Death and livestock

Today I cut the throat of a turkey Kevin and I had raised from a poult, and it was hard.

The throat-cutting itself wasn’t difficult; it was one decisive stroke with a knife I sharpened to within an inch of its life. It was summoning the willingness to make that stroke that was hard.

The summoning began before the turkeys were born. It dates from our decision to keep livestock, when I knew I was no longer entitled to the luxury of shying away from the death of animals I was going to eat. I had to turn myself into a person who was not squeamish, who didn’t look away.

I did. And it’s the single most difficult thing I’ve done since we started this enterprise.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the turkey processing.  Today, I’m enjoying knowing that there are four birds chilling in a cooler outside, four birds who had excellent lives.  We kept them fed and housed, clean and safe.  We were good stewards.  And, when the time came, we killed them humanely, responsibly.  We didn’t screw it up. 

And I didn’t shy away. 

18 people are having a conversation about “Death and livestock

  1. Good for you. I’m struggling to get to where you are. I picked up our humanely raised free range turkey today but I can’t afford to pay someone else to do what I can’t. Seems like if I can’t kill it I shouldn’t eat it. We’ve taken a first step with laying hens but the next one (broilers or turkeys) is a big one. Maybe I have to help the neighbors harvest their turkeys to break myself in. I don’t want to become callus, I also don’t want 5 pet turkeys.

  2. Brava! My first was with old laying hens. I was a little shocked at how little it bothered me, almost as though I might be a closet sociopath and had never known it. But that was what is euphemistically referred to as “retirement.” I’ve never yet killed livestock for explicit the purpose of eating them. Our turkey is slated for New Year’s, so I’ll have that to face in about a month’s time. And yeah, the knives are going to be sharpened like anything.

    I salute you, Tamar, for not turning away. I have every confidence that your turkeys will be the best you’ve ever tasted.

  3. Love the photo. You’re hanging your head and holding a sharp knife. Where did Kevin get those serial killer gloves?

  4. I think your expression sums it up in this picture. Hats off to you though for not only starting this project, but for following through with it as well. Also, Peggy hit it spot on with the creepy serial killer gloves. I do hope he gave you a hug for that though. You deserve it, and a glass of good wine.

  5. Well done you. I visited my lovely neighbour (who runs the local school farm unit) for his opinion on a not-at-all-well chicken the other day. He gave me the chance to kill it ( I asked him- he breaks their necks) but I’m ashamed to say I backed out. (I was going to say chickened out, but…)

    I was worried about doing it wrong but was very cross with myself afterwards. I agree that if I can’t kill it I shouldn’t eat it, so I’d better toughen up. In my defence, she was a pet chicken with a name and everything. I’m sure that made all the difference.

    I hope you both had a large glass of wine after that day; well done.

  6. Well done. Awful, but well done. I recently wrung the neck of one of our chickens who was lingering, unwell. She was an ex battery hen who had a good life with us for the past year. It was still very final to be responsible for ending her life. I had a little weep but I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I thought another girl was suffering.

    We too are new to this starving off the land malarky, (though with far more cheating,) I admire you. You are inspiring.

  7. Welcome to the “club,” Tamar. Or rather, welcome back into the ancient fold that truly understands the cost of food. Imagine how differently all of us would eat if everyone did the same? I think waste would drop to nearly zero.

  8. I thought about you guys all day yesterday and really admire your strength. Thanks for letting us visit last week for one last view of the birds. I’m sure your holiday meal will be fantastic. Love the video by the way–I didn’t realize the plucking machine was on the outside and not on the inside–I had images of the birds rolling around inside and couldn’t figure out how the feathers come off!

  9. I guess it’s harder to knock-off animals that aren’t a complete PITA. I recently killed our delightful 2nd-in-command rooster. He had a name, but was somehow always getting in a situation where it was needfully prefixed with an expletive. It still wasn’t nice to dispatch him, but I felt no remorse.

    I guess no-one was sorry to see him go, and he did terrorise the kids, but we’re yet to take him out of the freezer.

  10. Well done you, not only for killing the turkey but because it wasn’t easy for you. It’s a good thing that you care, it’s just not easy.

  11. Kudos!

    It is far too easy in modern society to detach oneself from the reality of where our food comes from, especially the meat/fowl/fish sorts. A cleaned, plucked, frozen turkey, wrapped in plastic in the grocer’s freezer, or the package of spareribs beside it, is so easily perceived as “just meat,” with no connection to the animal it once was. I wish everyone had to, at least once, participate in the raising-and-butchering process — just so they know what is really involved.

    I’ve always felt a little sad for any animal we butchered, but a little glad, too, knowing that we gave them good lives and humane deaths, and the food they were about to give us was going to be so much better than the general run.

    It’s worth it, and you will forevermore appreciate good turkey better than you did before, because now you KNOW what it really takes.

  12. Way to go! I saw the Cape Cast video and I am jealous! I now have your site in my “favorites” This is what I would like to do.

  13. Kristen From Drywall Masonry Supplies says:

    Brave!! I could never of done it!!! In todays mail I received a nice note from the MSPCA.. Thank you for the kind donation. (we are also proud parents of two kittens that we adopted last week). Next time I see you guys I’ll tell you the names as the kids have at least 20 names for them. Hopefully we will have names for them SOON!!! (lipstick and Jack (my son wants to name his after himself) ) just won’t fly!!! Happy Thanksgiving and I will be thinking of you guys eating your turkey!!!

  14. Nope. It ain’t easy. That’s a big part of why I turned to hunting after so long as a vegetarian.

    Like NorCal/Holly said, welcome to the “club.” Different from fish, eh?

Converstion is closed.