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Ways of Killing
February 3, 2010 3:51 PM   Subscribe

If you've got a live animal that you want to eat, you will need to kill it. Here's some people sharing ways to get the task done. Killing and dressing a chicken. Shooting and butchering a pig. A goat is slaughtered. Time.com on killing and roasting a goat.
posted by longsleeves (72 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
Never heard of live fish sashimi, have you?
posted by qvantamon at 3:57 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, good.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:00 PM on February 3, 2010


Moldavian pig slaughter.
posted by kenko at 4:02 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Life of a Pig
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:09 PM on February 3, 2010


Shooting seems to be the cleanest and most humane method; the goat-slaughtering thing is fairly gruesome. Hold it down while it kicks and bleeds to death? Eurgh.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:22 PM on February 3, 2010


The other day I was just looking up the etymology of offal. According to wikipedia, offal shares its etymology with the German word "abfall" (offall in some Western German Dialects), afval in Dutch, avfall in Norwegian and Swedish and affald in Danish. These Germanic words all mean 'garbage', or - literally - 'fall-off'.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:23 PM on February 3, 2010


This will come in handy once civilization collapses!
posted by cjorgensen at 4:23 PM on February 3, 2010


This is BS. Meat comes from my supermarket.
posted by shockingbluamp at 4:23 PM on February 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


I watched an educational film called Old Boy that begs to differ.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:41 PM on February 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wish my mom took me to a pig slaughter.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 4:42 PM on February 3, 2010


The longer I'm vegan, the less I understand just how someone can find a carcass appetizing. Blech.
posted by Malice at 4:42 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


No, once civilization collapses, we will all eat fungus in place of plants and meat. And it won't be nice Qorn fungus.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:43 PM on February 3, 2010


We need individual lethal-injection kits for our meaty meals. If it's good enough for us . . .
posted by metagnathous at 4:43 PM on February 3, 2010


*whistles, moves to the left slightly to obscure the smoker and the chicken inside it behind him*
posted by cavalier at 4:44 PM on February 3, 2010


Don't forget dogs.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:46 PM on February 3, 2010


The chicken link is funny -- I've never seen someone kill a chicken with the aid of a traffic cone. Whatever works, I guess.

I've watched, and helped with, too much slaughtering to find these links shocking. (On the contrary, the kinds of small-scale and humane killings here are the way I wish all meat animals were killed. What goes on in factory abattoirs is a nasty, nasty subject.) I think it's sad, and somewhat wrong, that most first world meat eaters have never killed, or even watched while it is killed, an animal that they will eat. Meat comes shrinkwrapped from the store, as was joked above.

I believe that eating meat can be as moral as eating a carrot, but only if you take ownership of the process and do your best to ensure that the animals involve lead decent lives, and more importantly, have decent deaths.
posted by Forktine at 4:48 PM on February 3, 2010 [21 favorites]


If this all seems a little horrifying and you'd like to reassure yourself that at least your taste in food preparation isn't as Saw-like as some people, may I recommend Cracked's list of the 6 Most Sadistic Dishes From Around The World?
posted by ZsigE at 4:51 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have you read any of those articles in the news about backyard chickens? I'm one of those folks who read about how great chickens are and decided to get some. Only problem, the only place I could keep the chickens was at my parent's house. I convinced them that chickens would be the most wonderful addition to the family. I sold them on fresh eggs, bucolic ambience, fewer bugs in the garden and so on. They said no.

One day when my mom and I were at the feed shop picking up some stuff for my parent's garden the 4H kids were selling egg hens. It was the end of the day and someone had not picked up their order, they told us that these chicks would be homeless if we did not take them home. They offered them for 50% off. I pulled out a $10 and my mom said it was fine as long as if there was any problems I would be in charge of them. I told her that I would cull, butcher and bbq them without a second thought if she got tired of them. She agreed as long as I was "willing to do them in" if the time came. This last bit becomes important.

Fast forward three months or so, one of our hens has grown a suspicious waddle and comb. One morning, at precisely the crack of dawn, my mother rushed in and screamed "THE ROOSTER, IT'S CROWING!!!!!". I responded that, yes they are want to do that and that I'd take care of it at a decent hour. Our neighbor works the night shift and she was really worried that they would wake him up. So, she got our rooster and put him in the bathtub. Logical right? So our rooster is now in the bathroom crowing. The whole house is awake at this point. I grab the rooster under one arm, head out to the tool shed, grab the axe and a block of hardwood. I'm about to take care of the problem when she comes screaming out shouting about how terrible I am, how sacred life is, how she'll find a home for the rooster. I tell her that if she stops me, I'm absolved of all responsiblity for the rooster. I had kept my part of the deal. She agrees and spends the rest of the morning keeping the rooster quiet.

