Animal Sacrifice, Avians, and the ATRs

In case you didn’t read the title, this post is going to feature the topic of animal sacrifice. No doubt it will piss some people off, and I won’t care. So if this topic is something that gets you all worked up, go somewhere else. This post will detail my own personal perspectives regarding birds; if you want something that gives a more general overview on the topic, you can read my colleague’s post here.

In being an avian aficionado and being involved in the ATRs, I’m in a very unique position. I can either be seen as a barbarian for participating in animal sacrifice, or I’m too sentimental when it comes to the birds. As the augur or ‘avian tech’ I inspect the birds for health, divine with them, and prepare them for the Big Moment. I also have a pet hen and 3 quail, and I divine using a mated pair of Old German Owl Pigeons affectionately named Punta and Pinga. They fulfill 3 functions: as important spiritual tools, as therapy animals, and as cherished pets. People wonder how I can make these separations in my mind. It’s very easy for me. I look at numbers and facts. I am also a carnivore. And so are the majority of the people and spirits I interact with on a daily basis.

A stack of birds.  My pet hen and one of my quail.

A stack of birds. My pet hen and one of my quail.

People’s negative opinions on animal sacrifice are primarily fueled by ignorance, xenophobia and racism, with a liberal frosting of sheltered pacifism. The same people who would hurl stones at those who practice animal sacrifice are the very same people who would cram Burger King deluxe chicken sandwiches in their cavernous maws. They don’t even think about where that chicken “meat” came from. Or they will try to justify it by saying that it was from birds raised as food for human consumption. They don’t think about the fact that these broiler birds are bred to suffer and die in horrible ways. That’s 9 billion birds. Anually. The birds we eat from factory farms are horribly deformed, spend most of their time laying in their own feces, and with suppurating and infected sores. How appetizing. Their deaths are equally unappealing. There are no bird-specific regulations, and humane slaughter standards do not apply to poultry. Which means these production-raised birds live out their lives in misery, and die in horrific ways. For example, being boiled alive.

While we’re on the topic of chickens specifically, they weren’t even originally domesticated for food.  The bird’s use as food exclusively is a relatively new invention in the history of bird husbandry.  The birds I have handled prior to sacrifice have all been raised in the sunlight, scratching in dirt.  They are healthy, sturdy, vibrant animals who can walk and run, even fly.  No sores, no diseases or infections.  When it’s time for them to die, it happens quickly and cleanly.  I can’t even compare to the ones I see shrink-wrapped in the supermarket. I don’t think I will ever understand how it is perfectly fine to raise and slaughter an animal in this manner, but completely unacceptable to take a perfectly healthy, well-adjusted bird from a smaller farming operation and pray over it before making it a sacred offering, where it is then shared with the spirits and the people present.  We feast on animals who live and die in agony.  Most humans don’t even die as peacefully.  Many die riddled with disease, stuck within a medical system that encourages lingering and undignified deaths based on conservative Christian thinking, leaving the surviving family to deal with horrible debts and the trauma of watching their loved one slowly die in agony.  It’s a degree of backward thinking that could only be sustained by privileged, sheltered xenophobia and wilful ignorance.

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