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Respect for your food


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Not sure if this is exactly the right place to put it, but I guess it counts as an adventure, of sorts, so here goes.

Yesterday we attended a pig roast, to celebrate the end of the school year. The guest of honor had been brought home six weeks ago and fed up to ensure a good meal for all. A few people had camped out the night before, to supervise the fire and the roasting, which took place in a firepit in the woods. (I should probably add here that this is not really my sort of thing to begin with. I was raised Jewish, and still feel like a lightning bolt will descend upon my head every time I put a bite of pig in my mouth. I'm also a world-class mosquito magnet, as my pig-loving pig-deprived husband will attest.) Everyone who came brought a dish to accompany said pig. Our pot of barbecue beans were slurped up in a hurry, and we had some most excellent dutch oven cornbread as well. One of the attendees brought a couple of fresh pike. Fresh, as in just pulled out of the boat's live well. So far, so good.

Among the attendees were several children, including probably four boys under the age of 10. And these boys were hanging around the person with the pike as he cleaned and fileted his catch. While he worked on the first fish, the second was hanging from a tree branch. This I'm also OK with.

But the part that I'm definitely not OK with: these boys grabbed biggish twigs, and started poking the fish that was hanging from the tree. This fish had not yet been knocked on the head or otherwise dispatched, and although it had ceased to actively struggle, it was not yet dead. (Fresh, as in not yet dead.) The boys were poking the fish in the eyes, pulling up its gill covers with the sticks, and even in one case puncturing its skin with the stick so it bled a bit. And another part that I'm definitely not OK with: the parents of these kids didn't have anything to say other than "Danny, don't poke Billy" (or the equivalent). Not a word about leaving the fish alone.

Now, I clearly knew this fish was doomed. And I normally have no problem with eating meat, fowl, or fish. But it bothered me immensely that neither these boys nor their parents respected this fish that was about to become their dinner. In fact, this nearly made me hurl, to the point where I took our empty bean pot back to the car, ostensibly to make room on the tables for more food that others were bringing out but really so I didn't need to watch the fish be abused.

And then when I came back, I had to hear another story that I didn't really need to hear: this was a first try at raising a pig for the family that did so, and when the time came to slaughter the pig, it took four shots to do the job. By this point I'd really had it, and I practically grabbed my husband and ran out of there.

Now: this pig made a lot of people very happy. Being eaten was its entire raison d'être, and I have no problem with it being eaten. I assume the fish also made people very happy, although we weren't there to see it and presumably this fish was raised in a hatchery to be both food and part of the lake ecosystem. But would I have been acting totally beyond good manners if I had pulled these kids and their sticks away from the fish, even if I had restrained myself and not followed through on my impulse to poke them in the eyes with sticks and flap open their gill covers? Do we all need to go back to the farm to learn where food comes from? Or have I just somehow exposed myself as a closet radical and shown that I need to go buy a farm and kill myself anything that I eat?

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Melissa, Hi....

I recall the words of Chinese-American historian-author-philosopher Lin Yu Tang who in his acknowledgement that there is indeed something cruel about raising animals in order to kill and eat them, said that among the ways we can at least partly compensate for this is to "raise the animals with honor and with respect and with the sense of thanks that one day they will become part of your body"

Perhaps that is something that the people at your event should have taught their children.

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To me the children's actions could be interpreted as either curiosity, having never been exposed to a whole live or dead fish or as base cruelty. In either instance it seems unthinkable that an adult wasn't able or willing to use the situation as a teaching experience. To teach respect for the food that we eat and for the gentleness and with which it is imperitive that we treat others. That is very sad. :sad:

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But it bothered me immensely that neither these boys nor their parents respected this fish that was about to become their dinner....

And then when I came back, I had to hear another story that I didn't really need to hear: this was a first try at raising a pig for the family that did so, and when the time came to slaughter the pig, it took four shots to do the job. ....

