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.
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.
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.
You have to care.
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.
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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.
I am so not kidding when I say that.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I can love and treat my animals kindly.
And yes, I can butcher them.
And that’s the best explanation I have.