Eating Animals: A Reality Check

I get a variety of reactions when I mention that we raise rabbits for meat and that we regularly butcher our animals. Every reaction from cringing horror to awed curiosity. Either extreme reaction makes me feel a tinge of sadness. How have we become so disconnected from the creatures and the processes to which we owe all our animal products?  I also hear that “ I could never kill anything, that’s so horrible/mean/gross;  I will just keep buying my meat from the store.”

I can only sigh and shake my head at that belief. I have to hope that those folks don’t realize how horrible conventional animal production operations are and that they aren’t simply trying to avoid facing the fact that an animal dies for that steak or fried chicken.  

Honestly, I personally believe that if you can’t slaughter an animal yourself, if you couldn’t take the life of another animal, you shouldn’t eat meat. That doesn’t mean I think you should only eat animals you slaughter yourself – although that sounds like a pretty dang good situation to me.  If you can’t face the death you should not partake in the kill. Of course, not everyone will agree with that philosophy and I can accept your desire to avoid having to kill and then process your own meat animals but you should still care about how the animals are raised, slaughtered and butchered.  I think you should take a hard look at continuing to eat meat if you can’t face the idea of them dying for your steak. 

 If you buy from someone who raises livestock with practices that respect the animals you never have to look the cow in the eye but you will know that someone did. That they made sure it was happy, healthy, died a clean death with the least possible fear and pain and that every bit of the animal that could be used was used. None of the animals you can buy from the average supermarket were guaranteed that kind of life. Many were denied all of those aspects of a good life and humane, compassionate death. They live in cramped quarters, unable to express their natural instincts, frustrated, bored and miserable.  Then are shuttled off to be butchered in an automated system in the least personable and often least humane way that creates the least healthy meat possible.

 I can only imagine how the folks who work in those processing plants are traumatized by slaughtering hundreds of animals daily in those kinds of conditions. Slaughter day should be something that is treated with respect. The people involved should be able to prepare mentally and physically by learning skills, sharpening knifes and making what ever preparations are needed to make the event quick and efficient. 
 This is not the same “quick and efficient” that happens in an industrial slaughter house. This kind is to cause the least pain, fastest death and healthiest meat; not use the least labor and to process the most animals. It’s something that should be done with a kind of reverence. I am always reminded of the fragility of life and how little separates us from the animal we eat. I’m not saying it has to be a solemn affair but every bit of the animal should be respected in life and death. Because of that I dislike many glory shots. I understand taking a picture of a nice buck or fish but there is no need to take crude photos with the animal who’s life you just took. You might say, gezzz lighten up, it’s just an animal. But, so are we. 

I think that when you become reconnected with your food, with the animals who give you eggs, butter and pork chops, you don’t have to be told to respect their death. You put so much work, physical and emotional into raising livestock that you can’t help but be sad on butchering day. You should also be glad though, because you made sure that the animals you intend to eat had a great life and that the food you will feed your family is healthy and taken in respect. I know I’m taking a hard stance on this subject but it is truly how I feel. I don’t ask you to agree with me but I do ask you to take time to consider the animals who live to feed you.
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26 thoughts on “Eating Animals: A Reality Check

  1. Beautifully written. Its been its been decades, since my last ‘slaughter day’, but there is no forgetting that humbling, sobering connectivity it brings. We always gave our animals names that would remind us of their end purpose, like Rump Roast, Chops, or Burger Butt, lol. We used the names affectionately, and treated the critters that way, too. And no matter how we prepared ourselves, slaughter day was always accompanied by lumpy throats & tears.

    1. We also name our destined-for-the-freezer animals food names and as soon as we realize one is headed that way a food name gets attached to them as well. It helps remind us not to get attached. I’m so glad you visited and commented, come back soon!

  2. Well I agree to a certain extent. See there is also another point of view. I have an extremely hard time being involved in the killing of animals, but not because I think its mean, gross, or horrible. Its because of both of these reasons: One is as Sassss said there always will be tears involved for me – Which sort of makes it hard to see… LOL! But the most important reason is that the smell of death actually makes me gag at best, vomit at worst. It doesn’t do well with my nose-stomach connection. Once the meat is removed from the skin, guts, blood, etc. then I am perfectly willing to help cut up, and package the meat, but before then I WILL be involved if needed, but its very hard for me to work around gagging or possibly vomiting.

