“Doesn’t butchering animals bother you?” Here’s my answer…
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Because I’m a gal who writes and talks about butchering, I’m often asked, “Doesn’t butchering animals bother you?”
The conversation usually goes something like this.
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 guarantee you my husband and sons have never been asked that. Just sayin’.)
So let’s dig into this question that often ends up in my email inbox or my Facebook messenger. Does butchering animals bother me?
(Don’t want to read all the words? This blog post is also a podcast—just press the triangle play button on the little black bar at the top of this post!)
My short answer to the does butchering animals bother you question is no, butchering animals doesn’t bother me for two reasons: it puts food in my belly and I like to know where that food came from.
The longer answer is not necessarily more complicated, but sure gets into some “stuff.”
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.
Wait. Being a homesteader and raising and butchering animals means you have to be detached and not care?
I completely disagree.
You have to care.
If you didn’t care on some level, raising and butchering 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.
I am so not kidding when I say that. Butchering animals 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.
Here’s the thing.
The fact that we can sit around and discuss whether or not it bothers us to butcher an animal we’ve raised proves how much society has distanced itself from where its food comes from. It proves to me how easily we can get our food today.
For much of society, eating has become a completely un-involved process.
Not too many generations ago, you didn’t eat unless you were somehow involved in the process. I guarantee you the pioneers were not emotionally lamenting over taking the life of a deer, chicken, or cow. If they wanted dinner, that’s just what they did.
And that’s not to be crass. That’s not to say our great grandparents or pioneer relatives had no emotion at all. But let’s be clear, eating meat is an involved process. An animal is born and lives and dies to sustain your life — and we shouldn’t be flippant about that.
It’s just that I don’t think the pioneers spent hours upon hours mulling over their thoughts about it like we do with each other on social media. It’s just how life was.
And, for some of us, describes how life still is.
“Butchering animals? No. Not me. I don’t think I could even bring myself to butcher a chicken.”
I often hear, “Props to you, girl…but I don’t think I could butcher a chicken. I don’t think I could handle it.”
Listen. In order for you to eat a chicken, someone has to butcher it.
Another way to say that is: you are eating meat because someone else is willing to take the life of what you’re choosing to put on your plate.
How’s that for heavy? Let it sink in for a moment.
Some people have told me they’re glad that they have farm folk like me who are willing to raise the animals and butcher so they don’t have to.
And I get that. I do. And homesteaders and small farmers are so thankful for people who support them in their farmish endeavors by, for instance, purchasing responsibly and ethically raised meat from their homestead.
But at the end of the day, I think it all comes down to this: if you personally had no other option, if you personally couldn’t go to the grocery store or the farmer down the road and buy chicken, beef, or turkey—what would you do?
Because, really, you’d have two choices. Become a vegetarian or raise your own meat.
I’ll say it again, the choice to eat meat is hugely involved. I don’t think it’s a process you should separate yourself from or do mindlessly. And if you’re a homesteader and have the means, I greatly encourage you to become part of the entire process.
I think if you’re going to eat meat, you have to at least be willing to consider it.
Butchering animals isn’t a thing most people have to do.
Most people don’t have to butcher their own meat anymore, thanks in part to the uber huge meat factories that exist. And while we can badmouth huge meat factories all we want, the simple fact is most of the general public is able to eat meat because they exist. Not just because there is someone to raise the animals…but there’s also someone to butcher them, package them, and put them in the freezer.
That’s a convenient way to get away from the levity of the situation, yes?
Now, I realize not everyone can raise their own meat. Not everyone has a property that can sustain such activity in a responsible manner and make it worth their while. I realize I am incredibly lucky to be able to live where I do with the opportunities I have—but I think with that comes some responsibility to talk about all parts of the lifestyle.
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.
Butchering animals is how I am able to eat meat.
And that’s the best explanation I have.
Ready to read more about butchering animals? Check out…
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