On being an Omnivore


 eat meat as well as vegetables. I have done so all my life. As I was growing up, when I couldn't or didn't want to eat anymore, the rule was always to at least finish the meat, even if I couldn't manage the vegetables. And the reason for this was because an animal had had its life taken so that I could eat it. I was taught that meat was not to be taken for granted, and that it was special in a way that potatoes were not.

As I have grown older, this awareness of the 'specialness' of meat has grown into my belief that if I cannot go through with rearing and then slaughtering animals for my family's consumption, then I will have to become a vegetarian.

Now that we have some space on which to rear animals, we have chickens and pigs, and soon to be sheep. For the first time last Friday we slaughtered our two meat chickens (as opposed to our hens from whom we get eggs). I have shot and eaten rabbits before, and whilst there is always some guilt and feeling involved with that, it was nothing compared to the emotions that I had after slaughtering our chickens. We had raised these chickens for only three weeks (they are mutants, being bred purely so that they grew muscle incredibly quickly - we won't be getting these types of chickens again, poor things), which meant that they were only seven weeks old when we killed them. Yet they were larger than our hens who are a couple of years old. Once they had been prepared, they weighed 1.7kg before cooking - so they were medium to large chickens. It made me think that all these 'free range' chickens that we buy are probably only 8 to 12 weeks old. Mutant chicks, who look like adults, and are slaughtered having only had 2 to 3 months of life on this earth. That does not feel right.

I felt guilt at killing them, and that they had had a raw deal having only been alive for 7 weeks. I felt sadness as I had had quite an affection for them. They used to waddle towards me when I went outside, having a naive security around humans, that the older hens have lost. They were so young. It feels like I have betrayed them, even though that was the reason for us getting them in the first place.

So, my first real experience away from 'normal' western culture where someone else does the dirty work of killing, was much harder than I thought. Our pigs will be slaughtered soon, and I'm not sure if it will be easier or harder. We've had them since May, when they were 8 weeks old. Someone else will be doing the killing in the slaughterhouse, but I will be there throughout to witness their deaths, and not disrespectfully turn away from it. Something about needing to face up to the reality of eating meat, and all that it entails, emotions and all.

Our two lovely Gloucester Old Spot piggies, Bernie and Penny, having an after-breakfast nap

Our two lovely Gloucester Old Spot piggies, Bernie and Penny, having an after-breakfast nap