Where did that flesh come from you are eating?

Its amazing, I just read a blog from an American foodie living in Paris who was visiting Lebanon. He was doing a bit on the eating of lamb, showing the way it was to be slaughtered and butchered. (He said!) The point is that he was so worried that his delicate followers would have bad reactions to seeing an animal slaughtered and butchered, that he took up about a 200 words warning them that the images following (one) could make them distressed. The image was of the carcass of the sheep strung up with the skin being shucked off. No blood or gore, no look of pain on the deceased animal, nothing.


Research has shown that the citizens of the USA are the most squeamish, followed I would suspect, but not confirmed by the UK and Australia. Other countries are much more pragmatic and accept that if you are going to eat meat, then its better if its dead. Why are we so strange about this?

My father was a butcher and he was the son in the family who did most of the slaughtering. I have written about this before. As a consequence and I suspect too, that because I am an inquisitive type, I was often at the slaughter yards with him. I saw cows, sheep and pigs despatched. Not to defend my father, nor offer apology, Dad was humane and I think that he did as much as he could to minimise the suffering. Mind you, I don’t think his victims were lulled in any way into a false sense of security. It was a job to do and it was done. On the occasions when we ate chicken, the bird was chosen from the chook yard (usually a chook that had seen better days and was round and fat and needed lots of cooking) and then over a block of wood, had its head lopped off and then plunged into hot water in order to get the feathers off.

I am not even sure where I would want to go with the whole idea of animals leading a sort of cushy life up to the point of demise, my suspicion is that some of the animals did not always experience the best of conditions… elysian fields of grass and daisies, sweet spring water, mud pits to wallow in for the pigs and caring owners liveried and delivering delicious meals to a grateful animal. The truth can be harsh, but I am certain that many of the animals destined for the stove led lives that were harsh.

Vegetarians and Vegans are for me, perfectly acceptable and I have no arguments with their choices, proving that they do not hurt or harm another.  The choice of ones food is something that needs to be accepted, on all sides. Clearly those who have chosen a certain way of eating, should have thought it through and have made the choice based on some moral imperative, religious belief or simply taste. I know people who do not like the taste of egg and onion. That said, it must be accepted on all sides that people have the right to make a choice.

The flesh eaters seem to be a bit lax. You cannot stare lovingly at a great steak, a delicious slow roasted shoulder of lamb or a steaming roast chicken with gravy, if you also do not understand that at some stage this was a live animal and in order to get to your plate, had to die.



Years ago when I had moved to the country for a stint, some might say to breed, we had a small farm and of course being enthusiastic, had soon got vegetable gardens, fruit trees and inevitably chooks. We loved the chooks but so too did the local bush rats who, along with goanna’s would try and raid the chook pens for eggs. Goannas by the way, specially the big ones just seem to take a run up for the wire and simply barrel through. On one memorable occasion as the mother of my children and I were doing some gardening at the front of the house, blood curdling screams startled us into instant action. It turned out that two of the girls had gone into the chook pen to get eggs and were followed in by a large goanna that was blocking their exit. I am not sure who was the most frightened, the girls or the goanna. I suspect the latter who did a lot of damage to the wire as it escaped.

The chook point is that we had some visitors from Melbourne along with their children. Naturally my kids took their kids on an explore, carefully explaining that the chook sitting on the pile of hay was in fact laying an egg. They needed more explaining to they picked up the chook and showed them where the egg came from. Dammed near caused a complete emotional melt down, the city kids thought that eggs came from cardboard boxes. No one had ever told them.

Starting in the late sixties with the growth of Supermarkets and the slow demise of the family butcher, began a radical change in the way we purchased meats for the table. They no longer were seen as a carcass hanging on a special two sided hook on the butchers rail, waiting to be cut up, a reminder that the animal had once lived, but were seen presented on small white polystyrene trays (later even with a kind of blood blotting paper in case a drop of blood be seen) and covered with plastic. No Supermarket ever showed the butchering side, this was deeply hidden behind windowless walls. We lost connection.

