I was at a kitchen table playing Dungeons and Dragons at twelve years old. It was Z’s birthday. His older brother was DM’ing. We were playing 2nd edition.
I’d rolled an Elven wizard who had 2 hit points. First level spells, hardly devastating. I spent most of the game waiting behind the party line as they fought monsters, scouted traps, preciously keeping my few spells for when they were most important. We went through a dark dungeon and came out of it. Then we met some merchants. Our warrior decided to rob them. I couldn’t handle that so I cast my first spell. I got him with a magic missile and it killed him (he’d been hurt in the dungeons). Promptly after that, our ranger got me back with an arrow to my 2HP skull. Two party members down and no high-level priests around to revive them, we all called it quits on the game. Some of the other kids were pissed. I’d put a stop to the night.
Every year I get older seems to muddy my convictions. I talk to Trump supporters and try to find the places they tuck away the good. Maybe its that I’ve had a longer life to live out my own imperfections – mistakes and missteps, tumbling off of high highways with no way of getting back.
I saw a pair of shoes I liked and was going to buy them until I looked at the label: leather lining. I put the shoes back. Can’t be both a vegetarian and a hypocrite, but when I got home and told this story to my roommate, her response was ‘leather is better for the environment.’ And that’s true. I know a guy who bought a $400 pair of leather loafers because they’re hand-crafted and able to be repaired, less lifetime waste. And even my mother – the first vegetarian I knew – bought leather shoes, for similar reasons.
But I can’t wear something else’s skin again. I just don’t have it in me.
I read a story about artificial eggs and dairy. The newest entry in the trend of impossible meat-free meats, biochemists isolated the whey protein producer and egg compounds and got a bunch of microbes to produce them en-mass. They sold their secrets for top dollars and now one company – Perfect Day – sells dairy-rich ice cream that never touched an udder. Pretty amazing. One of the scientists says ‘It’s a lot cheaper and more energy efficient than keeping a bunch of animals alive.’ I feel like there’s a dark lining there.
So I stick to my morals, I don’t buy the nice leather shoes, and I choose almond milk alternatives to dairy nine-times out of ten. But I still eat eggs occasionally, or a bit of cheese. What happens to the animals when we don’t need them anymore? A cow makes a poor pet.
Is there no way out of the violence? No, probably not.
A modern woman sees a piece of linen, but the mediaeval woman saw through it to the flax fields, she smelt the reek of the retting ponds, she felt the hard rasp of the hackling, and she saw the soft sheen of the glossy flax. Man did not see ‘just leather’, he saw the beast – perhaps one of his own – and knew the effort of slaughtering, liming and curing.
Dorothy Hartley, The Land of England: English Country Customers Through the Ages