What made me write a story for an animal anthology? Good question. I've never had a pet. I've never campaigned to save the whale or preserve the polar bear. I'm not an animal person really. In fact the very idea of an animal story seemed anathema to me. I thought so much romantic nonsense had been written about cuddly this and fluffy that. But as Bridgehouse had called for submissions (how nice of them) I gave it some further thought.
First of all I decided to try and tell it like it is. Animals are not sweet. They eat each other. I also decided that I would be shamelessly anthropomorphic. I have no idea how animals feel, least of all fish. So trying to get inside the head of a salmon was a non-starter. Effectively Liberty and Acquiescence are humans inside fish bodies, but humans who have no knowledge of any other physical state. Sounds weird? Read the story in June.
Let me return to the eating thing. Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em. Little fleas have littler fleas and so ad infinitum. There is a balance in the world, or at least their was once. Nature was, and indeed is, red in tooth and claw. Salmon eat herring. Bears eat salmon. I can accept that this balance will change over time as animals evolve and the world's environment changes over millions of millenia. But the change we at the top of the food chain have managed to engineer in a tiny fragment of geologic time seems to me to be a radically new phenomena.
Man succesfully eradicated the large mammals from America. It was too soon for the modern environmental groups to mount a campaign to protect them. About 10,000 years too soon. Now we do at least have a choice. We can takes steps to allow animals their freedom and let them get on with their own lives, eating and being eaten.
Will it stop me enjoying a rich salmon fillet tomorrow evening? Certainly not. But I will try and ensure that my salmon has been sustainably fished and not caused damage to other wildlife, or for that matter to me, through the excessive use of antibiotics. Keep reading the blog and you might be rewarded with a delicious salmon recipe.
I hope that the money made and the awareness achieved through this book, of the richness and diversity of wildlife will encourage us all to keep it wild, to treat it with respect and to leave free what was born free. I also hope too that the human content inevitably contained in each story will remind us that stories help us to examine our own condition and to reflect upon our own values. Maybe, once in a while, it helps us change them too.
Tomorrow - a little more about the extraordinary journeys of the pacific salmon.