My brother, walking out of McDonald's literally walked into a group of PETA protesters. They handed him a flyer about cruelty to chickens and he paused. He told them that his rooster was on death row and if they wanted to save a real chicken, now was their chance. Over the next week we got calls from a PETA member, frantically telling us not to kill the bird and that they were looking for a home.

After 3 days went by and we didn't hear from them. The rooster was really coming into his crow. He was getting louder every day. One morning after I crashed at my parents, she woke up at 5 am, telling me how much she regretted getting the chickens and that she didn't know what to do. She told me it was fine to do him in, just do it when she was out of the house.

When I got home from work, no one was home. I sharpened the axe, got a pot of hot water ready and read a few tutorials on dressing. I did everything as humanely and cleanly as possible. You know that expression about running around like a chicken with its head cut off, it's accurate. I cleaned and dressed the meager rooster, which didn't look very appetizing.

My mom got home and went hysterical. She told me what a monster I was, how I had ignored her wishes(???), how precious life was, that I had taken a "beautiful rooster and turned him into a pile of meat".

My brother got home, laughed at me. We where talking about how crazy our mother was when, I kid you not, his phone rang. It was peta, they had found a home for our chicken. He politely told them that we had found another home and thanked them or his work.

My mom left, crying. I threw the chicken away, not knowing when she would be back and questioning my sanitation procedures.

She came home a few hours later, politely asked how the chicken tasted. I told her I had thrown it away because I didn't think it was sanitary. She goes into a tirade about wasting food and life. She went out to the garbage and got the chicken out, putting him in plastic wrap and putting him in the freezer for when someone else wanted to eat dumpster chicken. My brother and I leave and go out for a beer.

The next day our neighbor came over wondering what had happened to the rooster. I apologized for how noisy it had been. He laughed and said that he actually really liked it and that it had reminded him of growing up in Iraq. I felt like a monster.

The other hens have been laying for a few months now. It's been fantastic. I just warn you, make sure you get all hens if you're going to be a backyard chicken farmer.
posted by JimmyJames at 4:51 PM on February 3, 2010 [321 favorites]


These Germanic words all mean 'garbage', or - literally - 'fall-off'.

That may be the current meaning, but (a) what's your point and (b) it was not always so: chaff is the Abfall of wheat, leaves (and apples!) of trees, water of a cliff. (Those examples, and the others, are still "fall-off", but they're not "garbage".)
posted by kenko at 5:02 PM on February 3, 2010


The lengths people go to...
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:07 PM on February 3, 2010


the less I understand just how someone can find a carcass appetizing

You might be surprised to learn this, but very few people find carcasses, as such, appetizing.
posted by kenko at 5:08 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


How to scald and butcher a chicken.
posted by kenko at 5:10 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: How to scald and butcher a chicken.
posted by Danf at 5:17 PM on February 3, 2010


From the pig link:

Girls are a safe distance away

My maternal grandmother (raised about a dozen kids on a pig farm) would kick their asses so hard if she were still alive.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:21 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Never seen a powered lung remover before. Back in my day we just shoved the damn thing in there.
my day was about a year ago. in poultry class.
posted by sanko at 5:24 PM on February 3, 2010


It took three shots to the head to kill this pig
Once upon a time, when I was a student, I spent weeks making detailed notes from back issues of a Sydney-based Spanish-language newspaper from the 1950s and 1960s. It's a long story.

There was a really popular, long-running section that was basically a migrants' practical advice agony-aunt, that ran for years. Most of the letters were fairly mundane, typical questions recently-arrived immigrants face: how to deal with the banking system, what was to be done about the young people today, what people's rights were in shops, and so on.

One letter asked whether, according to Australian law, it was legal to slaughter chickens in one's own inner-city backyard on weekdays "con escopeta". The writer said that his neighbours were complaining about the noise, but that if it wasn't against the law, he'd keep doing it.

"Escopeta"? I didn't know that one, so I looked it up in my English-Spanish dictionary. Escalera, Escapar, Esconder... holy crap. Isn't that a bit much for a chicken?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:29 PM on February 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


JimmyJames: the way we get all female chickens for laying is probably way more disturbing than your story.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:32 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The longer I'm vegan, the less I understand just how someone can find a carcass appetizing.

