“I had my wish though. I faced my meat”: The Horrors of DIY Pork

I apologize for the string of posts related to home (“do it yourself”) slaughtering. However, I’m trying to drive home the point (and spread the word) that the emerging movement to take control of our food supply offers no benefits to the animals we kill and eat. More and more often I’m hearing about the pride people are taking in slaughtering their own animals. This act of horrific and unnecessary violence is often cast as heroism (“I faced my meat”) in the face of an industrial food system that, through interminable supply chains, attempts to hide the harsh reality of turning animals into objects. The account below is from February 14, 2012, and it comes from a blogger/culinary student who proposes to take us “inside the mind of [a] food obsessed twenty-something.” Well, what you’ll find there is not especially impressive. What will it take to convince these people that there’s nothing especially brave about a human being shooting and gutting a helpless animal?

(Warning: even by the standards of this gruesome genre of writing, the following account is unusually upsetting.)

PIG TO PORK: MY FIRST SLAUGHTER

I was not nervous at all leading up to the slaughter. That was not until Leonard placed the knife in my hand. I did not want to fuck up. I wanted to get it right. If I messed this up the pig is left in more horrific pain. All this ran through head. I had the quick and painless death of an animal in my hand, or the slow and horrific one. But I calmed my nerves and tried not to think. All I needed to do was react. I had done this before, a hundred times, in my head. I knew exactly what I had to do. There was no time for emotion or anxiety. Just time to act. Tap into my reptilian brain and block out all emotion and useless thought.

It was unnaturally warm for February. The sun shined bright and only a tee shirt and jeans was adequate enough clothing to keep me warm. The weather was in stark contrast to the events which were about to unfold. Cameras were readied, guns loaded, knives sharpened. I went over a dozen times with Leonard where to cut. I wanted it to be done as quickly and humanely as possible. I got into position up top the small shed next to the pen. The only sound the roar of tractors in attempt to drown out the gunfire. But once the gun cracked I heard no sound, I did not think, I just acted.

The gun shot was the last sound I heard. I blacked out. A primal instinct took over. My body knowing exactly what to do, my mind unconscious. I was off the shed into the mud in a flash, knife in hand, so quick Jason could barely get off any photos. Though I had never done this before I knew exactly what to do. I had been studying it for you years, Books, the internet, youtube, talks with chefs and butchers, I had gone over it so many times in my head it was almost as if I had done it before.

In one instant I was on the shed the next there was a splatter. Blood sprayed across the sides of the pen and the pig began to convulse. One hand holding the pig, the other holding a pot to collect the blood. I was surprisingly calm while the other pigs ran about in chaotic fear. This was no Stop and Shop pork. This was the real deal. Slaughter is not pretty. It is smelly, bloody, and violent. I had my wish though. I faced my meat.

It was one quick slice, in and down. I had lined up the positioning on the live pigs, feeling for a pulse, to make sure the cut did the job as quickly as possible. My adrenaline was pumping to fiercely that I think I could have cut straight through the spine if I hit it. The wound was massive though, a third of the neck cut open, too big I think to have done its job sufficiently. I did not hit the windpipe though, sparing the pig, if still conscious the horror of drowning in her own blood.

Though it seemed much longer it was probably only two minutes from shot to shit. The final release of the bowels marking her death. We tied a rope around her hind leg and hoisted her upside down on the backhoe to bleed out. Bailey, the dog, in heaven as she lapped up the dripping blood.

Without access to a large enough tub of hot water we proceeded to burn and scrap off the hair. A process that took way to long for its reward; charred skin still full of stubble and a cloud of burnt hair that stuck to my nostrils. Then came the grossest part; gutting.

No amount of research had prepared me for the smell. Once the cavity was punctured noxious gas rushed out. Gladly I had a stuffy nose otherwise I am sure I would have been on my back. The smell only magnified when my unsteady amateur hand pierced the intestines and stomach in several places causing undigested food and excrement to spill out. It was not a pretty sight, the digestive system hanging out the body, too heavy for me to hold it back and still cut the skin. So we laid the pig down making the process easier, for me, the amateur. This also allowed me to get a better look at the pig’s internal structure, the bio nerd I am.

Guts cleared, head off, we sawed down the spine. What was once a pig just an hour before was now two sides of meat. Each hanging on a hook from the tractor. More reminiscent of a boxing flick than the slasher movie that had just ensued.

