Digesting the Iguana

This lizard is worth $10. It can feed a family of four for a week once it is turned into an iguana soup. The meat tastes like, well, crocodile. Somewhere between scallops and veal. Its mouth is wired together with a nylon string punched through its cheeks. If it bites a finger, you lose a digit. Its legs are hobbled. The man who caught him is lucky to catch one a week. The man has all his fingers. He has caught more than 200 iguanas and sold them all, usually to people who throw them in their trunk and give them to the maids to cook in the bigger towns toward the south.

In Chihuahua, I bought falcons for $10 a pair and let them go after driving a few miles along the highway to keep them away from their captors. I always insisted on buying the cages, which I would destroy and hide. The military pulled me over one day and an officer screamed at me about trafficking in wildlife and I screamed back that it shouldn’t be my fucking job to police the open-air market in falcons just two miles around the bend, and I’d be happy to go tell my version of the story to any general he chose. But to the birds, privately, who lay on their backs with their claws up in the air, between them and me, I had a sharp rap on the beak and a warning to not be so stupid and fly back into the trap because I won’t be here next week. Didn’t matter. As they flew away, I knew they blamed me. And next week they will be in somebody’s broth.

Turtle eggs sell for $3 a dozen. A ridley can lay 100 at a time. A full-grown Ridley can make a lot of soup, and needs a half-dozen whacks of the machete to be decapitated. I filmed a pretty scene for a movie on a beautiful beach in Mexico two years ago, and a week later some boys came on the beach and killed 80 mother Ridleys in an act so wanton it made the top five stories on Yahoo.

And yet, none of these creatures is any different from a Chicken McNugget or a beef burrito from Chipotle. The iguanas live lives of some freedom, after all, searching for mates and scrabbling for households, so who cares how they get caught up in the food chain? Why don’t I fly into a rage and liberate chicken coops? Or simply stick to soybeans and tangerines?

Can I trick myself into thinking the freedom I buy for this stupid lizard makes me any less the hunter?