Posted by: Moon | January 10, 2010

A Time to Kill ?

From my last post, you can pretty much tell I am a huge animal lover, in fact, I think I have missed my vocation in life, and I am sure I should be running an animal sanctuary, and helping the wonderful animals in the world, either that, or I should be Sir David Attenborough’s sidekick in everything he films.….

So, I come to a massive dilemma in my life, and one I knew I would have to face at some point living here in Slovakia. Miska’s family, on her Father Milan’s side they own a pig farm. I am cool with that, everyone makes a living. Part of the family thing is they donate two pigs for Milan and Anka to raise and ultimately slaughter. The first time I was here, they had two 6 month old pigs getting ready for the slaughter. Again, I have no issue with this, when I saw them, they were just pigs in the yard… I never had to even think about the consequences of eating the Klobasa (sausages). Out of respect for my views, and the fact they are a lot of hassle, when we moved here, Miska’s parents do not have pigs this year, for that I am thankful, however, her Uncle and family (now my wonderful friends and family) do have them, two of them, and they have been ‘fattening’ them for 10 months now… and you can kinda see where this is going ……

Two things here, it is a family ‘occasion’ when the time comes to pass the pigs onto piggy heaven. The main reason for this is that it does take a very long time to do the deed and to prepare the meat and finish the job. You need as many hands as possible. So, yesterday the day came, and we were all expected to be at the house for 7am sharp.

This causes me huge problems. I discussed this openly with Miska, Milan and Anka… and they did understand that I really could not bring myself to participate. I think they feel I am a little strange, but that is the way my mind works. They are not food, they are pets…. Weird, wrong and strange… but that’s how I view them. So, the night before, it was decided that they would go, and Miska would call back for me later and I would help as best I can. I did not sleep to restfully…..

But, I lay awake thinking about this, and my contradiction whizzing through my head… and one I can argue forever in my own mind.

I eat meat… I love meat, I have eaten many different types of meat around the world, and I love it. From the huge steaks in America, to Guinea Pig in South America, Camel, Kangaroo .. the list goes on… so… how can I not be part of the preparation ???? Easy … why should I ?? .. we are not all butchers are we .. ? in some bizarre logic I tell myself.. I drive a car but I can’t fix one.. I use the PC but I can’t build one ….. bizarre I know, but I am trying to justify this .. maybe I don’t need to …

I am also very keen to experience new things, and to be able to comment and have an opinion on things that I can. Some experiences in life are not pleasant, but they are experiences all the same. So, when the alarm went off at 6am, Miska was surprised to see me rise, and join the family for the day. I couldn’t be part of the actual killing. I stayed inside with Miska and Filip until I was assure the deed had be done, drank lots of coffee. I decided to venture out and to face my fear.

I was surprised at my feelings and reaction. Yes the pigs were ready to be cut and portioned, and I was quite comfortable with that. As the cleaning process began, I was happy to help, and joined in with the preparation. I found myself dressed as if I was ready for the film ‘Hostel’. Wellies, white plastic apron and doing all the things I should. We cut the meat, moved it inside to be cut, slice and diced into all the relevant  cuts etc. I found myself learning, watching and helping when needed and before long, we had the meat inside for the next stage. I did not have any issue with this. The pigs are meat, raised for that purpose and eaten for food. Nothing different from any piece of port or beef we all eat every day. ALL of the pig is used for various things… and that also sits very comfortably with me.

I stirred the boiling bits of fat (which there is a lot).. making oil and pork scratching.. thinking that I was glad I had gone through the experience. Trust me, I am not saying everyone who eats meat should do this … def not, each to their own, but to see how it is done, to watch father and son ‘feeding’ the family.. well, that is life… that’s how it should be, and I don’t regret a second. The thing that got to me in the end was the smell. The constant smell of fresh meat… I could never be  a butcher for that reason !

I also will NEVER eat the form of haggis having seen what is minced into that, and for now only, I am none too keen on bacon or sausages… I am sure that will change !

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Responses

  1. Considering your feelings around this issue, it is impressive that you pushed yourself to be there as much as you could, stepping way out of your comfort zone. I appreciate your honesty in this post.
    In my opinion, we (I include myself here) live in a society where what’s on our plate is so far removed from its origins and how it gets on our table, that there is a serious disconnect. We go to the store and buy meat without having any clue of the whole process of getting it there.
    Plus, butchering something that was alive is very different from knowing where cars come from and how to fix them.
    Although my father is a hunter, he never brought us kids along to learn to hunt and care for the meat; we only got the end result: steaks and stews. How I wish he would have passed on these skills to me. Some communities in the far north here rely on hunting for their survival as regular meat is too expensive to bring to their isolated communities (ex: Old Crow, Yukon).
    In my experience, it is those people who have the knowledge and experience around food that have the greatest respect for it. Like Miska’s family, the Gwitchin in Old Crow do not waste any part of the caribou they use for meat.
    With all the advantages of our modern ways, I can’t help but to feel that some important things are being lost.

  2. It was very interesting, and yes, I was uncomfortable to start with, maybe it was just my concept of what animals are. I see them as pets, ‘Babe’ as you will … but they are food… and thats the life. Like you say, we are so removed, take so many things for granted that I am happy that I have experienced this. Would I go through it again. 100% yes. Would I enjoy it.. probably not, but the skills Julius passed onto his Son Victor will carry on for generations. Like you said, to use all the pig, to fill the freezer for a long time… priceless compared to the numerous trips to Tescos.
    I am firmly against hunting for sport… but if you kill for food, that’s life and that’s how it is.. but for sport… I am totally against that.

