Katie's Journal

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My Thoughts on Slaughter

by @ 1:53 pm on July 15, 2013.

This one is not for the squeamish. If you would rather not know how your nice juicy steak gets on your plate, quit reading now.

A little traveling music for those leaving, courtesy of the 90s hit sitcom Friends.

Oh the cow in the meadow goes moo. The cow in the meadow goes moo. Then the farmer hits it on the head and grinds it up and that’s how we get hamburger.

Anyone left? Here we go.

Allow me to preface this by saying I grew up in the suburbs. Animals were “humanely euthanized” by vets and I never gave a thought to how my food made it to the table. All that changed when I married Ern and became a farmer.

Death is not a pretty thing. I haven’t been around enough butchering to be at ease with it but I am coming to understand it both from a realistic and a business view point. Which is why the alarmist cruelty screams in response to activist hidden videos seem hollow to me. The latest outcry is over a video taken at a slaughter house in CA that can be seen at this link. It is graphic and not for the feint of heart. According to articles here and here the USDA has shut down the plant and big companies like McDonald’s are no longer purchasing their products. The former article quotes a vet who says dairies should not send cull cows to slaughter. Wait, what? I think that’s even dumber than the questions I ranted about in my what are people thinking post.

There are so many things I could say on this one. I think my biggest issue is people who have no cattle experience at all dictating slaughter house policy. I do think cattle should be treated in a reasonably humane manner on their path to your table. And I think some regulation is necessary. But I watched that video. And what I saw was not intended cruelty but staff doing what had to be done to deal with large, uncooperative animals. Were some seriously lame? Yes. And that was the only part of the video that made me sad to watch. But those cows are how McDonald’s can afford to have a dollar menu.

Since I married Ern I’ve done things I never dreamed I’d do. I raised rabbits and on my own, dispatched, butchered, and got them into the freezer. Once upon a time, a rabbit was a pet. I admit to bring impressed with my fortitude at pushing my boundaries. I hate the butchering part. It’s gross. But I like meat, and that’s a step to getting it on the table. I’ve been party to treating all manner of down cows (those cows who are injured and cannot get up on their own). If a 1200 pound animal can’t get up, you have very few options. We typically use the tractor to drag the cow where we need her to be. It’s not easy on the cow and it’s our last resort. Sometimes it’s a necessary step in saving her. Sometimes cows are just very, very stupid. Cows were meant to stand up by heaving their butt in the air first, then their front. We have cows that will sit up like dogs, flip around like fish until they fall back over because they are not dogs and can’t get up front first. Once they’ve got the stupidness out if their system, they get up like a good cow should and all is well. Sometimes they are CONVINCED that they just physically cannot rise, and if they lay there and moo at you then you’ll realize what pathetic creatures they are and you’ll leave them to their misery. For that, we have a cattle prod. Used correctly they are effective. One zap on the butt usually inspires a cow to live. I’ve been hit with a prod before, and I don’t like it either, but it gets me moving and I’m over it in a few seconds. I would rather be zapped once than hit repeatedly. Until you’ve worked with cattle, it can be hard to understand how absolutely necessary these measures are.

I guess what winds me are two things: people criticizing so vehemently what they don’t understand, and people who complain about the treatment of animals while refusing to pay the price of food it would take to improve conditions. The second point is I believe a subject for a separate post. And the first is unlikely to change. Mainly because people are becoming more and more removed from the animals that become the food they eat.

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