Thursday, 14 January 2010

Not a day for vegetarians

I'm not very good at killing things. For years, I shied away from killing mosquitoes, although 18 months in Minnesota (where the mosquito is the state bird) cured me of that. And yet barely a meal goes by where meat is not on the table (my partner says I'd make a lousy vegetarian). In the last over a year or so, much of that meat has been ours; but those pigs were taken to the abattoir and the business of 'dispatching' them was done by some faceless person in white.

More recently, I've had to take things into my own hands. I killed a chicken who'd been sick for a while and didn't respond to drugs (we tried). And a rabbit who had been bred for the table (I won't go into details). Both were very difficult, especially as, which may make no sense, I tried to do it by surprise.

Today, I took things to the next level. (If you want to stop reading now, go ahead. This post is largely for me.) A friend with a chasse licence and a powerful rifle came round this morning and shot one of the pigs through the head. (This is legal here if it's for your own consumption, which it is. Or so I'm told.) We decided on this method after a lot of reading and talking. The locals favour stringing the pig up by the back leg(s) and slitting the throat. But this makes a lot of noise and would distress us, the pig and his brother and sisters (one of whom is heavily pregnant) nearby.

It felt like cheating, having someone else pull the trigger (and very much like cheating when he showed me how to kill and skin two rabbits that were overdue for the pot). But it was a relief to have someone so experienced in killing animals on hand (it's very lonely when it's just you). My friend told me he thinks of the good life the animal had, instead of the animals that are farmed more intensively for the supermarket or restaurant. Certainly, this pig lived nearly a year longer than he otherwise would have (we took him instead of the abattoir) and ranged free in the woods. He will now feed us for many weeks and I am very grateful to him.

But I can't help wondering that there's something ethically 'wrong' in keeping an animal with the intention of eating it (even if that's the only reason it's alive). And that it might be easier to kill an animal in the 'wild' (but then I suspect, being the namby pamby green-tinged neo-spiritual liberal that I am, that I would let the animal go off and keep doing its natural thing). Next time it may have to be me, pulling the trigger. Or even, the trigger of my own gun.


  1. It's something that I think about too even though I've not had to do it myself - yet.

    I think that we are omnivorous and therefore we require some meat in our diet even though we do not need meat every day.

    It's too easy to say "become vegetarian and save the planet", I'm not sure I want to do without milk/cheese/butter as well. As in if you keep cows for milk they need to have calves; on average half of them will be male, what do you do with them? Same comes with eggs, there always seem to be more cocks than hens when raising replacements. There's already been far to much GM in farmed animal already, I'm not sure I want the clone route.

    What I believe we don't need is the intensive animal farming we have for cheap food. Respect for the animals should be paramount.

  2. Agreed on all fronts. I think because we're not in utter survival mode, we have the luxury of theorising about such things (I suspect vegetarianism would be pretty much impossible in our natural hunter-gatherer, seasonal menu state - humans still living in the wild eat what crosses their path).

    But this not being in survival is pretty tenuous - I heard or was told that we are only five meals away from barbarism. That is, if the food supply dried up completely before breakfast, all hell would break loose the afternoon of the following day.