For the love (and butchering) of animals

For the love (and butchering) of animals
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Around butchering time, I usually find myself in this conversation:

Someone: You seem to really love and care for your animals.
Me: I do.
Someone: And you can still…butcher them?
Me: I can.
Someone: How?

I’m not sure what it is about human nature, but we seem to have a morbid fascination with the fact that someone could both treat an animal kindly…and then kill it.

When butchering time comes around, I'm often asked how I can be so kind to an animal...and then kill it. Here's my answer.

There’s an unspoken assumption floating through the mainstream that states you can’t raise animals humanely or give them a happy life if you plan to put them on your plate. That if something has eyes and was cute as a spring baby, you can’t possibly be kind and loving and still intend to kill them come autumn. You have to be hard ass and detached and not care at all.

Raising and butchering an animal means you have to be detached and not care? I disagree.

You have to care.

For The Love and Butchering of Animals

If you didn’t care on some level, raising animals would be a ridiculous waste of your life.

It’s dirty. You get kicked and bit and rammed and pecked and pooped on. You make your entire schedule around animal needs, birth to death.

You spend the winter getting ready to do the process all over again.

And you’re never ever going to get rich. In fact, you’ll probably spend nights sitting at the kitchen table with your husband scratching your head and re-figuring your budget again…and again…

It seriously would be easier to just go to the grocery store.

Listen to me. I am so not kidding when I say that. Butchering is way more work.

 

I think sometimes we want to make farm folk out to be people who don’t care because it’s uncomfortable to think about the alternative. That someone might scratch the ear of a pig they know in two weeks will end up as bacon. Or might toss out treats in the front yard for the chickens who at the end of the month will be in the stew pot or on the grill.

Is it possible to treat an animal kindly...and then butcher it? Yes. Yes, it is. Here is my explanation about how you can do both. For The Love (And Butchering) of Animals -- A Farmish Kind of Life

I know some people can’t fathom the fact I can sweet talk a pig and then butcher it simply because they don’t think they personally could make that separation in their own minds if put in the same position.

A separation?

Maybe there isn’t a separation to be made.

Maybe treating animals kindly and then butchering are two things on a continuous line, not unrelated events on different pages.

When butchering time comes around, I'm often asked how I can be so kind to an animal...and then kill it. Here's my answer.

I chose this life in part because I wanted to be connected to what I eat. It seemed odd to me to have the means to raise my own food and not do it (at least in part), and instead rely completely on the Magic Food Fairy that supplies the local grocery store.

I wanted to know where my food came from.

I wanted connection to the process.

The entire process.

So yes.

I can love and treat my animals kindly.

And yes, I can butcher them.

And that’s the best explanation I have.

When butchering time comes around, I'm often asked how I can be so kind to an animal...and then kill it. Here's my answer.

Ready to read more? Check out…

How to Butcher a Pig 

10 Tips for Home Butchering

Chicken Butchering Set Up: 7 Things You’ll Need

Death: It’s Part of Life on the Homestead

Poultry Shrink Bags: Why You Should Use Them

When butchering time comes around, I'm often asked how I can be so kind to an animal...and then kill it. Here's my answer.

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23 thoughts on “For the love (and butchering) of animals”

  • I feel the same way. We just butchered a whole bunch of birds last Saturday. 63 meat birds and 3 turkeys that were bought just for that purpose, 15 were old laying hens, and 4 were Spring bantam roosters that we didn't want to keep. It was harder doing the 15 ladies because we'd had them for 2.5 years and they were good girls. If I went outside and yelled "chick, chick, chick, chick", they'd come running from all directions, as fast as their 2 little legs could carry them, because they knew I had treats.
    I'm very good to all of my animals. I talk to them and greet them with a "Goooooood mornin'" every day. I bring them out treats, buy them cabbages and watermelons, and help them when they're sitting on eggs and hatching babies.
    One thing I did when we butchered them was make sure it was done as nicely as possible. We didn't just cut a vein and let them bleed to death like some do, we offed their heads quickly and completely so that they weren't in pain for any longer than they had to be. I also didn't allow any of them to be killed while the others watched. It would've been easier just to kill the turkeys in the coop, but I didn't want their friends to see it or hear it, so we had to bundle them up and take them outside to do it.
    In the end, I think it comes down to the fact that we're going to serve meat at our house, and I'd rather raise a bird in a great place where they are treated well, than buy a bird that lived a horrible, filthy life and died a horrible death in some factory farm. Every animal I raise for my family is one less animal that had to suffer that way. If more people actually knew how factory animals were treated they'd probably raise their own food too, and then maybe the factory farms would change their ways. I doubt it, but every bit helps 🙂
    We're going to get our horse fences all set up next Spring and get some horses. We'll probably toss a cow in there too 🙂

  • I love this! I want to know that the animals I will be eating had the best possible life prior to becoming food. And the only way to know they had a good life prior to butchering is to raise them yourself.

  • I kiss my chickens and hug them. I love them like children…I have them here mainly for fertile eggs, but when stew-pot times comes I kiss them goodbye and know they had happier lives then anything I could buy at the store. We do them a kindness by raising them right! We're going to buy bacon and chicken at the store if we don't raise it. It's going to be the same age as our animals…but it had a miserable life. I'd rather know they were happy, even if it does make it a little harder on butchering day.