Of course not, you have season and smoke and cook it first.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:34 PM on February 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


You can pretty it up, take it apart, package it up, season it, but it's still the same thing it was when you killed it.
posted by Malice at 5:37 PM on February 3, 2010


Thanks for the story JimmyJames. Forktine, that is my stance entirely. People who eat meat but cannot participate in the death of the animals are damned hypocrites.

Killing a chook really isn't that hard. Wring it's neck, done, gone, goodnight. Ready to be roasted in about 20 minutes.
posted by wilful at 5:39 PM on February 3, 2010


You can pretty it up, take it apart, package it up, season it, but it's still the same thing it was when you killed it.

Essentially, your right. But what's wrong with that? In fact, recognition that meat comes from animals is a good thing. I'd say that knowing what you're eating is always a good thing. I know that some animals are raised for eating, and as long as they were raised and culled humanely, I don't really have a problem.
posted by JimmyJames at 5:44 PM on February 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Acceptance of belonging to the universe.

Avoiding it is avoiding being a full participant in the universe.

Nothing 'holy' or 'spiritual' about avoiding the realities of existence.
posted by HTuttle at 5:45 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know JimmyJames , as someone who was a member of 4H and seen stock killed and even helped a little, I cannot understand why anyone would get attached to a chicken. Cows? I can see that. Pigs? In a heart beat, they have personality, even Ducks are kinda cute, but chickens? Really? They're mean dumb nasty birds that only get good when they get dead. Fuck chickens, seriously.
posted by The Whelk at 5:47 PM on February 3, 2010 [14 favorites]


Oh, and goats. Which is why we never killed a goat cause when they do come around to you it's kinda scary intense. But chickens? CHICKENS? They're fuckers.
posted by The Whelk at 5:50 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can pretty it up, take it apart, package it up, season it, but it's still the same thing it was when you killed it.

You know, when I put some food in my mouth, chew it up real fine, then spit it out onto a plate, I'm amazed anyone finds anything appetizing.

Same thing, right?
posted by kenko at 5:51 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]



This will come in handy once civilization collapses!

You're right, I should bookmark this for just such an occasion!

I didn't eat meat for 22 years, then last year I started eating fish again. It is still weird. I've decided that if I eat any meat I eat I've got to do the dirty work at least sometimes, so if I ever go any farther in my moidelizing bloodlust, I'll be needing this info.
posted by Red Loop at 5:55 PM on February 3, 2010


The Whelk: This presupposes my mom is rational. I assure you she is not when it comes to animals. I totally agree with you, they have all the personality of a hang nail. I will confess that my bother named our black and red hen nighthawk and dragon respectively and I feel that this is awesome.
posted by JimmyJames at 6:00 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


1: The longer I'm vegan, the less I understand just how someone can find a carcass appetizing.

2: Of course not, you have season and smoke and cook it first.

3: You can pretty it up, take it apart, package it up, season it, but it's still the same thing it was when you killed it.


Yeah, I can't understand how anyone finds potato appetizing either!
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:12 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Never heard of live fish sashimi, have you?
I have a sneaking suspicion that this, too, kills the animal.
posted by Flunkie at 6:22 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


These are interesting. I've always wondered if I'd have the guts to take part in a slaughter--I hope I would. Anyway, I've always liked this photoessay by suicide girl twwly on butchering her farm's first chicken.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:44 PM on February 3, 2010


Avoiding it is avoiding being a full participant in the universe.

Yes, you're not a man until you've killed another man on the field of combat. Oh, wait, you're talking about something ELSE that's also required to make you a full participant in the universe. My mistake.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:46 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow. I'm pretty close to being a vegetarian now. Maybe even vegan.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:06 PM on February 3, 2010


As the T-Shirt says,

Meat is murder!
Tasty, tasty murder.

