Wednesday, August 20, 2008
When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
Tecumseh, Native American
I have written about the day of slaughter before , and this year I will not write about any internal personal conflict I have with killing an animal to eat it. Let me be clear - it's a process to get to this stage of thinking when raising animals for food. Secondly, you have to walk in it for a time to really understand it well. And I just don't want to keep writing about it every year, as I've worked through it. Four years ago, I wasn't sure it did make sense. But now I know, for me, it just doesn't make sense not to raise our own meat. We buy our chicken and turkey from a free range grower, and only a few times a year buy pork. And while we eat vegetarian about 75% of the time, our particular bodies desire meat, and love it.
I have lived on the farm now 4 years and this is our third year of harvesting lamb. We have a local butcher come to our farm and do the actual slaughter. It is fast, humane and professional. The initial conflicts of my first two years have subsided. This is due to the fact that the more I live on the earth, the more I see animals interact in the barnyard and in the fields and forests and streams, and the more I understand and accept my place in the food chain. As a friend said, "Some creature's always eating something." Please don't write and scold me, telling me to become a vegetarian. I did that for some years, and I have nothing against you if you choose not to eat meat. After much thought over the years, I came to realize that if one is going to scold a human for killing a sheep for meat, they better start scolding the bird for eating the worm. Who is anyone to tell me that I am not in a food chain, albeit, I'm at the top of the food chain. I'm grateful for that. But after many years of my own individual experiences, I choose to eat meat, as does Martyn [who was also a vegetarian for many years.] But it is meat that is fed from the grasses we maintain, and the grasses are fed by the rain that fills our river. And the water from that river gives moisture to the sheep while they spend a days work eating the grass to fill their bellies. It is only fitting, and right, that they die here too, under our supervision and blessing.
I used to put the meat lambs away the night before slaughter and pretend it was like any other night. I'd say, "See you tomorrow" in a cheery tone like I do every night, hoping they would feel as if all was well, as it is every night. But that was really for me. They really didn't know what was coming the next day, but I did. But this year, I have turned some kind of corner. This season, every night I put the meat lambs, or "chosen ones" as we call them, into their night time stall, I said to them, "Good work today, thank you." I said that each nite. And tonight, on their last night, I will simply say, "Your job is almost done now, and you did everything very well. Thank you. You'll do just fine tomorrow." And they will. When the butcher leaves with the hanging carcases, he will give us the kidneys, liver and hearts of each animal. It's the clearest looking liver you'll ever see. I'll cook it in some garlic and onions and rosemary for dinner. Let me tell you, it is a very reverential moment for me.