Sunday, 27 April 2014

A confronting meal

I will be writing here about killing our young goats so please stop reading now if you wish.  There are no distressing photos.  Only my thoughts around the issue.

In February I was offered our milking doe back by the lady who had been keeping her.  She was overstocked with goats and needed a couple to go.
I happily snapped up the chance.  We are now better positioned to cope with milking goats than the first time we tried our hand and found it too difficult.  We took charge of our goat Daisy plus another milking goat with two kids.  The kids had to come with her as they were too young to wean.  They were both boys.  We always knew that they would be returning to their owner to become goat meat.

Let me tell you, I have always even struggled with the concept of eating our own chooks, though we will keep working towards this end.  The sweet little goats took it to a whole 'nother level!  They are so beautiful, have definite personalities and became very much a part of the place.  I was determined not to become attached to them or to have much to do with them at all.  They had other ideas!  Because of their size, they could easily escape the fence and often did.  They would be up near the house yard, frolicking and romping with the dogs, sheep and horse.  We would often find ourselves laughing as we watched them play.  Hubby jokingly called them Heckle and Jeckle a couple of times and the names stuck.  Damn.  Big mistake.  Never name an animal that is destined for the pot.
Heckle and Jeckle began showing far too much interest in the does over the last couple of weeks.  We can't have the does breeding with their offspring.  They were also becoming much more destructive of the plants outside of our yard fence.  We knew it was time for them to go back no matter how badly I felt.  They were not ours to keep.

We borrowed a trailer with a cage to transport them.  I prepared the family emotionally for the parting and rang the lady to organise taking them back.  I figured she would grow them on for a month or so before using them for the table. Imagine my shock when she told me they were still overstocked to the point that they had no room and they would kill them off the back of the trailer rather than have to rehouse them and do it later.  It made perfect practical sense but OHHH......!  I wasn't ready for this! 

We decided Hubby would go alone.  It would be too much for the children to witness the beloved kids being killed.  And do you know, as much as I want to be tough and pragmatic about killing our own meat, I was very relieved not to go.  I think I would have been extremely upset.

We weren't sure how we would catch them to put them in the trailer but those curious kids just jumped right in because they wanted to see what was going on!  While it was very convenient, it kinda made it worse.  They were so trusting of us.  We said our goodbyes and watched Hubby drive away.
We thought he would be gone for just over an hour with the driving and drop off time.  He arrived home about three hours later.  He had been invited to stay and help and jumped at the chance!  He told me the kids were dispatched very respectfully.  There was some sort of gun used which stunned them so they had no idea what had happened.  The second kid was never taken near the first so he had no inkling of what was about to happen.  There were even some tagasaste leaves in the trailer when it came home so I suspect our friend made sure he was comfortable and happy until the end.

Hubby learned a lot by helping with the butchering.  It was a great opportunity for him because we may want to butcher our own animals at some point.  Our friends offered Hubby half a kid to bring home.  That was an unexpected surprise!  Am I happy about this or not?  I'm not sure.  How can I eat a meal of Heckle or Jeckle?!!

If you don't read here regularly, you may not know my philosophies and be wondering why I would be entertaining the idea.  Well I am a meat eater.  Pure and simple.  I could choose to become vegetarian but I enjoy eating meat and believe it is good for my children and us.  We don't eat a lot of meat and when I do, I like to know it's origins.  I believe that by eating meat from the supermarkets (and sometimes even from the butchers) money is the bottom line, not the animal.  Yes, it will hurt me to eat Heckle or Jeckle and I don't even know if I will be able to swallow that meal yet, but I know Heckle and Jeckle lived a good life, played, ate well, enjoyed the pleasure of space and the company of other goats.  They died without stress and were respected till the very end.

