I wrote last year about my conflict of raising animals for meat. My quest for comfort is still unresolved, but it has been softened - not because I am any less feeling, but because I am even more aware of the importance of respecting livestock and those small farmers that are doing their best to provide food for themselves and others. Please do not write me and suggest my angst would be gone if I just became a vegetarian. Hogwash. Animal by products are everywhere, and simply ruling out meat is not as simple a solution as one might think. Nor is it my choice. While I applaud vegetarians that don't eat meat because they love animals, I have thought about this over and over and over. While some are quick to say things like, 'But you love animals, it is immersed in your art and life, how can you kill them...", I would respond, "Please come walk in my shoes, live on this farm, watch the interactions and the pecking orders of nature, and you will see that I am part of a food chain begun a universe ago. " My goal as a small farmer and human is to respect the food chain, but never act the pompous king simply because, at this moment in history, I am more or less at the top of the chain.
And so, here we are again, with the impending 'harvest' of the meat lambs on my conscious. On Saturday, the mobile butcher will arrive at the farm, and within seconds, the 4 animals I have cared for will be butchered, shot in the head - quickly. I am writing that bluntly, because I think people need to hear it. I will go through the usual blessing the night before, placing lavender on their nighttime stall, and thanking each one individually. I soften my conscious by referring to this as 'harvesting', as if killing a 5 month old lamb is the same as pulling a zucchini off the vine. Yet, in a big picture, I feel it is.
Many will scoff at me - but I watch the feral cats survive on a baby bird, rodents - am I to judge them? I watch a hen snatch a moth - am I to judge her? Am I to separate out the living beings of the many grass blades that my horse eats as unworthy of my angst? No - so if I am to rule out meat or poultry or fish, so should I rule out all living creatures including vegetables, fruits and eggs.
I am proud of our efforts here. It is very small scale. While the final days leading up to the butcher date are uncomfortable for me, it is what I choose to do - to raise a small amount of meat that has no foreign food in it, doesn't get hauled in from New Zealand or even out of state. The only energy I'm using is the air and the sun, and the 6 miles of gas the butcher uses to come to our farm and electricity of small amounts to freeze it. We have become more sustainable than last year, and this year we have more goals - it is an ongoing effort, as it is with many. The night of the harvest, we will eat fresh liver - it is our way of showing the animal that his life was not in vein. I always well up a bit when we eat our first meal of the harvest - not from sadness, but from pride - for both the animal and for the farmer. Chew slowly tonight, and give thanks, no matter if you are eating a tomato or a fillet - they all are bounties of our earth.