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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.

9 Responses to “I had my wish though. I faced my meat”: The Horrors of DIY Pork

  1. CQ says:

    I cannot understand a word this blogger is saying. It’s as if his repressed guilt over committing this violent, vile deed has driven him insane, to the point where he cannot write coherently.

    Here are two things I did manage to fathom, however: he congratulates himself for sparing the pig from drowning in his own blood and yet thinks nothing of scaring the other pigs out of their minds. How twisted.

    Having said “no” to purchasing factory-raised pigs’ flesh at Stop and Shop, he could have done the honorable thing: stop exploiting innocent animals for his own pleasure. Instead, I gather he decides that becoming a hands-on pig killer will make him an honest man. Hardly.

    So, now he has “faced my meat” — that is, defaced a pig. But he has not come face to face with his conscience. When he does, he will realize that, far from being a hero for having gutted and sawed through a swine’s spine, what he did is the act of a gutless, spineless moral idiot.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for showing, once again, that without our many tools, we are in no way “natural carnivores” – at least not of huge mammals.

  3. mike says:

    This line is especially vile: “The gun shot was the last sound I heard. I blacked out. A primal instinct took over. My body knowing exactly what to do, my mind unconscious.” for the false implication it carries that all people have it in them to do this, that it’s normal and natural etc. It’s just murder, and it’s disgusting. The way that writer casts himself (or herself?) as the hero is jarring, ridiculous, and gross. Thanks for putting some pressure on this sad movement of backyard slaughter.

  4. goiken says:

    From his follow-up post: (If you found the above sickening, STOP READING RIGHT HERE!)

    As the pig lay there bleeding out, giving off her final kicks and breaths of life I felt no emotion but accomplishment. I wanted to bang my chest like a gorilla and roar. There is no other feeling quite like it. It must have been the way all of my forefathers felt when they ran down a deer it the woods. This was now food for others, I am a provider, I am a man. It is macho as hell to kill another being for food. It is how we survived for so long, kill or be killed (…) It is as natural a process as getting up in the morning. The circle of life.

  5. Joanna Lucas says:

    James, thank you for exposing the cruelty inherent in backyard slavery and slaughter—please continue to do so. The deception that animals can be farmed/used “humanely” is one of the most destructive and pervasive myths these days, and it is actively promoted by animal advocates and industry alike. The result is that more and more consumers now feel good about buying the products of “humane” misery, more and more animals are murdered for “compassionate” human palates, and the work of vegan abolitionists is severely undermined.

    I’ve learned from years of experience dealing with the public face-to-face at the sanctuary, and during our constant off-site outreach efforts, that people’s default response when confronted with the horrors of factory farming these days is to say, “Oh, it’s OK, I only buy free range” or “I raise my own”. See the link below, for an example of what has now become the “conscientious” consumer’s default response:

    That’s why I believe that debunking the “humane” farming myth is where *the* battle for animal rights is these days. And it is *the* battle precisely because the “enemy” (“humane” farming) is not perceived as a problem, but rather as a wonderful and noble solution. And the fact that this “solution” has no basis in reality, but is entirely rooted in people’s fantasies of magical farms where the animals are willingly participating in their own murder, or where the act of murdering “free-range” animals is an act of heroism and maturity, only makes it that much more difficult to debunk. Because, as every advertiser and promoter knows, reality is no match for a feel-good delusion.

  6. AmyK says:

    I love how people like this go on about the Circle of Life. There’s no circle. If there was a circle, someone would be killing and eating us. The killing and eating is all one way.

    And the description of the blood, guts, undigested food, feces, and intestinal smells is hardly appetizing. You’d think that alone would turn people off from eating this.

  7. A hero???…a “devil” would be a better word.

  8. Britt says:

    This: “I was surprisingly calm while the other pigs ran about in chaotic fear.” How can a person acknowledge this and go on to describe the act as anything but murder? The denial is astounding…and disturbing.

  9. Provoked says:

    So this person had been studying for years via books, the internet, youtube and butchers? What a sad waste of life… Not only the innocent pig’s life, but the hollow, empty one of his murderer. Such dedication in preparation for a violent act… Such a waste of energy and time that could have gone for something good instead.

    Yeah, big man – killed him a pig… Guess he’ll attract the sorts like Novella Carpenter. One infected soul deserves another.

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