You may not like my choice to eat meat but I hope you respect me for my efforts to do it ethically because, trust me, it is not easy.  It takes time, effort and it's a huge psychological challenge but I would rather be realistic about where my meat comes from than the alternative.  I don't waltz into a store and buy a neat and overpackaged portion of meat without a second thought for the animal or whether it lived a miserable life or died a stressful death.  In my mind, if I can't confront what I am actually doing when I eat meat, I shouldn't have the right to eat it.  It is an animal.  That's the reality so many people conveniently choose to ignore.  I have been honest with the children about it too.  Although we had no expectation that we would be eating these particular kids, I don't want to hide the truth of it from them.  If they are to be meat eaters, they need to know.

So thank you to our friends for your respectful handling of the animals we had come to know.  Thank you Heckle.  Thank you Jeckle.  I feel sort of guilty but  I am glad you lived a good life here and died a good death.  


Meg said...

I can relate to your feelings and thoughts. We recently ate some of our excess roosters and, while a bit confronting, it is something we can do. The children were OK with it, and I'm glad that they are learning to respect the animals that give them food, and don't just think that meat just appears on plastic trays. We'll have our first lambs that are destined for dinner soon, and that will be another challenge for us.

Anonymous said...

Today I had to confront exactly what you've written of up front and personal. Today our lambs, bought as 10 week olds fresh off Mumma, met their maker. I helped hold them down whilst a friend dispatched them. I held them whilst they kicked out their lives. I helped skin them. I helped gut them and I will help butcher them next week.
Our lambs were named Korma and Roast. Neither had a specific name and I know it sounds macabre to call them that but though it was done light heartedly it was also to serve as a reminder of where they were to go. It was hard work, physically demanding and also emotional but as you say, meat needs to be all about ethics. I feel I carry the moral responsibility to take the life of at least one animal I will eat. I mean actually be the one wielding the knife. And if we can never process another ruminant here (we will be in a similar place with baby goats in the future) then I will rest comfortably knowing I can source very local and ethical meat and that I have been a part of the process.
You would never know I was city born and city raised if you'd seen me today and although I can't exactly say it's fun processing an animal like that, it does feel right.
My next big projects are learning to butcher (chop up) the carcasses, render the tallow for candles and soap making, and tanning the hides. Much reading to do this week. :)

Cheryl said...

I think you need to keep reminding yourself of your very last sentence, it's the crux of the whole debate, they lived a good life, and had a good death as far as death can be good, far more than can be said for most animals.

I'm not brave enough to do what you do. I eat meat from the butcher and rarely equate that to an animal that lived and died. But strangely I do associate "the animal" to the meal when I am eating chicken, maybe because it looks like a chicken when I'm roasting it. For that reason, I CANNOT eat commercial chicken, it has to be free range, even though free range still has it's issues it's the best I can do. I physically feel ill when I think of mass produced cage chickens & eggs.

I hope you can eat your goat meal, it will be a waste of life if you don't. Good luck.

Chris said...

The one thing which always made me feel better by eating our own animals, is knowing they were treated with respect. It does come with mixed feeling though, because we're not completely emotionally detached either.

Linda said...

Meg, that's so good the kids were okay with it! Good luck with your lambs. That's one of the meats we hardly eat but I love it so much. Good on you.

Rabidlittlehippy, you a so brave! I admire your convictions. Hubby and I tried to work out how to tan a hide without buying anything in a while ago. We couldn't find anything on the internet that told us how though. Let me know if you come a cross anything.

Cheryl, I guess I hate the thought of poor sheep and cows being herded onto trucks etc. scared out of their wits but also the farming practices which are so damaging to the environment. Yes, I intend making a special meal from the meat so I can do it justice.

It's a tough thing to do, isn't it Chris? I hope I get to the point that I feel comfortable with it one day. I know it's the better option.

Anonymous said...

We've just got sheep and one of the ewes lambed just before we picked her up (literally down the road) so the lambs were part of the deal. They have no names and we are bracing ourselves for the deed in about a year's time. We'll be getting in the mobile butcher to help out so its done properly so we'll see how we go.... Hopefully you'll be thinking of me.