Do we all need to go back to the farm to learn where food comes from? Or have I just somehow exposed myself as a closet radical and shown that I need to go buy a farm and kill myself anything that I eat?

Melissa -- What an awful experience you described, for you as much as the animals in question. No matter what was going to happen to it, the fish was alive and the kids' parents should have put a stop to the abuse. Some people are just blockheads.

As for their killing the pig ... well, I'm beyond horrified at that. No. No. No. No. If you're going to slaughter for a living, learn to do it right before you attempt to do it alone. It should not be approached as a hobby.

Yes, I believe that we should go back to the farm to know where food comes from. We should be willing and able to kill something we're going to eat. I don't think that makes anyone a radical, just thoughtful. Even something as simple as buying fish or fowl whole and breaking them down, makes you think harder about what you're eating, and not just mindlessly consuming.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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I don't have any children, but being a meat eater and if my children are anything like me, will be too. i will teach them to respect all animals not just the ones you put in your mouth. hopefully they will listen.

Please be careful when lighting cognac. You would look funny without eyebrows.

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I kinda sympathize, but it would be hard for me to be too outraged without feeling like a complete hypocrite. I'm sympathetic to the PETA-esque view that you really can't claim to be "respecting" an animal all that much when you rip it out of the water with a hook through the mouth, hang it up to die of suffocation or bash its head against a tree, and then cook and eat its corpse. I'm not sure you can claim to be respecting an animal even as you deprive it of its very existence. In the everyday meaning of the word respect, I wouldn't consider this a respectful act no matter how much was done to avoid unnecessary suffering.

I guess I would feel like a bit of a hypocrite scolding the kids because I also continue to buy milk and beef and chicken taken from animals that I know good and well were not treated with any real "respect" when they were alive. I mean, I'm not sure that a fish getting poked with a stick at or near the moment of death is any less respectful to me than the everyday living conditions imposed on chickens on the chicken farm, or ducks and geese that are force-fed to produce fat fois gras fodder livers. These are the large-scale, industrial equivalents of the kids with the sticks, though the sticks are replaced with ridiculously small cages, injectors and clippers and force-feeding devices.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I guess I would feel like a bit of a hypocrite scolding the kids because I also continue to buy milk and beef and chicken taken from animals that I know good and well were not treated with any real "respect" when they were alive. I mean, I'm not sure that a fish getting poked with a stick at or near the moment of death is any less respectful to me than the everyday living conditions imposed on chickens on the chicken farm, or ducks and geese that are force-fed to produce fat fois gras fodder livers. These are the large-scale, industrial equivalents of the kids with the sticks, though the sticks are replaced with ridiculously small cages, injectors and clippers and force-feeding devices.

Yes, and the more you torture them while they are alive, the more grateful they wil be when you finally kill them.

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I think to mistreat the animals that we consume is showing a total lack of respect for nature and the environs. And for parents not to teach their chidren this respect is unforgiveable.

That said, I had an unpleasant experience last week. I was preparing soft shell crabs and as hundreds of times in the past, I cut the crab about and inch behind its eyes to kill it instantly. Unfortunately one crab (out of six) woudn't die. I had to cut it six times before it finally stopped moving. I wound up cutting about 1/4 of its body. This was quite disturbing as the crab was obviously suffering for about a minute or two.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Do we all need to go back to the farm to learn where food comes from?

I worked for years photographing people who go to the farm dinners...I am quite serious when I say that dozens, if not hundreds, seemed surprised to see food that had dirt on it. I am quite certain that some of them had never gotten their shoes dusty in their lives, and equally certain that many had never set foot in a garden.

So I like your idea (no surprise, considing the subject of my new blog, in tagline below).

I would not have hesitated to tell the children myself to stop torturing the fish. That's what "it takes a village to raise a child" means. It's up to all adults to model good behavior, and if the parents take offense, it's because clueless people hate having their faults brought to the light.

Sorry you suffered, and good for you for sharing the story.