Whelk: "Fuck chickens, seriously."
Hasn't that been done before?
posted by Duke999R at 7:10 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know JimmyJames , as someone who was a member of 4H and seen stock killed and even helped a little, I cannot understand why anyone would get attached to a chicken. Cows? I can see that. Pigs? In a heart beat, they have personality, even Ducks are kinda cute, but chickens? Really? They're mean dumb nasty birds that only get good when they get dead. Fuck chickens, seriously

Having spent a fair amount of my early childhood on my grandfather's farm, I completely agree. Turkeys are also huge assholes.
posted by thivaia at 7:19 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Despite the meat-lovin' going on in this thread, these are all pretty atrocious ways to get it. I wish I could understand why some people have to go to such extreme lengths to provide a "delicacy," and while I'm not against eating meat in the slightest, I wish we'd avoid being unnecessarily cruel.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 7:20 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope this turns into a vegetarians vs meateaters discussion because those are always great because "Fucking vegetarians always holier-than-thou and up in my face seriously think they're so great fuck do you think our teeth are designed the way they are?" and "You meateaters are shitdick fuckfaces our intestines can't digest meat properly we're not even supposed to have it" and "lol quorn" and "Would you eat your dog I'll bet you wouldn't even do it would you?" and "I guarantee you step on ants all the time! With your leather shoes!" and "You're fat and will get cancer have you ever looked into a cow's eyes?" and "My cats are all vegan" and that's when there's a dead silence in the room and everybody turns to stare in disbelief at the perenium-blistering idiocy of the person who made their cat a vegan, jesus christ what the fuck is wrong with you?
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:26 PM on February 3, 2010 [46 favorites]


I very rarely eat meat. I've felt, for a long time, that if I'm not willing to kill an animal (and I'm really not) then I have no business eating it. I realize this "moral" decision is a luxury that many others on planet earth cannot afford.

I'd like to think that I could do it if I had to, in order to survive. Fortunately, that hasn't come up yet. Sadly, a lot of the hunters I've known have been real hurf-durf types who seem to enjoy killing and consider it some macho rite of passage, but certainly not all of them. And I can't help but have a little more respect for someone who takes an animal's life with his or her own hands, than someone who has never had the experience but happily eats the meat anyway.
posted by apis mellifera at 7:40 PM on February 3, 2010


everybody turns to stare in disbelief at the perenium-blistering idiocy of the person who made their cat a vegan, jesus christ what the fuck is wrong with you?

Everyone knows that you are supposed to make soup with it's foreskin. Like, duh.

Despite the meat-lovin' going on in this thread, these are all pretty atrocious ways to get it.

Check out an industrial-scale killing operation. These are all artisinal and quite humane approaches, where the animal feels reasonably safe up until the end, and dies relatively gently. (Once the people involved get some more practice, even better.) Trust me, this is not how the animal in your styrofoam package died, much less in your hamburger. If it bothers you too much, eat vegetarian. Just don't pretend to be horrified at one animal dying humanely while eating your chicken nuggets, or your microwave-ready bacon in the morning.
posted by Forktine at 7:40 PM on February 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


I get all my beef from the Bovine University.
posted by qvantamon at 7:42 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


My cats are all...
I have no cats.

Is it really true that the knife/jugular method of preparing your meat food is particularly cruel?
I was reading an economist article a few months ago writing really intensely of the horror of how common 'halal' (Islamic way of getting meat ready to eat.) was and how it's horrible, because it is the most inhumane... so, I thought... hm, this is interesting, I eat meat; how does it get to my tummy? And so I started going to resources, and learning about 'cbt' methods of termination, and the 'production line' way that the cbt facilities work... 1st... if you have even a non-zero understanding of the risk of MadCow you would not be a fan of CBT after reading about the Brain matter that is spattered through the bodies of cows killed by this technology.

The way of calming the animal, and lulling it first, then severing the jugular, which, as described in the papers I found, cause a loss of feeling, due to oxygen no longer going to the brain, so yeah, the muscles still twitch after it is no longer feeling (immediate after severing the jugular)... all of the parts in this method seem humane if one is going to be EATING that animal, it just seems to be all around the most humane, the cleanest, and the way we have done it for more than just a few years.

So I just went back to one of the papers I had read just to check I had my terms right... and yeah, it's not CBT... (wiki says that is something else altogether); Captive Bolt pistols... Not Captive Bolt Technology.. The descriptions of the electrocution methods were even more violent and seemed much more cruel even than the bolt gun... and much more so than the simple knife.
Sometimes the way we have done things since yesteryonder is still the best way to do that something. ( I cannot make any comment on the guns, or other killing method links, those sounded pretty bad, I only looked at the goat one, and have only seen a goat killed in the Islamic way... it was the calmest goat I had ever seen... usually goats are pretty wild and unpredictable.) But if we are going to eat them, we should know how we get them, and have at least a passing awareness of how they have lived, and how they will die.
posted by infinite intimation at 7:50 PM on February 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Despite the meat-lovin' going on in this thread, these are all pretty atrocious ways to get it. I wish I could understand why some people have to go to such extreme lengths to provide a "delicacy," and while I'm not against eating meat in the slightest, I wish we'd avoid being unnecessarily cruel.

