Millie is on a journey to find out more about where our food is coming from; part of which follows piglet to plate. Read more about it here.
On a wintery walk just before Christmas my dog came bounding up to me, tail wagging with delight and a tiny little skull in her mouth. She was so pleased with her find, but before she could crunch her way through it, I prized it out of her mouth. I gazed in wonder at this little skull for the rest of my walk, with it sitting perfectly snugly in the palm of my hand. Although I’m not a particularly superstitious person it felt very apt to be presented with this treasure, as later that day I had planned to drive to the abattoir where I would soon be taking my pigs.
It was a very poignant and visceral reminder for me that death is all around us, particularly for those of us who choose to eat meat. Yet when it comes to the crunch, how often do we consider that something has died for our benefit each time we sit down to a meaty meal? Death is a very natural part of life, but something that more often than not we prefer to avoid. It can often seem so much easier to put them to the back of our minds, sweep them under the carpet and hope that they never resurface.
We could consider ourselves ‘lucky’ that we don’t have to think about these things. We have the power to look away and let someone else do the dirty work for us. It makes me wonder whether we are abusing our power to our own detriment. Is it really beneficial to us to be so disconnected? Sure, it makes chomping away through a juicy steak much more agreeable, but should we be chomping at all without the consideration of what we are actually eating?
I took my pigs to the abattoir last week, and am waiting to see their carcasses ready for butchering. I spent the first few days after taking them wandering around in a daze of sadness and guilt, struggling to even consider eating meat. I’ve since eaten some, but I’m not sure if I’m just blocking out everything I felt in order to satisfy my tastes, or whether I can really sit comfortably with these conflicting feelings.
I’m wary of butchering them this week, and whether all these extreme emotions will come flooding back. It’s likely that being presented with them split in half and hairless will make them feel more like ‘pieces of meat’ than my little piggy friends that were happily trotting round in the orchard. For now, I am consoling myself with the fact that if we are to eat meat at all, this is how animals should be raised: with care, love and happiness.
As consumers we are now becoming more and more aware of the mistreatment of animals and the realities of factory farming. Hidden away and out of sight from the public, for too long industrial agriculture has been hidden under the proverbial carpet and the realities are now truly coming back to haunt our health. As consumers we are slowly starting to sit up and take notice. Whether we want to think about it or not, if we choose to consume factory farmed meat, we really have no idea what we’re ingesting. It’s not just the animals that suffer but us too. We’re consuming a concoction of chemical additives, antibiotics and nutrient deficient food. Stressed animals means lower key vitamins and fatty acids in the end product for us. Sick animals from cramped conditions means drug resistant bodies for us.
So for now my aim is to do justice to these wonderful animals who have lived a healthy, happy life, by using as much of them as possible to create an array of wonderful pork products. Whether or not I will want to eat them myself still remains to be seen.