    1. I understand, really I do. I think you have thought about this before and still involve yourself in the process and understand and CARE about the animals you eat. The fact that you have thought about it is what really matters to me; as long as you aren’t mindlessly eating I’m happy 😉

  3. Which is why I tend to only eat fish and chicken. For some reason, slaughtering fish or poultry doesn’t seem so bad to me. But a cow, pig or goat? I think I would have a really hard time doing that. I would love to have some goats for their milk, but I wouldn’t plan on slaughtering and eating them simply because I couldn’t help myself but to make them pets! I agree with most of your thoughts, however. Thanks

  4. We have a milk cow and raise the calves which is a necessary byproduct of the production of milk. We’ve been hoping for heifers but have had three bull calves in a row. We hand raise the calves and they are pets for us for about two years. We had a person come and help us butcher the last calf and he asked if I wanted him to do the deed. I made the point that it was my cow, I better shoot the gun. I walked up to Ferdinand (the steer) gave him a good scratch, thanked him for his sacrifice, stepped back and ended his life quickly and efficiently. I was around other guys so I choked back the tears and went to work. My eight year old son was there and we were both somber and reflective during the whole process.

    I truly believe reasonable amounts of properly raised and fed animals is good for most human bodies. But butchering season always makes me consider vegetarianism or at least cutting back on the amount of meat we eat.

  5. I appreciate your observations. Lately, I have started thinking the same way. In addition, your thoughts triggered similar feelings about how society does not respect human birth and death. We send women to the hospital to give birth in a sterile environment, in an illogical position, and drugged, affecting both her and the baby. Where is the female association with its collective wisdom to help this mother through the pain and joy of birth?

    And death – I was charge nurse in a few different ICUs and saw death. Unfortunately, these patients had been cut and drugged so that their end of life was extraordinarily painful. They, too, were in a sterile environment with no family or friends surrounding them at the end.

    We have created a very secular society – no understanding, therefore no respect, for life. We eat foods that are dead of nutritional life, we eat animals that are cruelly kept, fed, and killed.

    A sad, commentary on our society’s state of affairs. Nevertheless, people like you help to keep sacred the whole cycle of life.

    1. Sad and true. The issue is one that manifests itself in every aspect of our culture. I am often horrified and boggled by how disconnected most people have become from really everything but their technology and entertainment. If I can open even one person’s eyes to the connections they are missing I will be happy. Thank you so much for your insight, please come again soon!

  6. We raised our own free-range chickens for several years for the organic, free range eggs, and happy chickens. We personally never ate one of our chickens. Hawks got a few (it’s the circle of life folks) and two died of old age, natural causes. (not a good time to eat a chicken :D) We deer hunt (both my husband and I) as well as hunt for rabbits, and squirrels. I have even done nothing to keep the rabbits out of the garden this year because I know I am feeding my winter stew a healthy, organic meal! If you ever saw they way animals are treated that end up at normal grocery stores, you would go vegan. You can tell by looking at the eggs alone. EVEN free-range organic eggs are so pale you can almost see through them. A truly happy chicken who eats all organic feed with plenty of bugs from free ranging will produce dark orange yolks

    1. So SO true! Eggs, bacon, pork chops, chicken (I don’t care what) you can tell the difference in appearance, taste and your health- not to mention all those in the live animals as well! For the spells of time we don’t have hens or I can’t get my hands on home grown eggs I just don’t eat them. Honestly, I am starting to have that approach to meat as well. Luckily our rabbits are a pretty consistent affordable meat option for us right now. Thanks for commenting and stopping by, come again soon!

  7. Very good thoughts here – it was partly my unwillingness to partake in slaughter that led me to become vegetarian years ago, and later vegan. (there were dozens of OTHER reasons, too, like my health – but this isn’t the place for those issues). To me, it is hypocritical to say that slaughter is something I’m not willing to do myself, but I’ll have someone else do it for me.

    I don’t have any issue with those (including members of my own family) who DO choose to consume animal products – it’s just not for me.

