I have a bone to pick with you.
With some of you, at any rate. Specifically, those of you who object to articles about killing animals and photos of those animals, killed.
I kill animals. Over the past several years, my husband, Kevin, and I have killed most of the meat we eat. We have raised and slaughtered pigs, turkeys, ducks, and chickens here at home. In the wild, we’ve caught fish and shot deer.
I’ve written about it, and I’ve heard from readers with all varieties of objections. Some of those objections are to the killing of animals, and those I understand. Vegans, you’re entitled to object because you’ve taken a principled stand against killing. I don’t agree with you (obviously), but I respect the principle and will happily engage in a (civil) conversation about animals’ role in our food supply.
It’s you meat-eaters that don’t have a leg to stand on. And neither do you vegetarians, since eggs and milk exist only because the males are eaten (as in milk) or destroyed (as in eggs)
Every time I write about killing, I hear from someone who believes that the death of animals should simply be kept out of sight. Civilized people shouldn’t have to open their newspaper to hunting stories, or their Facebook feed to dead deer pictures.
And boy does that piss me off.
You know what happens when you keep the death of animals out of sight? Those horrifying videos of animals being mistreated at farms and slaughterhouses is what. It is because we want our meat in nice little cubes, unidentifiable as the animal of origin, that we have built a food system that pays insufficient attention to the humane treatment of livestock. That is what we get when we just don’t want to know. This is what we get when we insist on looking away.
We need to stop looking away. And so I am posting this picture of one of the deer I shot on the hunting trip Kevin and I took to Virginia. See that red hole? That’s the exit wound made by a .270 rifle bullet. The shot isn’t perfect – ideally, it would have been a little lower and a little farther back – but the deer dropped where she stood and died in the 30 seconds or so it took me to reach her.
Nobody likes to think about the cute furry animal getting shot, but human existence – even vegan existence — is an animal-killing enterprise. We kill them to eat them, sure, but we also kill them when we build cities on their habitat, or we run them over with cars or combines, or we poison them to keep them out of the grain stores.
The best we can do isn’t not killing; it’s killing carefully and judiciously. To insure that’s what’s happening, we all have to look. We have to conquer our squeamishness and face it head-on. And we – and, by ‘we,’ I mean ‘you’ – certainly can’t try and turn that squeamishness into a virtue by asserting it as an elevated sensibility, a delicate and refined sensibility that is offended by blood and death.
If you don’t want to face the death of the animals you eat, you’re not an aesthete, you’re a coward.
So, look. Teach your kids to look. Visit a farm. Meet the animal that will be your pork chop or pot roast. Now that few of us kill for our own larders, maybe a slaughterhouse should be a standard senior-class high school field trip.
Learning to kill the animals I eat has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I don’t enjoy it. But I decided that I wanted to take responsibility for my food, and I made myself learn. Kevin helped me. We learned together, and I couldn’t have done it without him. And, because we learned, we drove home from Virginia yesterday with enough venison to feed us for a year.
We’ll be eating deer that lived excellent deery lives, ending in a death easier than the one they’d have experienced by predation or starvation. By taking methane-producing ruminants out of the system, we’re cutting down on greenhouse gases. By culling an overpopulated herd, we’re upping the chances that the remaining deer will live well, without overrunning their environment.
If you don’t want to look, by all means head to your supermarket for your cubes. Pick up some cupcakes while you’re there. But don’t congratulate yourself on how civilized you are. Civilized means caring about the animals that die for you. Civilized means knowing the provenance of your meat. Civilized means not looking away.