These are pretty atrocious ways to get it? Really? Do you even know what kind of inhumane treatment and torture goes on in factory farms? The ones you probably support with your money? The ones that provide unnecessarily cruel acts toward animals? Your hypocritical statement kind of pisses me off. I'm very pro-animal and I didn't find these videos that hard to watch. I would rather see an animal raised in a humane and natural environment and have a personal death at the hands of someone who actually respects it; then have it live a life of despair and killed on an assembly line by a desensitized worker.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:56 PM on February 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


ZsigE: "If this all seems a little horrifying and you'd like to reassure yourself that at least your taste in food preparation isn't as Saw-like as some people, may I recommend Cracked's list of the 6 Most Sadistic Dishes From Around The World?"

I'm sorry, I completely forgot to include this link in my original post. That's what I was responding to rather than the links posted in this FPP. I got so grossed out that it made me forget about the others. Sorry :(
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 8:57 PM on February 3, 2010


It's all good, your comment makes sense now and I agree with you.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:11 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


to be "fair" to those "6 most sadistic dishes", three of them appear to be completely made up urban myths. While two are french. Oh yeah foie gras is disgusting (well it's probably delicious, but it's morally disgusting).

Mind you, I was compelled to find out some facts about veal production after reading horror stories about it, and discovered that the propaganda was completely untrue, at least in Australia. Iron deficient diets and tiny enclosures are illegal.

This is good news for me, because veal saltimbocca is delicious.
posted by wilful at 9:19 PM on February 3, 2010


"Fuck chickens, seriously."
We're into our second full year of keeping chickens. We have 17 Rhode Island Reds that lay 12 - 14 eggs a day. We eat a lot of eggs, and sell them to a few friends for $2.50 a dozen (Cdn). During the winter (it's -20'C today) they're pretty subdued in the coop. A couple of heat lamps and bedding straw and they're fine.

During the summer about 8 of them like to fly up and over the wire pen we've made for them and wander the yard. They are inquisitive and become quite tame. When you talk nice and walk up to them slowly they'll let you pick them up (gently grab them around the middle, keeping the wings down) and they'll actually kind of cuddle. The kids named them after divas and aunties: Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Margie, Elsie, Esther, Dorothy, and so on.

They lay for about two seasons. After that we intend to keep them as pets. They won't make much of a soup. Every Spring we'll get a new batch of layers (about 10 to keep the egg production up), and we'll get about 20 cornish hens for slaughter in the Fall. I killed and eviscerated my first chicken this Fall. The orange cone (we just used a metal version of that) keeps them from running around the yard once they've lost their heads. It's a great idea. All in all it was a kind of holy experience. When you pick up a hen that you're going to kill, and you do it without malice, and even with love, it quiets right down and kind of resigns itself to its fate. Or that's just me anthropomorphising, but it helps.

Last summer some university kids on some kind of summer institute learning event came around (we live in a village that's been designated a National historic site for its unique design - long story for some other time ...) to tour the village. I was working on something in the back and I hear the chickens clucking, and then squawking, and obviously agitated. I know that these kids are around so I run around to the other side of the yard and there they are running after the hens, trying to spook them, and catch them, and all around just getting their jollies by scaring the shit of them. So I'm pissed off, because we like our chickens. We have a relationship with them. But I know these kids are from the city and they don't really know better, or whatever, here's my chance to help them understand things differently. So after I've said HEY loud enough to get the attention of the three of them, I ask them if they want to learn to pick them up. I tell them the chickens don't mind it. And I pick one up. Give it to the girl. I pick up another and give it to the big boy. They start to pet them. Then the girl gives hers to the other boy, and she goes quietly cooing over to another one and easily picks it up. She's a natural at it. You can just tell. The chicken just trembles and hunkers down as she quietly takes it up into her arms. Beautiful. "Pretty cool eh," I say. They smile and nod, and I walk away, feeling pretty good about things.

