Friday, December 14, 2007

Meat – Part 2 We’ve had chickens almost from the moment we moved in, then came the geese and this year we added a female rabbit, five sheep and two pigs to our developing permaculture smallholding. We slaughter our own chickens and, last year, the geese (although this year they went to the local poultry farm to be slaughtered and plucked) and I’ve helped Samuel and Julie despatch and prepare rabbits. It would be fair to say that I’ve become habituated to this, so while I always concentrate and take care to do it swiftly and humanely, it doesn’t bother me on an emotional level. Now though, it’s time to slaughter our two pigs and we are both a little apprehensive. They’ve never had names, just known collectively as “the boys” but, of all the animals here, they seem to be the most intelligent, have loads of character and are very tame (apparently a trait of their race: New Zealand Kune Kunes).

As they are for our own consumption, we are allowed, in European law, to slaughter them at home, rather than take them to an abattoir. We think that this will be less stressful for them and are on the lookout for a boucher de campagne (countryside butcher) who comes to your home to slaughter and butchers the animal; some of them also then prepare various charcuterie like sausages and pâté. I’ve spoken to two and have another to contact. My own reaction to killing the chickens has always been that once dead they cease to be the bird that we’ve raised and cared for and are now a carcass to be plucked and drawn and divided up. What’s important to us is how he proposes to kill the animal and how “caring” he is with them. Perhaps a strange word to use, I can illustrate that with what happened at the poultry farm with our geese: the guy was calm and he handed the birds firmly—so they wouldn’t flap about or escape—but also carefully, so as not to hurt them.

We’ve bought a DVD from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall called A Pig in a Day which is excellent. He’s passionate about his pigs. Advice on how to rear pigs is followed by clear explanations on how to cut up the carcass and prepare charcuterie using just about everything but the oink. His step-by-step approach undoubtedly looks easier than it will be for us beginners. I’ve also done research into despatching animals and recommend the website and publications of The Humane Slaughter Association. The usual method of farm or home slaughter here is to suspend the pig by its back legs and cut the throat so it bleeds to death. We don’t want ours to know anything about it, so want the pigs to be rendered unconscious—before they’re hauled up and stuck—using a captive bolt stun gun. In Meat part 3, I’ll tell you how it went … vegetarian readers should look away now.