Should Meat Eaters Slaughter Their Own Meat?

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: Should Meat Eaters Slaughter Their Own Meat?

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

WARNING: The slideshow is very graphic with vivid images of animals being slaughtered and butchered. Please think before you click.

For a long time I was one of those people who was of the mind that if you eat meat, you should have to kill an animal some time in your life. On the face of it, the argument makes some sense. You're eating meat, you should deal with all of its consequences and implications. But then there's the counterargument that it's only because of specialized labor and compartmentalization that civilization has progressed. I mean, I use plumbing and sewage. Should I be forced to work a day as a sewage worker? As a garbage man? I go to the library some times. Should I have to experience what a librarian experiences before I check out a book?

You see the logical conundrum: if I insist that anyone who eats meat should have to kill an animal, then by extension, anyone who partakes in any service should have to experience what it's like to provide that service. But there's a big hole in this argument as well.

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What makes raising and slaughtering animals different from treating sewage or stocking a library? Well for one thing, it's a practice directly associated with the life and death of another living creature, and in my book, that's a whole 'nother ballgame, which is why I supported the kill-before-you-eat philosophy.

Now, after having actually done it several hundred times (mostly on various types of birds, fish, and the occasional deer), I've relaxed my attitude quite a bit because, after all, we make equally life-altering choices all the time, and in very few cases do we actually see the results of our choices except by proxy. Should you be willing to kill a man if you believe in the death penalty? Should you have to perform an abortion if you're pro-choice? You see the problem.

That said, I do believe that anyone that eats meat should look beyond the shrink-wrapped cellophane trays and be comfortable with the concept that meat is dead animal—that animals are raised and killed for our pleasure, and should at least know the basics of the slaughtering process. In many ways, it's quite beautiful

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This slideshow is a series of photos taken last year at the Vermont home of Deborah Krasner, a good friend an author of Good Meat, a guide to sourcing and cooking sustainable meat. After a few months of living in portable pens in Deborah's yard, her chickens and Guinea fowl were slaughtered by us, vacuum-packed, and placed in a deep freezer to keep her pantry stocked with a years' supply of home-grown poultry. Check out the slideshow above for a step-by-step photojournal of the process.

WARNING: the slideshow is very graphic with vivid images of animals being slaughtered and butchered. Please think before you click.

Finally, bear in mind that these are amongst the luckiest chickens and Guinea fowl destined for human consumption on the planet. Most chickens lead far grimmer lives and deaths. Having to witness the horrors of factory farmed meat is something that I strongly believe everybody should be made to experience. The meat industry very deliberately misleads the public and obfuscates the realities of our meat industry and what goes on behind the slaughterhouse doors.

But I don't want this to turn into some polemic against the meat industry. I really just wanted to share the interesting, enlightening, and often moving process of slaughtering animals with those of you who haven't had yet had the opportunity to witness it or take part in it.

What are your thoughts? To what degree should meat eaters be made to experience the process of animal husbandry and slaughter?

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