The eggs our chickens lay are brown and speckled. Back in the day when we lived in the city, my wife was part of an Egg-Marketing Board focus group on how to market eggs (yup!). They showed the women (all of the participants were female) different images, some with hints of chickenness with the eggs, and some without. The women hated the ads with any hint of where the eggs came from in them. They ended up choosing an image of a white egg set on top of a white grecian-style column. Pure? Fuck. Seriously. Chickens!
posted by kneecapped at 9:49 PM on February 3, 2010 [14 favorites]


Even chickens want to know.
posted by kneecapped at 9:55 PM on February 3, 2010


I feel bad for the carrots, just sitting there and POW! ripped right out of the ground and then just shoved into a cold refrigerator.-alive!

I am only half serious about the carrots, but I have butchered a few animals for myself. I think it is a responsibility of meat-eaters to do this as a gesture of respect to the being who dies for our supper. I always wanted to do it the way I saw in Cold Mountain, so casual and gently that they animal never knows what is happening. Unfortunately I am not that skilled, but I am pretty quick about it. Maybe I should just do like the !Kung and use black mamba venom.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:15 PM on February 3, 2010


My husband described the killing process in a major packing house. I will ALWAYS skip that tour.

Also, some chicken farmers in Kansas told me that there is nothing dumber than a chicken - except a chicken farmer. I believe turkeys out-dumb chickens, but then, neither is raised for rocket science.
posted by Cranberry at 11:22 PM on February 3, 2010


We raised chickens on our (small) family farm, growing up. I was responsible, as a kid, for keeping them fed, mucking the coop, fetching the eggs, making sure one wing stayed clipped so they couldn't fly over the fence, and making sure no foxes or dogs found an easy way in.

I remember the first time we butchered them, but not particularly for the chicken running around with no head, which they did, sometimes quite ecstatically and for prolonged periods of time. One of our family friends, there walking us through the process, saw how fascinated I was, and said "You think that's crazy? This is how they used to do it."

He proceeded to reach down, and grab a chicken around the back of its neck, picking it up so that its head was poking out over his thumb, kind of like you'd pick it up if you were gonna use it as a weapon to whack someone with. Then, with a flick of his wrist, he spun the body around in a circle a couple times, instantly snapping the neck. Cue now-dead chicken running around with its head still hanging on.

It wasn't until many years later when I was being treated by my orthopedic surgeon for my latest skiing injury to my ill-treated thumbs that I would be oddly reminded of this childhood experience. You see, when you're skiing, and you take a fall at high speeds, one of the most common minor injuries to sustain is having your thumb torn away from its grip on the pole, thus tearing the ligament on the inside of it (which, it turns out, is rather important for having a strong opposable grip. Anyway, I had this happen a number of times and had to do multiple physical therapy sessions for both hands at some point. Which is how I became familiar with a common medical terminology for the ailment: "gamekeepers' hand." Apparently fowl farmers of old who killed chickens via neck-spinning would often experience the same injury to their thumbs. Farmer's karma, if you will.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:10 AM on February 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hey, Whelk, a pig's personality may go a long way, but by the time he's 240 pounds or so that personality has a lot of weight, pushing power and teeth behind it.

I buy piglets when they're about 35 pounds and enjoy seeing the little guys frolic in the sunshine and root at the straw. Every day for several months, I carry kitchen scraps and haul feed down to their pen, fill their waterer and toss them goodies like watermelon (and they loooove watermelon. Squash, not so much.) The little guys snuffle at my jeans and head butt each other and play all the live-long day.

Then they start putting weight on. They discover chomping. On my boots. I start leaving the pen with pig nibbles on my thighs that turn into little bruises. They get large enough to throw me off balance when they knock into me while I'm mucking their pigloo.

One day, they graduate (in my mind) to hogs. Not cute. Muscular. A threat to small children. They are much bigger than I am and my husband needs to distract them with a barrel-full of soft fruits and veggies so thy don't run me over while I'm laying down fresh straw for their bedding. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they're intimidating and I get out of the pen as quickly as I can.

Then comes the day that we park the trailer and open the fence up so that the hogs can have a particularly yummy meal of hot mash and tons of kitchen scraps. They walk up the ramp, attack the vittles and the door slams shut. We are on our way to the butcher. Nobody gets hurt, thank goodness, and the pigs enjoy their meal all the way to the butcher's building, and they walk down the concrete runway into the holding pen.

