The Spirituality of Killing Your Food

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by mysticokra, Jul 28, 2006.

  1. mysticokra

    mysticokra Well-Known Member

    Feb 5, 2003
    Estillfork, Alabama
    The thread on mainstream foods reminded me of an old Kung Fu episode where a Native American warrior held a large fish he had just killed aloft, thanking the fish for the life he had given to feed the man.

    This is not that far removed from the traditional "family blessing" said in many homes, with the exception that the young Indian was very much aware that he had killed his food. He recognized the connection and on some level empathized with the sacrifice that was necessary.

    In my mind, choosing to avoid eating meats avoids the issue, but does not resolve it. I grieve a little when it's time to harvest a chicken or a cow. I believe that to be an appropriate part of the process.

    The disconnection that occurs when we eat meats that come from the grocery store robs us of the appreciation for the animal and the farmer and is something that our culture promotes.

    It requires an act of courage to return to a more direct encounter, but it is something I believe we would benefit from in the cultural psyche.

    If nothing else, perhaps it would teach us to value the human life more dearly and not let our politicians spend them as political capital in the "oil wars."

    What do you think about your food?
  2. gryndlgoat

    gryndlgoat Well-Known Member

    May 27, 2005
    Ontario, Canada
    I agree with what you are saying. There is nothing like butchering and cleaning your own food to make you appreciate your food. The concept of throwing out leftovers becomes sinful when it is your own animal's flesh that you are discarding- the waste is that much more personal.

    The same goes for any food grown and harvested by you yourself. I think everyone could benefit from having to grow a month's worth of food from scratch. I think our society would become very much less a throw-away society- the end of McGarbage fast food mentality. "Leftovers" would become tomorrow's dinner, chicken food or compost for next month's meals, not landfill. Win-win.

  3. minnikin1

    minnikin1 Shepherd

    Feb 3, 2003
    Central NY
    This is an interesting topic and has been on my mind lately.

    My personal experience with flesh eating has been a rocky road, and I've
    run the gamut from eating everything without thought of it's source, to many years of vegetarianism, to eating only meat that we had hunted, (the idea being that the animal had lived a normal free life and we weren't contributing to unkind farming practices) and finally now we've become comfortable with raising some of our own meat on the farm - again, providing a lifestyle as close to natural as possible.

    Now we are once again faced with a new prospect.
    When you raise your own, you inevitably wind up with a surplus and have to confront how you will deal with this abundance.
    I'm finding I can't take the step from killing our own, (the no stress, don't know what hit them way) to selling, trucking, and slaughter-houses.
    I just don't want to do it.

    I haven't decided what to do about it, yet.
    There is the on-farm killing option, although I'm not sure I agree that Halal and Kosher techniques are as humane as other methods, and so I'm not eager to invite the so-called "ethnic" markets.

    We are also considering making this a charitable part of our lives, providing our excess meat to others in our community. Imagine the opportunity for those with lower incomes to have access to the highest quality food - for a change. They are so often stuck with the unhealthiest food out there.

    Of course all these choices bring various obnoxious regulations into the picture, such as confronted the Amish man who was giving away raw milk.
    It's a pity there are those out there who would view an intended kindness as a criminal act.

    We are in the process of making what we feel is a major life choice, and the answer is not clear yet.

    I can say that taking an animal's life and eating the flesh has been directly responsible for reversing my typical "American" upbringing which included taking food for granted and wasteful behavior.
    I'm interested to hear more opinions, as well.
  4. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

    Oct 3, 2003
    Carthage, Texas
    To Live is to Suffer. old buddhist saying...

    For us to live, something must die. Whether it be an animal directly or indirectly, we all consume animals. Directly when we take their life spirit and consume them. Indirectly when we take the route of vegetarianism...which requires more farmed products, which require habitat destruction for the creation of new farmland... and in such cases, no animals are allowed to graze on the corn or soybean or whatever. Wild animals sometimes do get to visit their old habitat, but they're usually slaughtered when they do so.

    So if you eat vegetables, esp. soybeans, wildlife has to disappear.

    I thank every animal that I harvest for their gift of life to me... I waste nothing... otherwise the wild spirits might get angry and my future hunting/harvesting might be jeopardized...
  5. susieM

    susieM Well-Known Member

    Apr 23, 2006
    Arabs and, I believe, Jews sacrifice their animals with a prayer and ritual bleeding. The meat thus done is called 'halal'.
  6. MELOC

    MELOC Master Of My Domain

    Sep 26, 2005
    how do we know veggies don't have feelings too? i am human...i need to eat and anything that does not eat me first is fair game.
  7. Farmer Willy

