became very familiar, almost intimate, with his travels and routines. I tracked him, I watched him, slept near him and his mother, knew where he fed, drank, and played. Strangely, I felt part of the little group and was so close, as a matter of fact, that they stopped paying attention to me. Certainly, at first, they were very skittish, but as the days progressed, they saw me as no threat. I became as natural as anything on the landscape, a very deadly mistake for any deer, even a healthy one. Many times I got within only a few feet of the little one, once even close enough to touch him. So many times I could have killed him, but I wanted a clean kill and Grandfather had said that he wanted me to know my animal intimately.
I began to look at the whole affair as a predator, especially when the novelty of the close encounters became commonplace. A huge chess game began to play in my head, with me against the little deer, luring him into a perfect position and situation to give me an advantage and a clean kill. I watched every move and every look. I knew so much about the deer’s movements, even better than they did. Their routine would be the cause and end of the little deer’s life. That same deadly routine became ingrained in complaisancy; moving so often in the same way, they forgot to be aware. A routine that turns into a life-threatening rut happens not only to a deer, but to humans as well. I realized that if I ever allowed myself into a rut it would be certain death, just like it was going to be for the little deer.
My thought patterns became abstract, concentrating only on the hunt – the chess game. The life of the deer became the furthest thing from my mind, and the whole hunt lacked any visible emotion. It was as if I were outside the whole situation looking in, watching the hunter come closer and closer to the final act. My hunger was intense, my body tired, and I knew that the final moves had to be taken. I knew of a tree near a distant field where the little deer stood momentarily every day before he crossed the field. The concentration on the field and the heavy cover of the little tree would distract the deer enough for me to make a move without being noticed beforehand.
The thrill of the oncoming hunt overpowered all other thoughts and emotions. I strapped my flint knife onto a long, thin stick and took a few flakes from the flint to make it deadly sharp. My moves had been planned and replanned until my head was swimming with mental practice. I would sit in the tree just before the time of the day when the little deer’s routine would bring him to the edge of the field. When he got into his usual position, I would drop from the tree and drive my spear through his back and between his shoulder blades, using the momentum of my jump to drive the spear deep. If he didn’t die immediately, I would then track him to the point where he died.
I was in the tree, concealed and waiting, an hour before the little deer usually came to the field. I had darkened and camouflaged my body with mud and natural herbs. My internal dialogue was shut with a constant prayer and concentration on the hunt. Every leaf seemed to speak, not a sound or movement on the landscape went unnoticed: Everything had something important to do with the hunt and could not be overlooked. Every creature, every plant, the weather, wind, and earth were all players in this eternal game of death, of life giving to life. I had to be aware on all levels, physically and emotionally. I had to surpass all thought and allow my instincts and reactions to take over completely.
The deer approached the field right on time, his mother was up wind and a few hundred feet down field. As he had done hundreds of times before, he walked under the tree and stopped to survey the open field. There was no fear in him because nothing in his routine was broken, nothing on the landscape was out of place. With no thoughts in my head, allowing the predator within to take over, I dropped from the upper branches of the tree, onto his small back. I thrust the spear through one side of the deer’s back, off my intended mark by a few inches, but he went down. He thrashed, crippled in the hind legs because part of the spinal column had been severed, but still alive. In a fit of rage at my own failure at a clean kill, and fired by the awesome instincts of the predator, I began to choke the little deer to death.
It seemed to take hours to kill him. I was half out of my mind with the power of the kill when suddenly my eyes caught the eyes of the deer as he slowly died. A shock came over me as I now regained human consciousness, coming slowly to my senses. I gazed into the terror in his eyes, my hands trembling as I cut off his breath, my mind racing back to the week before and the way I knew this little deer as a brother. Another shudder from the deer brought me back to his eyes, but this time the terror was replaced by understanding and release. In that moment of intense eye contact, the deer knew he was to become my life’s blood; there was no struggle, only a knowing acceptance.
