Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Slaughtering Goats and the Value of Food.

Spent my weekend slaughtering and butchering goats.  Actually, the neighbors came over to do the slaughtering, I just did the butchering.  We killed both goats.  We've been intending to do this all winter.  The last time we slaughtered goats, we took them to a slaughterhouse and got them back weeks later all wrapped up in plastic, like you'd see at the grocery store.  This was a much more intimate process.

First off, the goats were hand gentled.  Specifically to my hand.  This meant I had to catch them to tie them to the post.  Which I did with some sense of betrayal--these girls come to me because I feed them.  They even seem to have some affection for me.  I, certainly, am fond of them. 

But, we always knew this would be their eventual fate

My neighbor with the shotgun did the deed.  I didn't watch.

After that they were hung to help them drain.  Once they were hanging up, the neighbors gutted and skinned the carcasses, splitting them to hang overnight.  I took the entrails and hides far out into the woods where the coyotes will make quick work of them.

Today, we just finished cutting up the last one into edible pieces.  For those who've never done it (I'd never done it before and was going by the advice of my neighbors and a book), the large cuts through the bone are done with a sawzall.  After that various knives are used to cut them into cooking sizes.

On Sunday, daughter helped me.  Today, neighbor did.  Several hours of hard messy work, but oh, what a reward.  I love goat meat.

I will submit, that if one is going to be a carnivore in this day and age, one should have the experience of raising a meat animal.  Even if it a family project where one pays a farmer to keep a pig or keeps a couple backyard chickens.  

We are so removed from our food.  It is easy to forget that those neatly wrapped plastic packages were once living, breathing critters.  

I know some use this argument to promote vegetarianism, and for those who consider killing animals to be repellent, well sure, ok.  And it is true that much of the land used to raise food for our meat animals could be better put to use feeding people.  Surely, we don't need to eat as much meat as those of us in the West generally do, however, if all of humanity woke up tomorrow and became vegetarians, many species of animals would become extinct a short time later.  Almost all breeds of cattle, sheep, chickens and goats.  These are animals that have thrown their evolutionary lot in with us (figuratively speaking).  These are animals who cannot survive without our protection, feeding and care.  We are certainly not going to be caring for them if they no longer provide us with food (I don't see too many pet cows).

I think to be an ethical carnivore, one needs to have had the experience of at least cleaning an animal.  Heck, I think even cleaning a fish probably counts.  

It's interesting that the obesity epidemic comes at a time when so many people are divorced from even the preparation of their own food.  Without understanding the work that goes into preparation, it is difficult to value a thing properly.  So our relationship with food becomes more dysfunctional   

We eat food that is produced on factory farms, by almost slave labor and complain that it is too expensive.  We spend a lesser percentage of our incomes on food than almost any other country in the world.  We have driven the small farmer out of existence.  We make it very hard for new farmers to start.  Laws and regulations are designed to favor the big agri-corps in the name of food safety (when most of the safety issues in recent years have come from big ag).  Our food is picked, cleaned, harvested and killed by people we name illegals when American citizens, even in this economy, are very hesitant to take those jobs

The list goes on, but in the meantime, I have a freezer full of delicious meat.   More than that, I have a freezer full of meat that I am well aware of the value of.


Ed Webb said...

Anyone who consumes meat should be prepared to see an animal slaughtered. Not sure whether it has to be one with which one has an emotional history, but I can see some merit in that.

On pet cows, Al Jazeera English recently ran a segment about a German girl whose farmer parents refused to buy her a horse, so she trained one of the cows as a riding animal. It can even jump (low) show jumps. My sister kept pigmy goats as pets for a while when she lived in a nature reserve in the south of England. But your general point is quite right, of course. Domesticated animals and domestic animals are not identically pet-worthy.

mythago said...

Agree entirely. But having helped with chicken butchering and dressing as a little one, I think I'm kind of OK with the 'walk them to the slaughterhouse' method. Not because I'm squeamish but because I'm lazy.

Bryan's workshop blog said...

It was very hard, the first time I killed then butchered chickens. There's a vast, ontological gulf to be crossed, esp. if you don't grow up with this kind of... work.

Second time, it became easier, partly from it being less bizarre. But also because the roosters irritated me.