Teste Situations

November 8, 2017 in Food, Home

Yesterday was another milestone here on the farm. Yesterday we sent our first lamb to freezer camp. Well, Troy actually did the deed. I was indulged in a state of panic getting product ready for market, as is the Monday norm.

In between filling containers of body butter I glanced out the window towards the barn to take in the progress. Movement inside the barn, then a wheelbarrow tipped out the door, then the sound of the tractor moving towards our water source and the area where we’ve been dressing carcasses. I put down my containers and ventured outside. I’d have been happy to avoid the whole scene, but it didn’t seem like the right thing to do, and so I went to see if I could help.

There was Troy, standing in front of the lamb that hung from the tractor bucket. I stood alongside him and joined in the stare. At eye level an enormous set of testicles confronted our gaze, and neither of us needed to say anything. Troy had made an initial cut into the belly, but I could tell he was a little thrown off by the dangling participles punching him right in the eye. We’ve slaughtered and butchered chickens and pigs and turkeys. None of those beasts had a set like this. I could hear Troy’s brain going through the motions. Where to cut? How to separate the goods from the goods? My brain couldn’t quite do the math, either.

I walked away and left Troy to Google sheep balls. As luck would have it, our neighbour (who is a sheep farmer and very experienced in these matters) drove by, saw that something was up, and stopped in. Under his watchful eye and instruction the carcass was castrated. Today we cut and wrapped our lamb. One more box of food for the winter – almost 60 pounds, we figure. We didn’t keep the testicles, something else will enjoy them.

Never in a million years did I think a dinner conversation might go something like this:

Him: Next year if there’s a ram lamb we’re castrating it early on. I just didn’t know what to do with those balls, did you see the size of them?!?

Me: Yeah, I wondered how we’d deal with those.

Him: When I was Googling sheep testicles I thought about keeping them. It sounded like they might be good.

Me: Yeah, I don’t think so.

My progressive female self wants to pull out all the symbolism, the Freudian and Jungian triggers, the social significance of dealing with testicles through death and cuisine. My other self wonders what sort of god-forbidden redneck I have become… I not only went through this, I thought it was interesting enough to write about.

In the end I think it comes down to the fact that neither of us feels good about killing things, even if it is to sustain ourselves, but humans are omnivores, and so are the animals that will end up enjoying those balls. We are all just meat, from head to toe, and eventually we too will be eaten by something.

Might as well make a note of it, after all, it might be on the test(es).

 

Meat is Murder?

November 4, 2016 in Food, Uncategorized

WARNING! THIS POST CONTAINS SOME GRAPHIC PICTURES OF MEAT PRODUCTION THAT SOME PEOPLE MAY FIND OFFENSIVE OR HARD TO VIEW.

Meat is murder? Well, that depends on which definition you use, and which meat you’re referring to.

Murder refers (according to dictionary definition) to the killing of another human. But the dictionary also describes “murder” as “to kill or slaughter inhumanly or barbarously”. I presume that when people claim “Meat is murder”, that’s the definition they’re using.

Moving the carcass from the pig pen

So yes. Some meat, undoubtedly, is murder. And that is exactly why we kill our own animals.

Now, if you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, I’m not going to convince you that what we’ve done is right. I am speaking to the omnivores and carnivores amongst us, all who hold some responsibility for the death of animals to produce food. There are 270 other carnivorous species of animal on the planet and 670 species of carnivorous plant, so it’s a wide audience, even if I don’t include my hamburger-loving friends.

A few weekends ago we (and by “we” I mean Troy and I) killed our pigs.

Sides hanging after skinning and gutting

It’s easy to make light of the product of that killing (mmmmm, bacon) for the sake of easing the reality of what we did. But when you’re standing in front of a live animal literally holding a gun to its head, when you’re choosing the exact second that its life will end, and then when the life is bleeding out of it from the slit in its throat, it is anything but easy. It is the hardest thing that a compassionate human being will ever do.

And that is exactly why we do it ourselves.

Death is not easy. Death is not pretty. Death sucks. But every living thing dies, and some things live specifically for the purpose they serve after they die. Many farm animals would never have any life at all if they weren’t being raised for the purpose of producing food. How one lives and how one dies are both important attributes to one’s existence. We believe that if we’re going to eat meat we have a responsibility to make sure that both the life and the death of that meat are as good as they possibly can be.

Removing the organs

It would be easy to load our pigs into a trailer and haul them to the abbatoir, picking them up days later neatly wrapped in butcher paper with no sign of entrails or other telling pieces. The pigs would be stressed by the trailering and the drive, the arrival at the slaughterhouse and the ensuing activities leading to death, but it would certainly be easier for us. (I’m not implying that abattoirs are bad – some of them might be, but there are some that are run by people who care as much about animals as we do). We also don’t fault the many small farmers who use those facilities, as the current food safety system doesn’t allow for meat to be sold unless it’s killed in an inspected abattoir. If you’re making a living selling meat you have no choice but to do it that way.

We raise meat for ourselves, so we can kill it where it was raised. When the time comes, we throw some feed on the ground and as the pigs eat and snorfle in the dirt we put the gun to their head and  pull the trigger. There is no stress, they don’t know it’s coming, they die instantly. There are no strange people, no strange places. Just us, the people who scratched their backs and brought them apples every day of their lives.

It’s the hardest way for us, but it’s the easiest way for the pigs. That is why we do it ourselves, even though we both hate every second of it.

I am not looking for sympathy from the anti-meat brigade. Rather, I hope to give animal-loving meat eaters an understanding of how we can bring ourselves to do the deed. We are the same people you are; the people who always insisted that we could never kill anything, the people who have nightmares leading up to the day, the people who would much rather buy a pound of pork at the farmers’ market so that we don’t have to look it in the eye while we pulled the trigger. In the end, though, food production on any scale is a responsibility to the environment, the animals and ourselves. Knowing how something lived, and how it died, is a part of that process. We kill our own animals because we feel it is the right thing for us to do. It’s not because we don’t care about them, it’s because we love them.

An opportunist hen taking advantage of an easy meal

Every time we kill an animal I am forced to reconcile my feelings about causing that death with my own desire to eat meat. And yes, I will fully admit that it IS a desire, but I also firmly believe that biologically humans are designed to be omniverous. I remind myself that humans are the only animals on this planet who can or will make a conscious decision to eliminate a certain kind of nutrient source from our diet. It doesn’t make the killing easier, but it does remind me of why I am not a vegetarian or a vegan. As an animal lover those lifestyle choices would be much easier for me to digest mentally, but animals would still die as byproducts of the production of my food – it would just be easier to tune it out.

Killing does not feel good to me and it never will, but food security feels amazing. With scary things about to happen across the border, with an increasing world demand for intensive agriculture that destroys the environment and our health, with rising food prices and decreasing nutritional content in the products we buy, it feels good to know that I have 3 freezers full of meat and vegetables that came from here and my neighbour across the road. It feels good to know how my food grew, and exactly what went into its production. It doesn’t make the killing easier, but it does remind me of why we are doing it. It will be just as hard next year when we do it all again, but I wouldn’t change it for the world, and as the world changes, I suspect a lot more people will be doing the same thing.

Not all meat is murder. Some meat is just doing a hard thing for all the right reasons.