Interestingly it is now something that is being reversed as the meat peak bodies struggle to try and reverse what they see as downward trends. I recently heard that beef and sheep are down nearly 50% whilst pork and chicken have risen. You now see Supermarkets that have opened the butchering side of the business to public scrutiny and this is clearly done to attempt to gain sales. Mind you, maybe some of the researchers could have discovered since the explosion of Asian population in Australia, that Asians don’t usually eat beef or lamb!

Big business has certainly taken much control of the meat industry. even in my own family, some of the descendants of the butchering dynasty have become heavily engaged in feed lots and I have had some shattering arguments over the idea that pale pink, white fatted grain fed beef is better than free range grass eating animals. Big Business now can dictate so much and I suspect has even become involved in the peak bodies, inadvertently I am sure, but they would be there ensuring their survival and steering in the direction that best suits them. Small growers have all but been consumed.

I think that the whole question of feedlots and the impact on eating and farming is another story.

The reality is that we have given up our own responsible choices and simply allowed the masters of industry to dictate what we will eat and of course what we will see. Its not hard to imagine that if most people saw the slaughtering methods (apart from the lifestyle) of the tons of poultry we now consume, they would be severely put off consuming as much as they now do. This is not even an attempt to address questions of chemicals and growth hormones, but simply the fact that because our consumption is now so big, it would be daunting for some people. But in fact, is it better that we do see this, it may well make us more humane.

As a boy growing up in my family, meat eating was something that was done every day, chicken and poultry not so frequent, we were raised to understand that these animals had been alive, had been humanely dispatched and therefore we could make a choice. I saw it all. I went rabbiting, every country kid did, I had to dispatch the rabbits as we caught them. Living and dying was a part of the way things were.

What has the impact been on us when we now have been removed from the facts, when we are so sensitive to blood and slaughter of animals we consume, that we must be warned not to look for fear of upsetting our delicate states. This is in fact wrong at almost every level. We can happily sit and watch our televisions and see guided missiles descend on innocent people, we can watch the slaughter of innocent people in countries like Syria and be shocked, but do nothing. One can of course turn the television off. But we cannot accept that flesh that forms part of our diet has had to be slaughtered and butchered in order to find its way to our plates.

On the other side of the coin we have lots of people trying to get our attention to remind us that organic, free range and various breeds are superior. But yet we are still to be protected from sights that may offend. Even the health departments regard blood as an undesirable. I am not and never have been someone who demands certain standards, I choose to eat what I like and want. I promote the fact that well raised animals are better tasting and I don’t shy from a bit of blood or a chook with its head still attached in the Asian butchers.

I cannot espouse nose to tail because there are some bits I just don’t like, not fond of tripe, don’t like tongue and find heart horrible… have never tried deep fried pigs ears, I am sure they are delicious, I do like fried pigs blood and blood sausage. I would have no qualms about cooking with blood. I may be a bit hesitant to lop the head off a chook as I saw my father and grandfather do often. I don’t think I could actually kill a cow, sheep or pig, but I could watch and I could be part of the butchering.

I suspect that we have become far to removed from the reality of food to be able to relate to it in ways that are true and meaningful. I think that if we were asked to join in the slaughter of a pig and the butchering and preparing of all the bits and pieces that people in Spain, Italy and many other countries do and enjoy, we would become very squeamish indeed. Yet we enjoy (it seems since almost every restaurant in Australia lists ‘slow roasted belly pork’ on their menu) pig in all its many forms. Xmas without a ham is not an option for most people, it did start its life out as one of the four legs needed to keep a pig upright!


I am reminded of the respect and love that the Spaniards have for their treasured pigs who are treated with much affection, fed well, ills attended to and then, when their time comes, dispatched with care and grace, every bit of them is used for food and the pig toasted with raised glasses in celebration. We need this, not the idiotic pandering to misguided stupidity and ill conceived sensibilities that many people espouse. With respect, if you cannot stand to see the animal slaughtered or suffering, then for gods sake, don’t eat it. I cannot imagine an animal disagreeing with me.


~ by peterwatson on April 22, 2013.

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