  3. Well, you have had an experience I am not so sure I would like to have. I used to spend my summers on my uncle’s farms in Saskatchewan, and although I did participate in some of the more squeamish aspects of raising cattle and pigs, I never had to slaughter them, or dress the meat. Not sure I could have done that.

    I spent one summer on a friends farm raising chickens, broiler chickens. We got the little yellow balls of fluff and raised them to the required oven size, then shipped them off (no killing involved). Twice a day I fed and walked among 10,000 birds. I did learn two things through this experience – first is that chickens are undoubtedly the dumbest living thing (really), and second is that high density farming of animals is not the best way to do things. I guess you also learned something from your recent experience, and that alone is valuable. Accept it for what it is.

    For years I could not eat chicken, could not even look at one at the supermarket. I do hope you can adjust quicker than I. Bacon is just soooooo delicious!

    • I hope it won’t takes years to get back to eating pork, but right now… no to sausages !… and I don’t think I will ever eat Haggis again, having seen what has gone into it.

      We had to kill one of the chickens here a couple of weeks back, I stayed well out of the way, so I can still devour a chook !

  4. you’re braver than me. my father was a butcher and growing up we saw all kinds of goings on!! I now live with my boyfriend and he’s a hunter and often brings home pheasant etc… sadly though i remain pathetically squeamish and i cannot eat sausages lol.
    when you open your shelter can i have a job please. x

    • It’s not being brave, but a willingness to experience different ways of life, and also to be able to comment about things, not just make up an opinion ….

      The shelter will be open one day …. and trust me, I would need some help !!!

  5. I once adopted the philosophy that I would only eat what I was prepared to kill so my diet comprised of fish basically. Then I realised that chickens are pretty stupid and I don’t have a problem with them but . . .boy did I crave red meat for a while. I’m such a hypocrite. I don’t like my food to resemble it’s former self, not one bit. Very brave Moon. I just hope they didn’t have names!

    • I don’t think I have too many problems with chickens because in my eyes they are not cute …. the logic is totally flawed on that example ! No, they weren’t named, and I never saw them grow up. Miska parents did name their last two, but after politicians they didn’t like… maybe that help in the killing part…

  6. My grandfather always had a pig. The pig – or rather sow – was always called Susan, and I think this was probably to help with the emotional part of living with an animal you knew you were going to kill, and also with smoothing things over for very young children who visited.

    When the pig was killed, it was a family occasion for sure, because there were no fridges and freezers. Everything had to be processed immediately – the pig was killed and bled, then cleaned and jointed and the process of making pies, sausages, black pudding and brawn, rendering lard and salting bacon was begun. In the village, bartering was a way of life, so it was a bit of pig’s liver for a bag of flour, or a couple of pork chops for a pat of butter – whatever. I was never involved, being too young, but I think it’s the reason I’m not squeamish about such things. If necessary, I could kill for food – not that I want to!

    I applaud your courage, Moon. It is courage, you know; you did something you didn’t want to do, and didn’t think you could do, and it took an effort on your part to make yourself do it. I’m glad you took something positive from the experience. 🙂

    • Well, that is why we were still working at 11pm after a 6 am start.. there is alot of meat in 2 10 month old pigs, and it has to be done in a day …

      Yes, I did take a lot of positive things from an experience I was not looking forward to. I have learnt that life is not all sunshine and lollipops, and we are meat eaters after all. Someone has to do the killing, and I now sit comfortably with most of the process

  7. I think you did really well.
    I had a very naughty quail that kept beating the other ones senseless. I popped his head off, plucked and gutted him, washed him, stuffed a lemon up his bottom, roasted him and ate him. The kids ate some ”mmm nice! is there any more?”
    My husband though refused to eat him on the basis that the bird was a ‘pet’. I do think it’s that distinction that causes difficulties. I can switch it off though basically I thought it better to kill him and eat him then kill him and waste him by burying him.
    Oh ok I’m just a heartless cow ;o)
    The whole meat issue is a can of worms
    My kids know where meat comes from and by that I don’t mean sainsburys lol they know it was something living and breathing that was probably cute lol they’ve helped skin and gut rabbits they had seen running about not ten mins earlier, gutted and plucked pheasants and watched a sheep be slaughtered and end up in our freezer. For us it’s more important the animals have a good life before they are killed for food I don’t know if it justifies it… I wouldn’t eat a battery chicken and that whole set up upsets me. I’d rather eat a free range running about all over the place having a good scritch and scratch happy chicken…. but not one of mine they are pets ;o)

    • Good points Scrummy, and I think that you have the balance spot on, and maybe as a child I was sheltered a little too much. I am very happy I have developed a love and respect for animals, something I certainly want my children to have, but also, a knowledge of where we get the meat from, and if you want to eat it, you should at least be aware. I agree 100% about making animals as happy as you can, regardless of if they are for food or pets, that’s just being decent. I leave you with your chooks, however, whenever I got to get some wood, I do find myself talking to the buggers here …. ! soppy git I am !

  8. i understand what you mean and i think you’re right. but i just know that i would not have been able to do it. i still think it’s brave… marvelously so!

    • I just decided that I couldn’t make an opinion until I had been part of it… so maybe it was my curiosity that lead me there, not bravery x

  9. Hmmm. Mixed feelings about this. I’m with you on the actual killing bit – would have felt really unhappy with that – but also take your point that ifyou eat it you have to be realistic about where it comes from.

    Would have loved to have seen the butchery side – like you I would have found it really interesting x

    • It was interesting to see how the cuts are made, and what is done with them … wonder how your kids would feel. Filip who is 7 was cool about it all, lazy bugger didn’t help, but he was ok with it. I would also be interested what my sister would say …


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