Through the use of anecdotes in the article “A Savage Life”, Suzanne Winckler effectively points out that it is important to understand where your food comes from. Winckler helps convey to readers that while butchering animals is no fun, it is necessary for the survival of omnivores. She argues that meat-eaters are out of touch with reality; instead of recognizing that an animal must be sacrificed for their meal, most consumers mindlessly devour the food on their plates – without a thought of where their food came from. Winckler states “I am too far gone in my rational Western head to appropriate the ritual of cultures for whom the bloody business of hunting was a matter of survival” (634); in this statement she adequately appeals to logos by helping readers realize most cultures kill animals as a way to gain nourishment – nothing more. Through the use of pathos, logos, and ethos throughout the essay, Winckler appropriately directs readers’ attention to the fact that they should be thankful animals lose their lives for the well-being of humans.
Winckler begins her argument by explaining she butchers chickens every few years with some friends in order to make a small profit. She immediately describes the process: “we had decapitated, gutted, plucked, cleaned and swaddled each bird in plastic wrap for the freezer…for dinner that night we ate vegetables” (633). This declaration is powerful in that it shows Winckler does not find chicken appetizing after butchering it; she is conveying that most meat-eaters would be turned off by the process of slaughtering their own chickens. She remarks “butchering chickens is no fun, which is one reason I do it” (633). Some may see this phrase as a post hoc logical fallacy because Winckler seems to contradict herself; most people cannot fathom why someone would do an activity because it is no fun. Well, through close reading, it is understandable that Winckler dreads the process of killing animals, but she believes so deeply in it because, to her, it is essential to maintain a connection to her food. She goes on to describe the first time she caught a chicken to chop its head off, “I cradled it in my arms…it had the heft and pliability of a newborn baby” (633). Through this proclamation, Winckler successfully appeals to pathos because she makes it simple for the audience to see the connection between a newborn and a chicken about to lose its life. Both chickens and newborns are ignorant to the world and rather helpless – comparing a human to the food that one eats helps to put the killing of a chicken into perspective. Winckler then gruesomely explains what it is like to behead a chicken; appealing to both pathos and ethos: “Headless chickens don’t run around. They thrash with such force and seeming coordination that they sometimes turn back flips” (633). By using imagery to describe this horrific requirement for killing a chicken, Winckler is seen as a credible and factual source.
After slaying her first chicken, Winckler “realized why cultures, ancient and contemporary, develop elaborate rituals for coping with the grisly experience of killing any sentient creature” (633). She appeals to logos in this quote by informing readers of the epiphany she came to – taking them through her mind’s thought process; this makes her come across as a logical being, not a demented human. By appealing to logos in this quote, Winckler invokes thought in readers’ minds; she productively addresses that killing animals is disturbing and off-putting but necessary for survival, since most nations perform rituals to compensate for the murder of an animal’s life. Winckler advances her claim by explaining that “on the assigned morning, we [Winckler and her workmates] are slow to get going…I [Winckler] feel my shoulders hunch and my focus is narrow. It is like putting on an invisible veil of resolve to do penance for a misdeed” (633-634). Clearly, Winckler does not enjoy the act of slaughtering chickens; she appeals to pathos in this quote by showing she is remorseful for taking their lives.
“Slaughtering my own chickens is one of two opportunities (gardening is the other) where I can dispense with the layers of anonymous people between me and my food. I have no quarrel with them. I just don’t know who they are” (633). Winckler makes an important point here – consumers will never be fully aware of the complete process their food goes through; therefore, shoppers should be closer to their food. Most people don’t think about where pigs are raised and then slaughtered to later be turned into bacon, for example; in a possibly unsanitary factory. According to Winckler, it would be much safer for omnivores to cultivate their own produce and raise their own cattle for steak, opposed to purchasing these products from a grocery store.
She continuously presents plausible arguments for why one should be close to their food. To support her thesis, Winckler admits her “mother, who was born in 1907, belonged to the last generation for whom killing one’s food was both a necessity and an ordinary event” (633). She refutes “my survival does not depend on killing chickens, but in doing so I have found that it fortifies my connection to her [Winckler’s mother]” (633). Winckler brings her argument full circle by helping readers further understand why she kills chickens – not because it is fun, but because it strengthens the bond she has with her mother.
By providing as many intimate details as possible, Winckler builds ethos with readers. Because she has personally butchered chickens and does so regularly, Winckler makes it easy for readers to trust her point of view. She finishes the essay by saying “I have inherited the most important lesson of all in the task of killing meat: I have learned to say thank you and I’m sorry” (634). By emphasizing that it is of the utmost importance to feel thankful for the animals that get killed for food, Winckler hits the homerun with this quote. Throughout the essay, she consistently provides support for her thesis – touching on many different aspects of what it is like to butcher a chicken and why omnivores should be closer to their food. Finishing an already convincing article with “I have learned to say thank you and I’m sorry” (634) is a phenomenal way of extending thought in readers’ minds.
Winckler, Suzanne. “A Savage Life.” Reading Literature and Writing Argument. By Missy James and Alan Merickel. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. 632-34. Print.