I don’t eat meat but my little pickle does which means that I have had to get a lot closer to meat and a lot more involved with where it comes from, and, as a farmer, where it goes.
I believe that if you must eat meat you need to have raised it, fed it, loved it, looked after it, and attained its agreement to the kill. And then you kill it or at least be there at the end to ensure it is killed humanely, kindly, with compassion and care. After all, these are living, breathing, feeling beings with soul.
This week two of the boys went to the fat sale. Hector has been avoiding this for years. Mainly because each time my resolve has failed or the river has flooded or the bank balance has been boosted some other way. Each time I have gone and talked to him and cried with him because his ending has always been inevitable yet somehow he and I had to make our peace with it. At the end of last year he told me that he gave himself in the ultimate sacrifice and I understood that animals do this for us – not willingly, not happily, but nobly they give the ultimate gift in service to us humans. For love of us.
And I understand and ‘get’ that – I really do. But to get cattle to the table, first they are separated from the herd and mustered which can be long, hot, hard work and confusing to yards which often are places of fear – what happens next? Then they are loaded on a truck – where am I going now? There is grief at leaving their home, the land they love and their friends and family – both human and herd.
Road travel must be terrifying and then they finally arrive at the saleyards where strangers prod and poke and sometimes hit them. They are tired, hungry, thirsty, dazed and confused. And then they are loaded into huge trucks, crammed in together for often long journeys to the abattoir where they will smell the blood and fear long before they are stunned and killed. Imagine how terrified they must be, how their last moments are filled with fear and the killing frenzy before them.
And yet when Hitler did this to humans it was called The Holocaust – a blot upon our human history never to be forgotten. I remember it well. In another life I was in Auschwitz where I scrubbed floors and the lust of two SS officers kept me alive longer than most. But before we got there we were herded, isolated, starved and prodded and poked and cramped into ghettos then cattle trucks as we travelled to unknown destinations and destinies. We too were full of fear. No one, no living sentient being should be treated like that. It isn’t right that we do this to cattle and sheep and pigs and chickens. What have we become that we think this is OK?
We have legalised horror and industrialised death and it is not OK. We have to get back to grass roots and get involved with where our food comes form – where it is grown and nurtured and raised, where it dies and how it is treated every step of the way. This isn’t just about chemical free or biodynamic food or farming, it is a moral dilemma and soul choice.
If we eat meat we have a moral responsibility to those animals we feed off to ensure they are treated with dignity, compassion and yes, love.
I have cried so many tears for Hector this week. First he sulked and refused to speak to me. Finally I reikied him on his way to the abattoir and he said ‘I have lived a good life, a happy life, I have loved my life and my ‘girls’ . Everyone has to die eventually and I have lived longer than most. I love Ben and would do anything for him’ and finally he and I were at peace.
It doesn’t stop the tears because I miss him and probably always will and the girls are so so sad without him. He was the best babysitter and the proud and constant friend and protector of his herd. Hector the Protector, rest assured that we loved you so much and this was not the end I wanted for you. You have served us in your ultimate sacrifice and for this we sincerely thank you. Hector, my darling, rest in peace and thank you from the bottom of my ever more vegetarian heart.