I fell off of him, exhausted. My body shook, not with excitement for the hunt, but with tears. His blood covered my and mixed with my sweat. I grew nauseous at the thought of what I had done. Natural order of things or not, I felt sick and disgusted with the whole killing. I knew this little deer as a brother, I followed him, watched him feed, and slept close to him for many nights. Now it was over. I had removed this deer from the flow of life, and I felt no better than a murderer. I just could not make sense of it all, nor could I ever forgive myself for this vicious act, sacred or not.
Still sobbing, I threw his body over my shoulders and headed back to camp. He was so light and sickly that I could hardly feel his weight. Except for the warm blood that ran down my chest and back, his presence was almost imperceptible. Thoughts raced through my head as I tried to justify his death. Certainly, I needed the meat to survive, and his flesh would find a rebirth in my flesh; but why did it have to be that way? Why the pain? Why couldn’t we eat plants instead of inflicting pain on another animal?
I knew killing now. It wasn’t easy and removed, like pulling back a bow or the trigger of a gun, allowing the arrow or bullet to do the killing. I felt the pain and loss known only to those who have felt an animal’s spirit slip through their fingers. I knew the awesome responsibility of the sacred hunt and the ultimate sacrifice of life giving to life. I would never kill again without feeling this pain and sacrifice. My prayers to the hunt would never be parroted emptily or without conviction. I knew the hunt.
The trip seemed endless, the demons of my mind swirled like clouds. So many questions unanswered, so much guilt, so many crushing and debilitating emotions. I tried desperately to make sense of it all. The tear and sobs were endless. My heart felt as if it were ripped from my chest, and there was no way out of my pain and sorrow. I had lost a friend, a brother, and couldn’t really justify his death. Would it have not been in the natural order of things to let him die of starvation this winter? Why do we have to be the caretakers, and how can I be part of this sacred cycle if I felt so much pain? In my mind I was denying that humankind was a necessary and intricate part of things, regardless of what Grandfather was trying to show us on the contrary.
As I walked up the path to the camp, I caught sight of Grandfather leaning against a tree, watching me. In a way I hated him for making me kill in this way. As I drew closer, I made no attempt to hide my tears but gazed right into his eyes. For a fleeting moment, I caught the same glimmer the deer had in his eyes, the all-knowing feeling. He plainly saw my pain and suffering. He sensed the myriads of questions flowing through my mind, as I know now he must have had at one time. He pointed an old and gnarled finger at me and said, “Grandson, when you can feel the same pain and suffering for a blade of grass ripped from the Earth as you do for that deer, you will truly be one with all things.”
His words hit me like a hammer. The death of the rabbits in my traps and the plants and trees torn from the ground to feed me had given me no pain in the past because I was removed from the killing. Now I understood fully. To be appreciated and respected, a thing need not be living, breathing, and warm-blooded, or have eyes and be considered cute; everything is composed of the same spirit that moves through all things, and all equally sacrifice their lives for our lives. The only difference is that up to this time I could not feel the pain of plants, I could not hear them scream or see them bleed. It wasn’t that we should give up killing deer or animals because they are like us, but that we should realize we are part of the spirit that moves through all things. Everything is equal if we listen with our hearts and not out minds.
Ever since his words were spoken, I have been on a quest to find the oneness of which Grandfather spoke. Over the years, I have found that oneness. I have learned to feel the pain and hear the voices of all living things. I know that all things are equal and should not be judged on some manmade merit system or evolutionary ladder. Beyond that, I have learned that everything is composed of that spirit: water, earth, sky and wind. They all contribute to life, every part a piece of an overall puzzle, everything necessary to the whole. When something is needlessly killed or removed from the flow of life with no forethought or feeling, then it is part of all things that are dying. We move within the realm of Creation, and Creation moves in us; there is no inner or outer dimension. Our quest should be to break down the walls and learn to be one with all things.