I'm not set up to do my own slaughtering (yet) but I will when the time comes. There's a big difference between cute piglets and dangerous hogs, though, and once a hog has tried to run me (or my kids!) over, it's much easier to get over the doe-eyed Disney conception of animals and put them away in the freezer for chops and sausage.

I'm trying to take responsibility for the meat I eat, and part of that, I have found, is to remember that animals are animals, with their own particular needs and behaviors, rather than a collection of all-too-human projections of personality.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:47 AM on February 4, 2010 [17 favorites]


People who eat meat but cannot participate in the death of the animals are damned hypocrites.

People who live in modern society and can't go dump a few barrels of oil on a beach somewhere are serious fucking hypocrites.
posted by DarkForest at 6:09 AM on February 4, 2010


My mom occasionally tell us stories of her misadventures as the "family butcher" when she was a kid. In a multi-generational home in the 50s in Lima, Peru, she was the youngest of five kids and this somehow meant that she always got stuck with the job of helping my grandmother slaughter the live stock that my grandfather sometimes received as payment from rural customers.

After fattening a chicken with walnuts for several days, for example, they would give it successive spoonfuls of pisco (a brandy-like grape alcohol, similar to grappa) until the chicken could barely walk. Now that the bird was too sluggish to struggle, she would stretch the bird's neck over a bowl, slit the throat with a small knife, and then hold the wound open as the blood collected in the bowl. She says that, if the chicken was drunk enough on pisco, the blood would smell faintly of alcohol.

The chicken would lose consciousness very quickly, and once it seemed to have gone still, she would sever the head and hang the bird upside down with the bowl underneath to continue collecting the blood. Then, as the chicken was being dressed for food, she would put the blood into a hot skillet with onions and garlic and make the Peruvian version of blood sausage (relleno).

I'm not crazy about blood sausage, but I'd be up for slaughtering a chicken for food under those conditions. Not pigs, tho. My mom only killed a piglet once, and then my grandmother banned pigs from the house. She said that they scream like human babies when they die.
posted by LMGM at 7:53 AM on February 4, 2010


There's a great scene of a Mongolian man killing a sheep in the movie Urga (Close to Eden in N. America). Overall, a very cool, somewhat disturbing movie with lovely Mongolian scenery, about the relationship of traditional society to the modern world.

A family is celebrating the arrival of the main character in their midst, and the father kills a sheep for the dinner. He holds the sheep on the ground with his leg over it and speaks gently to it. Then he takes a knife and makes a little cut just below its ribcage. He puts his hand inside the sheep, reaches up and holds its heart still. And he does it in a very gentle way. I found this quite affecting, particularly because you sense that they're going to use every part of the sheep in a respectful way. (The Russian visitor is overwhelmed by the generosity of these people who have so little.)

The sheep remains more or less calm throughout, which is the complete opposite of every animal killing procedure I've experienced. Once we were surveying a rail line into a slaughterhouse, and I still remember the screams of the pigs as they were herded up the ramp with cattle prods to the killing floor. Kind of sick, really, considering they are our family on this voyage.

Thanks to the fabulousness of these here internets, I found this scene on YT. FOR the squeamish? YMMV.
posted by sneebler at 9:42 AM on February 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was in Anthropology Club in college and we would have a yearly goat roast, where we would make stone knives and then butcher a goat carcass. I suggested that we should have to hunt the goat first, but no one was down for that.
posted by sciurus at 9:59 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, someone on the commune got chickens. Except, the adults were all hippies. Stoned hippies. So...they thought "Hey, chickens need freedom too, man", and didn't build them a little roost or anything, just let them wander freely about. We have chickens everywhere. They nested in trees, they nested in the barn, they nested in the house...freaking chickens everywhere.

I think at some stage someone got tired of all the free-range chicken poop, or maybe the chickens migrated, I don't know...but one day, there were no more chickens.

Instead, we got geese. Gods, how I hate geese.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:51 AM on February 4, 2010


I fully believe the first human to eat a goose was just trying to shut it the fuck up.
posted by The Whelk at 12:04 PM on February 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


Kenko, not much of a point, I just realized how appropriate a term it was when I watched a butchering video and saw the entrails spilling out. For the record, I quite like sausage, so I've got no issues with offal.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:15 PM on February 4, 2010


People who eat meat but cannot participate in the death of the animals are damned hypocrites

I don't get this. I mean, I don't have any particular objection to killing a chicken myself. Given the opportunity to learn to do it to prove a point, hey, sure. If I had to in order to eat it, sure.