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If I read your description correctly, I think I'm most horrified that the angler left live fish to hang on a tree before gutting and filleting them. I do think a child's curiosity can be encouraged without allwoing him/her to be cruel to animals...and yet I as a young child remember being cruel to frogs, fish and insects (ants and a magnifying glass?) so don't have a solution to that.

As for respect for what we eat I think it's of utmost importance, and agree that if we had to kill our dinner we might have a completely different take on things. I'm happily carnivorous but do wonder what we've come to when we feel the need to buy boneless, skinless chicken breats instead of a whole bird, or already-cooked pot roast instead of raw beef? Is it hygiene, convenience, distrust of our own abilities in the kitchen, a value-oriented buying pattern that makes us act like this?

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While the Jeffrey Dhamers of this world may start out with cruelty to amimals, a kid poking a fish with a stick may be more the result of a lack of understanding, than inherent cruelty.

That an animal can feel pain, and has emotions, and should be treated with consideration and respect can be every bit has hard to grasp for a kid who's never thought much about animals before, as it would be for a kid reared on Disney movies, to accept that it's okay to eat Bambi's mom, and that lions and tigers are dangerous, unpredictable animals...

That Australian chew-toy tourist jumping the barriers at an Anchorage zoo to get a closer look at Binky the polar bear, and Linda McCartney (de mortuis nil nisi bonum, my anus) coming home for some tasty lambchops, but taking the family vegitarian cause she spotted some cute little lambs during their pre-dinner stroll -- shows a complete detachment from the realities of nature.

Slaughter isn't every pretty, and is certainly shocking for someone who's never seen it before. But to botch it, obviously, there's no excuse for that...

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As for their killing the pig ... well, I'm beyond horrified at that.  No. No. No. No.  If you're going to slaughter for a living, learn to do it right before you attempt to do it alone.  It should not be approached as a hobby.

If you're horrifed at a pig getting shot and needing more than one shot, you probably will want to avoid hunting any of your own meat the old-fashioned way, with spears or arrows, the way people always did it before the invention of the gun. :) The pig's demise was probably blissful compared to the way most prey die at the hands of hunters. If you're using arrows or spears certainly there is no gaurantee of a quick, painless death for the prey. Most likely you'll just cause bleeding and the animal will bleed to death over the course of a few minutes. If most hunters waited for a gaurantee of instant death before taking a shot, they'd never catch anything.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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If you're horrifed at a pig getting shot and needing more than one shot, you probably will want to avoid hunting any of your own meat the old-fashioned way, with spears or arrows, the way people always did it before the invention of the gun. :) The pig's demise was probably blissful compared to the way most prey die at the hands of hunters. If you're using arrows or spears certainly there is no gaurantee of a quick, painless death for the prey. Most likely you'll just cause bleeding and the animal will bleed to death over the course of a few minutes. If most hunters waited for a gaurantee of instant death before taking a shot, they'd never catch anything.

I'm not sure I get your point. There are humane ways ethical farmers kill domesticated animals, and there are stupid cruel ways amatuer hobbyists kill domesticated animals. The better question is, why were they shooting a domesticated animal? Where I grew up you held the thing down, gave it a sugar cube and slit its throat. Brutal to watch, but quick. And no, I didn't do it personally, because that job was left to people who knew what they were doing.

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The parents of those kids should have made them stop what they were doing. My boys would never do something like that, as we've taught them that cruelty to animals or other living things is unacceptable.

I really don't understand why the fish was hanging from a tree still alive. The fish should have been killed and kept cold until it was filleted. My husband and boys do a lot of fishing in the summer and they would never treat a fish in that manner.

If my kids treated a fish or other animal in that manner for some stupid reason, they would be severely reprimanded.

I don't mind the rat race, but I'd like more cheese.

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I'm the mother of two kids and I would never have tolerated that sort of behavior from them. What's more, I certainly would have been as outraged as you were by other parents allowing their children to indulge in the behavior.

