A: We kill it!
I’ve noticed a bit of discourse going on in America lately. Expressions of shock at the slaughtering of animals. The insinuation that it’s barbaric. Warning viewers of the gruesome images they are about to see.
Now, I am an omnivore. I love fried chicken, sausage, bacon, lamb, hamburgers. But I’m not under any illusions as to where that food comes from. I know that I am eating a dead animal that was killed in order to nourish me. I am a thinking omnivore- whenever possible, I want to make sure that the meat I am eating was raised free-range, preferably on a small farm, was fed appropriate food, and was slaughtered in a humane and respectful way. Or I will eat wild game that was hunted legally.
I want my eyes to be wide open about the whole process. If I can’t acknowledge the fact of the slaughter and stomach that, well then I shouldn’t stomach the meat either.
So back to the media. Remember the interview of Sarah Palin in front of turkeys being slaughtered for Thanksgiving? News anchors, pundits, average Americans made that into such a HUGE DEAL. The anchors warned squeamish viewers to turn away, blurred out what was happening, and expressed pious shock.
I kept wondering, where the fuck does America think our Thanksgiving turkeys come from? Exactly how do we think the live turkey becomes the big packaged thing that we get in the grocery store? Did we really expect death not to be involved? Why is it so gruesome that we can’t even see two turkeys be slaughtered, when we must have slaughtered literally millions to satisfy Thanksgiving demand?
So Dec. 8 was Eid Al-Adha, the “Festival of Sacrifice,” which includes the ritual slaughter of sheep and other animals. The animals are killed according to special standards, which involve saying the name of Allah as the animal is slaughtering and respecting the sacrifice of its life. The meat is then divided into thirds: one third is kept by the family, one third is given to friends, and one third is donated to the poor.
I cannot imagine a more respectful way to treat an animal intended for human consumption, nor more generous way to distribute the meat.
The Washington Post ran a slideshow after the fact of rural Muslims in America performing this ritual slaughter. Fine and dandy, the pictures are great. But the captions are filled with the same shock and moral indignation that accompanied coverage of Palin’s turkey interview. Before you can see the pictures, you are presented with this message:
“WARNING Editor’s Note: Some images in this gallery may be disturbing because of their violent or graphic nature.”
Some of the interesting photo captions include:
“A child feeds a sheep who will be killed at Home Place Farm in Maryland. ”
“Most of the animals die silently but it is not always quick. ”
“An animal lies trembling and tied on the ground. For one holiday guest named Benizir the tradition seems out of place in America. She believes it better to send money back to Afghanistan, her homeland. “And I feel sorry for the animals,” she says.”
“Five-year-old Nizar Ghoumari of D.C. weeps after pleading with his family to have one of the sheep alive to keep. He ran off in tears after realizing it would be slaughtered.”
“Mahfooz wipes away the blood of a sheep at his home in Virginia.” (Accompanying a picture of a man splattered with blood.)
“Nalia Zahid of Herndon, Va., winces as she and her children watch the final struggle of an animal.”
From reading these captions, you would imagine that eating meat is uncommon in America! The shock, the horror, the sorrow that the photographer and caption-writer chose to depict seem to come from people who have never contemplated an animal as a source of food.
Thousands, if not millions, of animals are killed every day to feed Americans. And most were not killed in the respectful way, after free-range lives on a small farm, that these sacrificial animals were. The death of animals is a banal, quotidian fact. They die by the thousands, and at factory farms and major slaughter houses their killing is almost completely mechanized- no prayer, no respect, no portion sent to the poor. They are killed all day long, every day, butchered, packaged, shipped to grocery stores, and sold to the majority of American consumers.
So why, when faced with a simple fact that is behind most of our daily existences, do we respond in such a silly way? I think a lot of us are simply in denial, a chosen and studious ignorance, about where meat comes from. Most of us are town, city and suburb dwellers, and if we choose, we never have to go near the site of animal slaughter. We are completely divorced from the production of our food, to the point that we act as though its very production is barbaric, but yet do not consider ourselves barbaric for being the reason for the slaughter.
Thoughts? Omnivores and vegetarians, please respect each other’s choices.