But I don't feel like I have to be the one to kill the chicken any more than I feel need to do a bricklaying internship to have a house or work a bottling line to drink beer or pick cotton before stepping into my underwear.

It's okay to be consumers. Though it's better, in my opinion, to be a consumer who appreciates the work that it took to get your stuff in your hot little hands. And I'm much more comfortable with animals being slaughtered by people than my industrial-level machinery.

(Thanks, farmers and butchers and people who run my plant nursery!)
posted by desuetude at 1:26 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


By industrial-level machinery. Not my. I don't have any.
posted by desuetude at 1:27 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


desuetude; as far as my understanding goes, I think that your position, and the position of the comment where the quote you refer to came from are coming from almost exactly the same position... essentially, no, you don't have to homegrow, spin, and refine your own underwear... but it "would be hypocritical" if you were saying rah rah cotton underwear, cotton underwear jokes etc... if all cotton underwear was being made using slave labor at the time you were making such statements of support for the cotton industry. (essentially, not respecting the full supply chain) {which you speak of needing to do, so again, same position I think}

No, you don't have to kill every animal before you eat it... but our society (well, a large section of it, and by no means 'everyone', as this thread has shown, many are intimately aware of where their food comes from) is very largely separated from how we get our food...We eat "hamburgers" that come from "grocery stores" and come in "Styrofoam packages"; the comment you are mentioning seems to be saying what you are saying--

It's okay to be consumers. Though it's better, in my opinion, to be a consumer who appreciates the work that it took to get your stuff in your hot little hands ---
And the comment you were mentioning was saying exactly what you say next just emphasizing this as a key and essential point---
And I'm much more comfortable with animals being slaughtered by people than my industrial-level machinery.
____________________
Because as much as you say you want to appreciate the People who do our 'dirty' work... the criticism here isn't against nice kind hardworking farmers... it is about massive "food" making "assembly" lines, the extremely wealthy groups that own them, and the ignorance of 'us' to how THOSE practices work... how THEY treat animals in our name, like they are simply raw materials to be ground up. {and how little the majority of 'us' {not so much metafilter} seem to know about the full supply chain of our 'food'.}
Participating in the slaughter (at least as I am reading it, and as I personally feel.) can range from simply CHOOSING to buy meat that comes from a local (or non-local) but ethical-treatment farm-slaughter house... to participating in the raising, tending, and eventually an almost 'tender' or 'with love' personal slaughter of the animal... It's not a "you gotta cut it's head off, then rip out it's heart and throw it on the ground and step on it, really bloody like so you can be a "reeeeeallll" 'man'" type of statement.
(In fact this thread seems to be one of many places where a new way of thinking of ethical food production is occurring. Taking responsibility for our choices... not just getting to be all "HECCKK yea, I eat red meat Therefore I am totally awesome, and extremely a 'man'" (like most of the discussion around meat has been for decades; er, 4ever)
There are more and more places where the very ideas expressed in this post are coming to the surface... not being moralistic and evangelizing about needing ethical food production for personal gratification... but rather seeing the huge number of reasons why we need ethical food production, not only for our own personal health benefit, but for the various associated economic and social reasons.

The comment you refer to actually cites this comment as describing what was being conveyed..
Seem to be saying statements essentially agreeing with you.
Tl;dr, despite a long post, I am saying I am actually seeing agreement, rather than opposing positions.
posted by infinite intimation at 11:48 PM on February 4, 2010


The Welk, I have 8 chickens and one of them has a severely deformed beak. It makes it difficult for her to eat. I switched the whole lot of them to mash rather than pellets for this reason. Sometimes I add water and give this one chicken -- affectionately named Hatchet Face after the John Waters' character in Crybaby -- a little treat. She's strong and doesn't let any of the other hens push her around. Because I take care of her, she follows me around the yard making little cooing noises. She is the only one who has figured out how to fly over the poultry netting (winter only) to get on the porch where she will sit in the sun to help keep herself warm. She puts herself back in the pen when she's hungry or wants shelter.

I know many people here in rural Vermont who allow themselves to like their animals even when they know they may have to kill them and eat them later.

So, on behalf of pet chickens everywhere, I respond as politely as possible with fuck you too.
posted by terrapin at 5:15 AM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am sorry, as I have only encountered asshole chickens in the past. Hatchet Face sounds like a delight.
posted by The Whelk at 6:12 AM on February 18, 2010


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