    Farmer Willy Well-Known Member Supporter

    Aug 7, 2005
    A short way past Oddville
    I like my meat and my taters. I also like having gas in the tank when it's time to go to work. What butchering a chicken has to do with what ever the hell a oil war is I don't know. Oh, steak's up, gotta go.
  8. jnap31

    jnap31 garden guy

    Sep 16, 2005
    AR (ozarks)
    Veggies have feelings also. I always give thanks for any animals I kill for our food.
  9. Bink

    Bink Well-Known Member

    Apr 13, 2003
    Beautiful Kentucky
    I'm just grateful that they can't give us the big sad "bambi" eyes.
  10. Tango

    Tango Well-Known Member

    Aug 19, 2002
    I returned to being vegetarian after five years raising and butchering our own food in as humane manner as we could. Prior to that I was also vegetarian. It is a personal choice and I found that regardless of how I raised them, Istill ended their life- and that part was problematic for me. In hindsight I had a very tough time of it and hid that from myself. I always drank on butchering days. I gained a lot of weight and became very depressed. It was the least spiritual time of my life, though I concealed it well. Plants suffer but they do not suffer "as much," if that is measurable. Suffering is the nature of life, as Texican alluded to, and we have to eat. I think homesteaders, whether they eat meat or not, generally are more compassionate in their raising of livestock for food. Not all homesteaders, but many. My garden is finally yielding veggies, very late but they're here. The flavors and colors are exquisite and I can't help but feel they are superior to those scawny, dull, high- priced veggies in the produce section of the Super Walmart and Piggly Wiggly. My goal is to raise most, not all of my fruits and vegetables. Organic grains and legumes are widely available and economical.

    There is a connection that is lost to those who don't live a homesteading way of life. Has nothing to do with living in the country either. I have neighbors that raise practically everything they eat (including their herbs)to neighbors who buy cheap food at the supermarket and take their livestock to auction :shrug: Raising one's own food and treating the animal with respect if a person eats meat, allows for a wholeness to life that contributes not only to physical health but also to mental health. It gives perspective.

    BTW, Ethnic markets don't all hang living screaming animals (a prayer at that point is egocentric, imo). If in doubt, ask. I make it a point when I sell animals for meat to ask if the person is not a member of this board. On my ads here I usually request the animals are treated compassionately, that includes the butchering. I will never sell to halal markets. And I still do raise livestock that will be butchered, even though I do not eat them and will not kill them.
  11. savinggrace

    savinggrace COO of manure management

    Oct 27, 2005
    I really look at every life experience as an opportunity to continue learning.

    From the first chicken I ever processed, as my hand was bringing down the axe, I found myself-sort of meditating something that was in the same thought asking for forgiveness and thanking the animal for it's contribution. I can't really share it in language as it seems to be more of an internal belief- but it is quite spiritual.

    Generally when the conversation comes up-how interesting, you raise your own meat-but I can almost then expect to be asked 'how can YOU manage the butchering process? How can you love something and then kill it? and then someone in the group usually offers a story about how they were unwilling participants in chicken processing as a child; the gruesomeness of it all-generally the actual person processing the chicken thought it funny to subject the child (now offering the story to me as an adult) to having a severed chicken carcass flopping and running after the child....

    For that reason, I do not at this point in time involve my children in choosing the birds to be processed that day-nor the head removal process.

    For two reasons, one I feel it might raise MY anxiety level, and two, until they ask or want to be involved in that aspect of it, I don't want to force it upon them. My children do particpiate in the care of the animals, they know when we will be processing, and they help with the cleaning ect. after the head is removed.

    My children are being taught that we have the upmost respect for all our animals, pets; meat animals, the same level. We care for them with the same level of attentiveness. But this is where they have already learned to disconnect.
    When boxes of chicks arrive in the mail, or a group of eggs hatch, the children immediately ask 'Are these meat chickens or laying chickens'? If I tell them they are laying chickens, the children cheer and begin giving them names. If I tell them they are meat chickens, they exclaim 'oh aren't they so cute' and with the same enthusiasm help me to get them established. But they have already learned to have some disconnection. While the chicks are still small and in pens, the children don't give preference when picking clover flowers to feed them, but the do spend more time handling the laying chicks than the meat chicks. Even if the laying chicks are for customers.

    Raising my own meat has taught me a different level of conservance and I am certain not one small bit is wasted. I guess I wasn't that attentive when our meat came from a plastic shrink wrapped container in the grocery.

    I also feel a sense of peace and pride when serving my own meat. Peace in the way I know where these animals came from, I knew what their quality of life was (and that they HAD a quality of life) and that when the time came, it was done in a respectful manner.

    Looking forward to everyone elses thoughts on this! :)
  12. CatsPaw


    Jun 16, 2006
    Owen Co., Indiana
    I want you all to know how good i've been since this thread was first posted. But, my "Bart" gene finally kicked in and I can't hold it in any longer.

    There is no "spirituality" about killing your food, or eating your food, or anything else. Humans need to eat just like everything else.

    I don't see foxes lighting candles and doing turkey dances before they gobble up their prey.