  8. Reading about the conditions and abuses in most “factory farms” is what caused me to become vegetarian about six years ago. The rest of my family continues to eat meat but, since I do the cooking and shopping, there are many more meatless meals on our menu! I also buy true cage free eggs from a farmer and try to buy as much beef, chicken and pork from them as my budget will allow. If more people would become aware of the horrific conditions and treatment the animals went through for them, perhaps we could truly start a movement back to the family farms of many years ago.

  9. thank you I needed to hear that since I am having trouble butching my own glad to hear it is normal. lol I will have to find someone else to do it though.

    1. It’s totally normal to have a hard time, especially if you are new and never been around butchering before. I think finding someone who is an old hand to help you out is a great idea and you might even gain the confidence and peace to go back to doing it yourself. Please visit again soon and I’m glad I could help!

  10. I agree with much of this. But to put it into practice is so hard. I got 6 chickens to lay eggs. They are very sweet and nice. But one prolapsed trying to lay an egg. I was so upset. I called my vet. She doesnt take care of chickens but agreed to meet me and the poor chicken. Once we determined that the chicken could not be saved. I deciced to put her down. I know that a lot of farmers would have just had chicken for dinner that night. But I just could not do it. And we just put her to sleep. I have learned that I cant kill and eat “someone” I know and take care of everyday. Even if it is just a poor chicken.

    1. It is hard to put into practice, but it IS possible. I also want you to realize that there will always be animals that you raise and don’t intend to eat. My buck, Santium, I will never eat. I’m in no way implying that you must eat all of your animals that can be eaten. Instead I’m in favor of people knowing that the animals they eat are as well taken care of as the ones they won’t be eating. When you have animals that you know will end up in the freezer you have to have a different mind set about them from the start. You can’t let yourself make them into a pet, name them porch chop or Sunday dinner. On the other hand, you have to be realistic with yourself about what you will do with your hens, who you are now attached to. Will you be able to keep them until they die of old age or an accident when they are as old as 15? They are your responsibility and at the moment there are a ton of burned out hens being abandoned, dumped on farms and at animal shelters because people got attached and won’t butcher them but also won’t keep them if they aren’t laying. Having any animal takes asking yourself some hard and serious questions. I’m very glad you visited my blog and commented; I welcome folks with different views than mine! please come again soon!

  11. I have hunted and processed meat in the past. I appreciate your view on raising and consuming animals for meat. I personally got to where I was thinking too much about the animal I was eating to enjoy eating it so now I am mostly vegetarian in my food choices. Any animal products I do consume, down to the honey I eat, I have researched where it comes from and only buy from humane and sustainable producers.

    1. I really appreciate how you go about eating meat and animal products! The more we learn and the closer be come to being meat self-sufficient (including all the meat we are blessed to be given from family) the more meals we are willing to eat without meat to ensure all that we do eat is raised and processed to our standards. Please visit and comment again, sorry I took so long responding! I have been off the blog a lot lately.

  12. I have found I appreciate animals more now that we have processed our own. I was one of those people that got my meat from grocery stores & local farmers, but never really thought about where the meat came from. Now that I see it, I have much stronger feelings about the animal itself. That being said, I now also totally understand why people become vegetarian.

    1. “Now that I see it, I have much stronger feelings about the animal itself. That being said, I now also totally understand why people become vegetarian.” Yes! Isn’t that the truth? I would never give back what I’ve learned or how I’ve grown by raising and processing our own animals. Jennifer I’m glad you stopped by and commented, please come again soon!

  13. I am glad I haven’t been the one who actually had to take the knife or the gun in hand and perform the deed, but I have tried to stomach helping with every other part of the butchering process because I want that meat and don’t want to leave the “dirty work” to everyone else. So far, we have worked with others every time that we have butchered an animal. There have been a couple of times we have had to kill one of our animals that was in misery, though. Of course, we have pulled out the olive oil a lot more often. 🙂 We are softies, and it is hard for either of us to kill, but it is part of the cycle of life and has to be done. I do think I could do the whole process myself if I had to, but it is not a task I seek, for sure! I love reading your posts.

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