Thursday, June 24, 2021

Why Do We Want to Feed Lives We Aren’t?

Humans have an obvious compulsion,
Found even among foraging bands
According to some ethnographies,
To give bits of food to nonhumans.

There’s an excellent possibility that this
Impulsive habit, not any planning
Aforethought, started the domestication
Of animals, though it can’t explain crops.

Moreover, we discriminate: we choose
Some creatures to feed, some to shoo,
Some to both hunt and feed, or feed
And keep, or to shoo, kill, and leave.

Moreover, the species we domesticate,
Once we start feeding them, go extinct.
True. In the wild, they go extinct, or fall
On their last ropes, at best, like wolves

And Scottish wildcats. Aurochs long gone.
Who at a petting zoo, a family farm,
A fast-food joint serving chicken has ever
Seen a jungle fowl in the wild? Wild

Turkeys do alright so far in some parts,
But as a general pattern, species morphed
By handouts go extinct from former lives.
One even wonders about hominin cousins

Now lost. We are self-domesticated,
After all. But why? And when did this get
Started? It’s such a strange compulsion
To think about—offering bits of food,

Not just to mates, kin, total strangers,
But to arbitrary other species, and by so
Doing, sometimes to slowly reel them in.
The last Aché to roam the forests far

From missionary settlements sometimes
Would share food with peccaries, briefly
Adopt monkeys they’d orphaned as pets.
They never domesticated them, but

For tens of thousands of years, neither
Did people anywhere fully domesticate
Anything. One suspects the habit only
Incidentally, under certain circumstances,

Could ever lead to things like cattle,
Pigs, horses, dogs, sheep, chickens, cats.
The fact domestication sometimes, finally,
Happened is inadequate as explanation.

A small, snot-nosed child, a lonely hunter,
Someone foraging berries or tubers, once,
Somewhere, wanted to entice a bird or
A stealthy creature closer. Someone

Tossed some scraps and was delighted,
Rather than alarmed by, or even wary of,
What snuck in to snatch it. Offered more.
Clucked. Tsked enticingly. Here you go.

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