    Great post!
    ~L

  • I've been asked the same question, and I explain it very similarly. Good animal husbandry requires care, consistency, dedication, and a view of the big picture. Yes, I agree, butchering day has a solemnity to it – as it should. Taking lives to nourish our own is pretty serious business. My coworkers think I'm callous, but they have no problem ordering that grilled chicken salad. Makes me shake my head. How have we gotten to this point where it is much more common, and justifiable, to knowingly eat animals that were tortured?

  • You can know your food or you can not know your food. Everybody makes that choice whether they grow it themselves, get to know their local farmer, or close their eyes and pick through the styrofoam trays. To me it's just like politics, if you don't participate, you don't have the right to complain about what you got. Oh, I got on a soapbox- sorry!

  • I agree. I can't wait till we have a yard, though I'm generally a squeamish person (I couldn't watch the birth of my lo – told the midwife to get that mirror out of there!) so it'll probably be my hubby doing the butchering, but that doesn't bother him.

  • The other thing to think about is taking the responsibility to KNOW what went into the animals (i.e., meat) you eat . . . do I want to eat meat that was produced by being fed ground up diseased animal parts (yes, it does happen) or growth hormones or antibiotics that remain in the meat? No, thanks.

    A really good post!

  • Someone last summer stuck their noise up at me when I answered their question on butchering my animals, I got my feelings hurt but just for a minute then I said I would rather eat my animals, animals that I raised and that had the privilege of running through our fields, grazing on our land, drinking water from our spring than getting meat from the store that a lot of those poor animals more than not were stuck in a small pin and given a small space to eat and drink and never had the chance to run or play….. She looked at me and said she would rather eat an animal that was bread just to eat. I gave up smiled and walked away….

  • I am trying so hard to teach my dear sweet daughter who is very much against eating any animals to understand this. We buy locally sourced eggs (we do not live with the ability to house our own animals or garden etc.), and we have access to and buy when we can afford it local farm raised meat. We do not eat a ton of meat but we do eat it. She is very much against it. She fell in love with pigs, and also with a bunch of animals at a local farm and refuses to eat any animal she met. OYE- but she needs to realize there is a difference. Hasselman farm turkeys have a life, they live outside, they run around, and they are so much tastier come Thanksgiving. Their eggs are amazing too. I hope she can understand that its ok to eat an animal as long as its treated fairly, has access to a good life and is loved. Thanks for sharing your life experience with all of us.

  • I feel guilty when I eat meat from a grocery store, after learning how those poor creatures were raised. Butchering is not fun, and it’s a lot of work, but I am a meat eater and I feel much better about the knowledge that I gave these animals a much better life than those that were raised for the grocery store. I also feel that I am feeding my family a more natural product, and like the independence of knowing that I have the ability to raise my own food. I believe God gave us these animals for this purpose, and we are honoring these animals when we give them the best life possible.

  • I absolutely agree. I actually care more about the animals now that we do butcher. I appreciate them in a way I hadn’t before. I used to buy meat without a thought about the animal – silly, I know. But, I think most people are like that.

  • I am on the road to homestead. I loved this article. I want to know where my food comes from. I think there is such a disconnect with people that meat is from an animal. They seem to separate that in their mind. People don’t want to know go terrible the chicken industry is. People don’t want to know what the animals go through. I would rather know they are taken care of because I understand meat is from animals.

  • I find I eat less and less meat as I struggle with the ethical dilemna of whether we have the right to raise animals for no purpose other than to eat them. Raise sheep for wool, eat them when they die. Raise chickens for eggs, eat them when they die. Don’t get me wrong, I still endorse raising meat for food, but, I think I am headed towards a day when I don’t eat anything but eggs and fish I catch myself. In that scenario, you will find me aimlessly wandering the fields trying to find a cow who has died so I can safely harvest some steaks…..

    • I’m a long time coming to your blog. I was a child of the farm and land and aim to raise my children the same, when the day comes. It’s strange that so few people in my life now have ever killed their own dinner — to me, it’s an essential part of life, a lesson we must all learn from. As a child, I of course built relationships and loved and named all of our animals (well, maybe not *all* 200 chickens we got every year…) and, come the fall/winter, I would thank them for their companionship and then kill them. For a long time I was confused as to why people looked at me in horror at learning this facet of my lifestyle, but now I’m just kind of saddened by *their* confusion. It’s a beautiful cycle. It’s an understanding. Thank you for sharing your stories. 🙂

      Oh, and I can’t wait to raise and process my own hog someday!!!

  • Doing the right thing is not always the easy thing. I am looking forward to the day I can add animals to our farm. It will be a new experience to go through the butchering part of it, though. And I love your honesty. 🙂

  • I see this is an older post, but after having to unfriend a couple hundred “friends” on Facebook this year after getting our first feeder pigs I really enjoyed reading your response. Thank you!!!

  • This is well said. I work with a couple of folks that think I am abusing my animals because I butcher them. I even explained I simply wanted to know where my food is coming from.

  • I’m pushing my religion on no one, so please bear with me. When my children were little we made a point of loving and taking good care of them and when it came time to butcher them, we did so at the prime of their lives so they’d be at their best when they went to heaven to meet baby Jesus. And because we were so good and loving, they leave their bodies to feed us, because after all, only their little souls can go to heaven.
    I know it’s not gospel, but our children accepted it and it help them understand why they were our farm animals and not pets. Plus, as they grew older… and wiser, they continued to treat the animals with kindness and respect. Anyway, that’s just how we did it. As for comments now, at my age I don’t give explanations, just shrugs.

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