(Head’s up: this is a ramble (not a rant) on the subject of eating meat. If you just don’t want to go there, I get it. See you next post.)
I didn’t sleep well last night. In fact, I was awake until well after midnight, unusual for me. I blame my reading material. I was reading my goat book, and I’d reached the part at the end of the book devoted to what to do with kids. There were a number of options, and some graphic instructions.
I haven’t eaten meat, including poultry, since the first Clinton administration. There are a number of reasons for this, which I am generally reluctant to share, because the subject invariably comes up when I am eating with meat eaters. Eating meat. Which is, trust me, exactly the wrong time to have an even, reasonable, non-accusatory discussion on this touchy, exceedingly personal subject.
It comes to this: unlike many non-meat eaters, I don’t believe that there is anything intrinsically wrong with humans eating animal meat. (I call myself a non-meat eater because I eat fish and seafood, and also because I find this choice of words raises fewer hackles.) I do, however, think there is a great deal wrong with the industrialisation of meat production (and dairy, and eggs…) I’m reasonably sure we can all agree there are problems there. But, I believe there is a deeper, underlying a philosophical issue.
I, personally, need to face my meat.
I decided, long ago, that I would continue to eat fish because I’ve been fishing and I know I can kill a fish. That’s a decision that worked for me, and I am perfectly cool with people who roll a different way. I have a number of dear friends who like to believe that chicken breasts grow in fields, and steak arrives at the grocery store under plastic wrap. (You know who you are. I love you. Mwa.)
I have tremendous respect for people who face their meat and are at peace with that. I once had a heated discussion with a hard-core carnivore who had grown up on a beef farm. We ended up agreeing on many points. I have never been able to kill a bird or a mammal. So I don’t eat them. (There are other reasons for my choice, including environmentalism and the ethical use of limited global resources, but they aren’t salient to this little ramble.)
I want dairy goats. I do, I do, I do. But I am at a fork in the road, and I have choices to make. Getting goat milk means breeding babies. Babies I don’t intend to keep. Babies that need to be disposed of. In order to get milk. You see my problem.
There are a limited number of doelings that can be sold as milkers (to perpetuate the cycle), and even fewer wethers that can be sold as companion animals. Perhaps one buck in 500 will be used for breeding. Like laying hens, boys are not wanted, except to be eaten.
When I get turkeys in a few months, I know that, male and female, all but three of them will be sold for meat. I believe I am at peace with this, although one never really knows until one is there. And I suspect that, like many things, it hurts most the first time. When my trio breeds next spring, we will delight in the hatching and the fuzzy butts and the awkward teenagers…and they, too, will go to slaughter in the fall.
I think I’m at peace with this. These will be animals bred for meat, and I will give them a much happier, freer life than the vast majority of their grocery store freezer brethren. Turkeys will be eaten whether I raise them or not, and, this way, I will be part of the solution, not the problem. And I will be helping to sustain and promote an endangered species.
But the goats? Oy. I’m struggling. How does it work? One places advertising, surely, to sell doelings for milking and kids of both genders for meat, yes? Then…what? One takes them to the abattoir at the appointed time (as with turkeys), pick them up after they’ve been processed (I refuse to say “harvested”), and deliver to the client? Or can one find a butcher as a middle man who handles the sales end, thereby passing the buck? (Oh, I am sorry. I couldn’t help myself.)
So, one goes from the agony and the ecstasy of birth, the delight of frolicking kids, then, a few weeks later, off to the butcher you go? The Man has decided there won’t be butchering on site here, so that is how it would go. Can I do this? Could you? (I would love to hear from you on this, Tricia, if I haven’t lost you already. I truly want to understand.)
And don’t feel better if you have laying hens. Did you buy your chicks as sexed pullets from a hatchery or farm supply store? If so, do you know what happened to the roos that you didn’t want? Because, trust me, you don’t want to. The hatcheries make it all nice for you so you don’t have to face that reality. I would love to start hatching eggs, using a broody. But, what to do with the boys? And what to do with those who are weak or deformed?
The bottom line, people, is that farming is not for sissies. I am so impressed by those who face their meat, and the meat of their customers, who do so responsibly and humanely, with compassion and commitment. I hope none of this sounds accusatory, because I am in awe, truly.
Maybe I’ll get there. Maybe I just need to take baby steps to get there. In the past 21 months that I’ve had chickens, I’ve faced and met challenges I would never have thought possible. If I can raise poults with an eye to slaughter six months down the road, perhaps other steps are possible.
Sorry for the ramble. I thought some of you might be here with me, and I’d be very interested in your thoughts. The moral of the story, of course, at the end of all this is…
don’t read your goat book before bed.