“No Christmas Ham Has Ever Tasted So Sweet”: The Dehumanizing Impact of Slaughtering an Animal

The more I read, learn, and think about the ethics of slaughtering a farm animal, the more I’m convinced that it ‘s an experience that dehumanizes and numbs us. Readers of this blog know that I’ve been on a steady, if emotionally unhealthy, diet of reading blogs by people who, in an effort to be conscientious carnivores, have decided to raise and kill their own meat. The justification for self-slaughter is weirdly complex, but it usually comes down to some amorphous notion about reconnecting with our food. Too often, the act of killing a being that has no interest in dying is cast as a brave and compassionate antidote to factory farming.  I’ve been getting criticism lately about relying on these blogs as accurate representations of the reality of local slaughter. My answer to these criticisms will be to continue to present accounts like this one below, over and over, until my message is clear: there is nothing humane about killing farm animals that do not have to be killed.  Yet another example:

You hear stories about wildlife heading for the hills minutes or even hours before a tsunami hits, or an earthquake.  Well I’m convinced the same principle applies to butchering day.  When I told the old timers what I was planning, they laughed in my face.  “Have fun with that!”  Undaunted, I pressed ahead with my plans, rigging a temporary chute with cattle panels for the hog’s last walk to the truck that would take him to the butcher down the road.  I asked a few friends over to help out.

This much I learned that day.  A quarter-ton of live hog meat is strong. I maneuvered him into the chute without much difficulty, and then all hell broke loose.  Thrashing about, the pig made quick work of my temporary fencing, tossing cattle panels about like they were cardboard.  Obviously, sterner measures were required.  I had a 4×4 piece of plywood I used to push the beast along from the rear.  He promptly turned and did a full leap up over the plywood leaving me sitting in muck and mire while he calmly munched corn at the other end of the pen.  After an hour or two of these kinds of futile attempts, someone phoned a seasoned hog veteran.  “Put a bucket over his head.”

By this point, my friends wanted no more to do with this project.  So I slung a feed bucket and faced him down.  Lawyer vs. Nature–just like the Good Lord intended.  And what do you know, it worked.  I strapped my bucket over that old boy’s snout and held on for my life.  It took a few minutes of wrestling and rolling in the mud, but I did manage to work my bacon into the truck.  No Christmas ham has ever tasted so sweet.

Here’s the link: http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2009/03/farm-stories-hog-killing/


About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

2 Responses to “No Christmas Ham Has Ever Tasted So Sweet”: The Dehumanizing Impact of Slaughtering an Animal

  1. Debbie says:

    I am so glad you are doing this series of posts on people trying to raise and kill animals. It helps to remove some of the false idea about what a great alternative this is.

  2. Pingback: News for September 16, 2011 : From A to Vegan

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