    I will say in principle I agree with Texican. There's always a give and take. Nature is very good at this. People are not.

    People need to have a little motivational speaker sitting on their shoulder telling them to think positive thoughts or a book they can read to tell them each step to take in their life (apparently.)

    Bottom line is don't litter, don't be wasteful, be nice, be helpful, work hard, play hard, etc. etc. It's real simple. If you have a chicken and you are hungry, kill the chicken and eat it.

    I'm not trying to specifically insult anyone. It's just that people need to stop making life more complicated than it is.
  13. Beltane

    Beltane Enjoying Four Seasons

    Nov 26, 2005
    Beautiful Milton, New Hampshire
    I have really enjoyed everyone's thought out responses on this thread. Being new to farming and self-sufficiency, I'm having a hard time with many of the issues mentioned above. I can only belive that I will one day find my own path. :)
  14. tyusclan

    tyusclan Well-Known Member

    Jan 1, 2005
    I didn't post earlier on this because I wasn't sure exactly how to say what I wanted to say. I'm still not. It's not my intention to insult anyone, but I will try to explain my point of view as best I can. I don't attach any spirituality to the butchering on livestock, nor do I thank the animal. I believe that God created animals for our use, and that He is the ultimate provider. Therefore, He is the one that I thank. I do appreciate the animals, I care for them, give the best, most natural, and most comfortable life that I can give them, but I don't form any special attachment to them. I know from day one that they are here for a short time and for a specific purpose, namely to feed my family. When the time comes for slaughter I don't necessarily "like" having to do it, but neither do I dread it. It's simply a job that has to be done as quickly, efficiently, and as humanely as possible.
  15. Gideon's War

    Gideon's War Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2005
    In a state of Grace by the Lord Jesus
    Here is another deep question....should we thank the creator of Kung Fu for his enlightening show? Give thanks to David Carridene? Just wondering :)
  16. donsgal

    donsgal Nohoa Homestead

    May 2, 2005
    SW Missouri near Branson (Cape Fair)
    On the one hand I agree with you, but on the other hand, personally I prefer not to know where my food is coming from. (I do of course, but I don't think about it). I find that thinking about the process is very distressing to me emotionally. I would never be capable of killing my own food. I would become a vegetarian before that ever happend.

    It breaks my heart to see cows in the field knowing that in a number of months they will be gracing somones table as a pot roast or ribeye.

    I find it shocking that most of the "younger generation" of city folks do not have the faintest clue where their chicken, beef, etc., comes from and I suspect most do not realize that what they are eating was once a living animal.

    I am always thank everything that must be sacrificed to benefit the homestead. It doesn't stop at food. I feel a twinge of pain with every tree we cut down to make room for an out building or garden spot. To be thankful just seems to be the right thing to do.

  17. Pony

    Pony STILL not Alice Supporter

    Jan 6, 2003
    Meg Z used to have a tagline that said, in effect, that all life requires death to sustain itself, and that it is important to respect the life that dies to give you life.

    My remembrance of the sentiment is certainly not as eloquent as Meg's tagline, but that was the gist of it.

    And that's what works for me. I remember that I have to eat, and I remember to do my best to respect the life that is sacrificed so that I can live.

    This also ties in to my beliefs as a follower of Jesus. His death brought me to life, and I try to live a life of gratitude as a response to that gift.

  18. hisenthlay

    hisenthlay a.k.a. hyzenthlay

    Feb 23, 2005
    Southwestern PA
    CatsPaw: the thing that supposedly separates humans from other animals is our ability to reason, to be spiritual, and to be self-reflective. Many people cite this as the very reason that we have a "right" to kill other animals for food. Humans have the ability to recognize that something had to make the ultimate sacrifice for them to have that food on their plate. Knowing of that sacrifice, humans should feel some sense of respect, gratitude, and even sadness when benefiting from the sacrifice. Foxes, presumably not blessed (or burdened) with the same level of awareness, do not share that responsibility with us. Moreover, for most Americans at least, eating meat is a choice, not a requirement to sustain life. Therefore, those who eat meat have the additional burden of knowing that that animal on their plate died not out of necessity for survival, but for their pleasure and preference. That, to me, seems like a pretty heavy thought, and heavy thoughts are often the source of meditations and spirituality.
  19. minnikin1

    minnikin1 Shepherd

    Feb 3, 2003
    Central NY
    There is an old story about trying to describe a stunning, ruby sunset to 3 different people who are color-blind.

    The first person listens and tries to picture it.
    The second person says, "why should I bother hearing this, I'll never know what it looks like, anyway."
    The third person say, "You're nuts! I'm looking right at it and there's nothing there."

    Catspaw, your post kind of sounds like person #3.
  20. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2004
    this also is a thing I think about and am bothered by. Thanks for bringing up this particular perspective, texican. :)