Monday, March 16, 2009

slaughtering with love


When I started the farm, knowing I would be raising animals for meat, certain ethical conundrums needed to be thought out. How could it be, I thought to myself, that animals could be killed, their life extinguished, without creating something akin to negative karma? How to slaughter, for example, a happy, care free lamb in good conscious? To some, perhaps such demands can never be met.

The animals here, in fact, the whole farm, is the direct result of human intervention, direct participation, imprinting one's will, within the system of nature. No humans, no lamb and no farm. Domesticated animals and farms are both human constructs, incapable of existing sans human volition. The beauty, the essence, of our specialy bred Large Black pigs or Icelandic sheep, their aesthetics, meat quality, hardiness, these are the qualities which make these two types of animals so special. Take away the hands of humans in this development and there no longer exists such breeds. Their essence resides in the very fact that they excell at being animals used for human consumption. When I look at our top pig, I see an exceptional animal that will produce an abundance of gourmet quality pork. Such is what it means to be the premiere pig.
A farm teaches you many lessons and one has been the development of an understanding of the cycle of life. Everything is born and everything dies. In such a vein of thought, perhaps it is not important that the pig or lamb dies but, how it lived and how it died.

Be that as it may, and regardless of one's philosophical views on animal welfare, I do not find slaughtering an animal the way it is done here at the farm, barbaric or inhumane. What is barbaric to me, what I find abhorant, is the cruelty imposed on animals during their lifespan and when being slaughtered. Unwarranted suffering is a repugnant fact of too many factory farming and slaughtering operations. An especially egregious example-perhaps a pet peeve for me--is the factory farmed laying hen. Their life seems especially cruel and unjust. I hope more people will forego such mass produced eggs and buy them from whomever might have cage-free laying hen eggs.

I was at a meat packing/slaughterhouse the other day. On the way out, I noticed a solitary lamb inside a livestock trailer looking quite alone, sad and confused. This sight was juxtaposed in my mind with the lamb we had just slaughtered on-farm a short while ago. Our lamb never once had such a sense of forboding, of being alone. One minute he was happily among his compadres and the next he was in Nirvana. He never left the farm, never was alone. His purpose had been fullfilled upon slaughter. To my viewing, the two lambs' experiences could not be more different. One died sad; one died happy. For my farm's lanb, it was in fact, "a good day to die."

My views will, no doubt, not be held by some. It is perhaps the essence of humans to have completely divergent views. As well, I do not pretend to offer a fully developed argument in support of the slaughtering of an animal for human consumption; nor that the methods I use will, at the end of the day, be viewed as superior to any other method or process of slaughter. I do know for sure that death will in fact bring about life. And, that in death, life sprouts forth. One cannot exclude the other. The farm is both about death, and about life. Philosophically, life cannot come from ex nihillo, from nothing. There always must be something which exists. An empty vacuous nothing devoid of any and every quality equated with existence simply is a philosphical fallacy. Death is a something, not a nothingness void of existence. Perhaps this is humans' hope in a continued, persistent, part of our human-ness existing past bodily death. Ex nihilo has no hold on death. Death truly is in fact life.

Why the picture of a seedling when the topic at hand is death? 1) because I just love the picture; seedlings have some special photogenic quality to them. 2)Because the seedling is the return of life from death. The compost created, in part, from the slaughtered lamb, nurished the seedling in the picture. Life Ex nihilo?

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