Killing animals is a neccessary byproduct of being an omnivore. I choose to eat animals, therefore I must also acknowledge that animals die for me to eat and be willing to live with that. I try to teach that to my kids as well. I'm the mother that outraged the other mothers on the kindergarten farm field trip by pointing at the adorable little lambs and telling my kids "See those little baby lambs? We kill them to get lambchops." I've also brought them to the local market where live fish are sold so that they see that swimming fish become lovely fish fillets only after a creature has lost its life. My children understand where their food comes from. Who knows? They may make a different choice someday and choose to be vegetarians because of that.

Shame on the parents of those other children for allowing them to turn the suffering of an animal into a game. Shame on the people who botched the slaughter of the pig - they should have been better prepared or hired a professional to have the job done correctly.

I don't think your reaction was out of line at all.

Stephanie Kay

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I'm guessing the hog was a hundred fifty or more, and pike aren't like hanging a couple of rainbow trout up in a tree. Life-and death-isn't a bunch of roses. Good thing they weren't froggin or catfishin, let alone skinning eels......

Dang now i'm getting hungry for a little foie gras.

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i'm a bit confused about thist thread, mostly because almost every other thread has some duck liver-worshipping going on. those ducks are tortured beyond belief. and veal? we all know how veal is raised. eggs come from disgustingly kept chickens, milk from cows that bleed and suffer from inhumane milking techniques.

what exaclty is the problem here?

start this thread up again when all of you have thrown away your foi grois.

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If you're horrifed at a pig getting shot and needing more than one shot, you probably will want to avoid hunting any of your own meat the old-fashioned way, with spears or arrows, the way people always did it before the invention of the gun. :) The pig's demise was probably blissful compared to the way most prey die at the hands of hunters. If you're using arrows or spears certainly there is no gaurantee of a quick, painless death for the prey. Most likely you'll just cause bleeding and the animal will bleed to death over the course of a few minutes. If most hunters waited for a gaurantee of instant death before taking a shot, they'd never catch anything.

Yep, I avoid hunting because I don't need to kill something to survive. Why other people do it is their own business. Best I can offer myself is being thoughtful about the animals I eat, as much as I reasonably can.

I wonder if the pig was used in its entirety, or if the 'familiar' meats were pulled and the rest, tossed?

I grew up watching my Italian grandparents butcher their own chickens, rabbits and squirrels, and my German uncles butchering pigs. I know it ain't pretty, but it doesn't have to be ugly. Every bit of the animal was used or at least tried to be used. Back then, the idea was "waste not, want not." Now, with the abundance around us, I think it's a matter of respect.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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If you're horrifed at a pig getting shot and needing more than one shot, you probably will want to avoid hunting any of your own meat the old-fashioned way, with spears or arrows, the way people always did it before the invention of the gun. :) The pig's demise was probably blissful compared to the way most prey die at the hands of hunters. If you're using arrows or spears certainly there is no gaurantee of a quick, painless death for the prey. Most likely you'll just cause bleeding and the animal will bleed to death over the course of a few minutes. If most hunters waited for a gaurantee of instant death before taking a shot, they'd never catch anything.

I'm not sure I get your point. There are humane ways ethical farmers kill domesticated animals, and there are stupid cruel ways amatuer hobbyists kill domesticated animals.

If you read my post above, you will see that I am talking about hunting animals, not slaughtering domesticated animals. You dont hunt domesticated animals. I'm thinking of things like wild boar and deer, not farm-raised cows and pigs. Its relatively easy to slaughter a cow or pig quickly and humanely, but not so for a boar or a deer.

And I thought my point was obvious: that for most humans, for most of their existence on earth, before animal domestication or for animals that are not domesticated, getting the meat was and is often a brutal, drawn-out thing for the prey, and that the pig's end sounds pretty humane by comparison. I'm not saying that this was or is a good thing by any means, just that that is the way it was and is, and that if you think the pig-shooting described in the first post is morally unacceptable, or "stupid cruel", then you should probably be opposed to just about all forms of hunting as "stupid cruel" as well.

