The REAL 'omnivore's dilemma' (notes on my first slaughter)
So you want to eat meat? I do. For a lot of reasons. Yet aside from a few spear-fishing trips, I’ve never killed my own dinner.
Like the vast majority of you, I’ve been content to order meat at a restaurant and purchase my slaughtered and dressed beasts at the market––until recently, that is.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been slowly but steadily gravitating towards a lower animal protein diet. I’ve joined a CSA (community-supported agriculture group). I’ve begun raising goats and chickens. I’ve been gradually eliminating my I-don’t-know-where-it-came-from meat consumption at restaurants. And I now eschew all meats at least three days a week.
It’s largely an environmental thing as much as an anti-industrial animal agriculture-slash-animal welfare issue. But it’s also undoubtedly about making healthier, less-expensive choices for myself and my family.
Increasingly, however, it’s evolved into a more complex consideration: It’s also about the morality of killing animals for my “use” and the potential hypocrisy involved in eating animals I refuse to slaughter for myself.
After all, it’s easy to sit back and let everyone else do the dirty work. Until now, all I’ve had to do is walk into my brightly lit, well-chilled mega-market and pick out a pricey bird labeled “humanely-raised” and feel the self-satisfied pride of someone in control of her destiny.
But no longer...
At the risk of getting too personal and incurring your wrath, here's the story:
This week has been an adventure in animal agriculture for me. After receiving hate-mail from an angry neighbor disturbed over my rooster (Elvio) and his 4 AM vocal expressions, I’d been sending out emails to all my contacts in the CSA community.
So you know, looking for homes willing to take a juvenile rooster who’s as happy to attack your dog as sit next to you in the evenings and have his waddle stroked is not so easy. Not when everyone admits that he’s at a fine age for broiling, despite his rooster-ish appearance. Not when they all confirm that his territorial presence would be unwanted unless I would deign to permit his inclusion in a stew.
So that’s when I decided: Either I turn him loose on an unsuspecting homestead in Florida’s “Redlands” or I buck up and do what’s expected of me as a backyard poultry farmer––sans the stress of transport.
By the end of the week, the latter seemed like the only real option. It didn’t help that he’d drawn blood from my sick Sophie Sue and the dogs were now too scared to enter his backyard territory. It didn’t help that I’d not had a full night’s sleep for two months.
But this rooster is so sweet and solicitous (with me, anyway). So pet-like. Could I really do it?
I’d learned everything I needed to know in vet school. I’d killed dozens of chickens in my poultry rotation (for post-mortems, not for food). Since then, I’ve euthanized hundreds of pets. I’ve even euthanized my own personal loved ones, refusing to let anyone else do the deed when they could die more surely and honestly at my own hands. So why does this have to be so different?
In the end, it wasn’t very different. I had my boyfriend by my side for moral support. And I made it fast, surprising myself with a long-repressed chicken-killing efficiency. From a quiet, roosting bird to a dead bird in under three seconds. Some flapping. Then nothing.
And that’s when the dirty work really began. But, by then, it wasn’t Elvio anymore. It was just another chicken headed to the pot. One that, like all others, still deserves the kind of respect and care you’ll never find in a chicken McNugget. It’s “coq au vin” for Elvio––though, to be honest, I’m still not sure I’ll be dining on him, myself. Can you blame me?