“Doesn’t butchering animals bother you?” Here’s my answer…
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
A Farmish Kind of Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. You can view our full affiliate disclosure here.
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…
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
Subscribe to my Farmish Kind of Life podcast at iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, PlayerFM, or other popular podcast players. All episodes of the podcast will also be linked under the podcast tab that you can find way at the top of this post in my menu bar.
26 thoughts on ““Doesn’t butchering animals bother you?” Here’s my answer…”
I agree with you 100%, I feel everybody should see where their food comes from, especially children who seem to be so disconnected from the process.
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.
With the tragedy of the blizzard I have been shocked at people's callous comments about the Ranchers in regards to what you are talking about.
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.
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!
Well said. I would much rather know the animal I am eating was treated kindly than worry about where it came from.
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….
Bred not bread 🙂
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.
Thank you for this post! I was taught at a very early age that an animal’s purpose is to feed us. But, we can give it the best life we can and then, it can give back to us.
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.
Even the people who do not eat meat because it was alive need to realize that the vegetables that they eat were alive until someone killed them . the plants breathe ,so when you gather the vegetables you are killing them. so what is the difference?
Hi my name is natasha obviously not really that relevant. But I came across this article on pintrest. And lady I totally disagree with you, you sound so uneducated!
So what you are putting out there is that you are loving and caring for these animals making them feel loved and then just ending their lives? And thas okay to society cause thats how we were brought into it. But do you really think that if us humans were going around killing eachother it would the way we do woth animals we would get thrown in jail for man sluaghter! But just because its an ANIMAL same as us different form and cant speak we have every right to kill and take advantage of them which is sick.
It would be like if someone gave you love and care and you turn around and you backstab them, betray them!
They have feelings they reason and are a lot smarter then us if you guys had some knowledge youd know this! But you guys think your so great eh just for money
SOCIETY IS SICKENING
Read and learn people meat either way is not naturally supposed to be proccessed through us is unnatural it takes 6 months in total for red meat to digest thats unnatural lmao thats why people are obese and over weight
Eating meat is like eating a hink of your body or fat but its just from a different spieces plus meat has hormones in it that CAN activate cancer cells, from eating meat to you have a higher risk of cardiac arrest or a heart attack your all uneducated and I dont care what anyone says how are you an animal lover if your killing innocent beings who have done nothing to you but be loyal and themselves?
We ruin and destruct other species homes and lives but dont think about how much we should really think about doing it to ourselves cause man we are a disgusting society
Enjoy your life being heartless period i dont care what you say your taking a life.
Theres other jobs so thats not an excuse lmao and its your fault you fucking signed up for it those animals have feelings you idiot ya there gonna shit on you kick you and other things cause they know why and where they are they know whats gonna happen
When a baby poops kicks crys you dont murder it you idiot go teach yourself
PROUD TO BE EDUCTED
Hi there. I question why someone who is clearly a vegetarian/vegan would take the time to read a post that is obviously written from an omnivorous homesteader’s point of view. Seems an odd thing to spend your time doing. In any event, I’m approving your comment for the public to see because a) it’s okay to disagree and b) I think it’s cool to live in a place where you have the freedom to state your opinion.
However, for the record, it actually is possible to state your opinion about a lifestyle you disagree with without calling someone an idiot.
Oh. And I think you meant PROUD TO BE EDUCATED. Educted means a totally different thing.