Where I grew up you held the thing down, gave it a sugar cube and slit its throat. Brutal to watch, but quick.

A few gunshots to the head can be a lot more humane that cutting the throat. If you've seen an animal slaughtered by having its throat cut, you know that this does not bring about instant death, as evidenced by the violent thrashing and squealing and gasping. You can find plenty of videos of this type of thing on animal-rights websites. It may take up to a minute for the animal to loose consciousness and stop thrashing. That sure doesn't strike me as being any more humane than shooting, even if you have to shoot a few times.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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How many meat eaters would stop eating meat if they had to slaughter it? Just as I hate the principled vegetarian that drinks milk then condems the veal trade why do they think mammals create milk, what are we to do with the calfs, we're drinking there milk? As for foie Gras in comparison to the milk trade it's so tiny it's not even worth mentioning it's an artisan food and in comparison to the milk trade is minor and most geese and ducks have a free range life before the last few weeks of force feeding! In comparison to the dairy cow let me be a foie gras duck.

No there is no reason to be cruel I use to work in a restaurant and the chef occasionaly shot wood pigeon not all died, and honestly I hated killing them(And I'm a chef) but I'd do it as quickly and as surely as I could. But there is nothing as cruel as nature, lets not forget we are part of nature and human, mistakes will be made.

As for childhood curiosity think someone mentioned about the adults, that covers it all. It's a shame the pike didn't get it's teeth into the little blighters maybe the adults would off had a bit more respect.

I think meat eaters have come to expect there meat on a styrofoam packet with cling film on, there is nothing nice about the slaughter of animals but if your going to eat meat then accept it. I Love animals the way the french do, but respect them dont pet them!

Once a vegetarian

Perfection cant be reached, but it can be strived for!
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But there is nothing as cruel as nature. . .

Good point.

If I were a pig, I suppose I would rather be killed by an incompetent hunter than be ripped apart, basically eaten alive, by the teeth of some predator.

EDIT: This reminded me of a quote from Richard Dawkins from his book River Out of Eden, about the cruelty of nature:

"The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored."
Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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If you read my post above, you will see that I am talking about hunting animals, not slaughtering domesticated animals. You dont hunt domesticated animals. I'm thinking of things like wild boar and deer, not farm-raised cows and pigs. Its relatively easy to slaughter a cow or pig quickly and humanely, but not so for a boar or a deer.

Right. The point is, this picnic apparently involved a pig, not a wild boar or deer.

A few gunshots to the head can be a lot more humane that cutting the throat. If you've seen an animal slaughtered by having its throat cut, you know that this does not bring about instant death, as evidenced by the violent thrashing and squealing and gasping.

Both methods are equally humane or inhumane depending on the skill of the person doing it. (When Halal and Kosher laws were written people didn’t have guns...the point is that it should be as quick as possible.) My problem is, I keep running across back to nature idiots who want to get all DIY without taking the time to learn how to do it properly. Look, I went back to eating meat about 6 years ago, and I recognize the hypocrisy in tying to delineate what is necessarily or unnecessarily cruel when slaughtering the animal, but I think that the debate itself is part of the moral obligation of appreciating where your meat comes from. Now, if this pig bypassed the entire factory farming ordeal then it probably had a better life then most, even after having to be shot four times. (I was always amazed at people in the US who got upset that my parents let me watch sheep being slaughtered in the Middle East, considering the animals had a much better life up to that point than anything you would buy in an American supermarket.)

As for the fish, I would have walked up to the kids and given them a talking to.

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But there is nothing as cruel as nature. . .

Good point.

I don't think this is an argument you can make. Nature is not sentient. You (hopefully?) are. That 200,000 people die in a tsunami doesn't make it more acceptable when 200 die in a car bomb.

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