I have never gutted a fish.
I have never been in a fish mortuary.
I have never been a medical examiner (fisheries department).
I have never been in the film Jaws. Or a book by Peter Benchley.
I have never carried out a half-assed autopsy.
And I’m not entirely sure I would ever encourage half assedness in anything. Least of all dissection. You’re just going to make more of a mess, and that is someone’s bowels you’re dealing with.
I don’t even eat fish. Or at least, I never have. I don’t particularly want to end up in a time or place where a fish autopsy is actually something appropriate enough that I end up being coerced into it.
I mean. I’m genuinely having trouble thinking of that situation. And if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. What information could you actually gather from a shoddy autopsy? What are indicators of cause of death in a fish? Do fish bruise? Can fish drown? How can you tell?
I reckon I could quite quickly convince the group trying to force me to do this that while I was clearly passionate about doing the job right, I also just don’t have the know how.
So, I’ve managed to spend this evening thinking my way out of yet another unlikely imaginary awkward conversation. This is not a complete bust.
I do wonder what circumstance it would take to make me start clawing at a dead animal. I’ve been vegetarian a long time, but I’ve handled meat in the mean time, when needed to help in the kitchen. I don’t think I’m actually particularly squeamish, I just don’t want to put a dead thing through more embarrassment.
Embarrassment is clearly the wrong word, but there is a sense that we should still show respect for the bodies of the dead, and I like to think that would extend to animals.
But then. I’d personally want my body divvied up in the most useful way possible for the people around me. I can spare my heart, lungs or liver, some bone marrow, or whatever else can be taken. Then pop the leftovers in a shoebox and bury me somewhere pretty with a tree that’ll lay roots in me.
I guess there’s different kinds of respect.
There’s probably a lot to be learnt from the chopping up of animals though. It’s a complicated one for me. Biology is important and cool, but I don’t want to see any needless cruelty (and different people have wildly different understandings of the word ‘need’).
And fundamentally, I believe the dead are dead, and what made them alive is gone or changed completely. There’s no harm in poking around in the bit that’s left behind.
Leftovers, that’s all that bodies are.
So if you’ve found your reason, and your time, and your place, then maybe you should feel free.
Just try to commit yourself a little and do a proper job.
Illustration by Henry