Comment: In a bid to live more simply and eat more ethically does rearing your own livestock for sustenance create more questions than it answers? A novice farmer responds
Have you feed pork since they arrived? The topic comes as I stare at my two 12 -week-old piglets. I dont know. Did I have a sneaky bite of the supermarket chipolatas I gave the children for tea yesterday? When was that bacon sandwich?
Vegan psychologist Melanie Joy would describe me as a carnist. Its a neologism that means Im conditioned to accept meat-eating is natural and that animals are categorised into edible, inedible, pets and predators, rather than equals. Surely, when I was a child, my mum who viewed the kitchen as a domestic jail reared me mostly on crispy flapjacks and chicken kiev balls piled with salt, sugar and various meat-scraps of dubious origins. Since then, Ive moved on to veggie falafels and ingest meat more carefully. Of course, Im not alone. Thanks to better education about the industry movies such as Food Inc changed a generation our dietary habits are evolving. Although I dont believe were anywhere near to making peak vegan, plant-matter is now as cherished as flesh. Its not just evident in the posh eateries: Tescos latest report discloses demand for vegan ready-meals is up 40% this year.
So, here I am, with my two new Berkshire sows, shocked I cant recollect when I last ate ham; its a realisation of how I unblinkingly stuff comestibles into my gob. And it builds my mission to eat more ethically more pertinent. The plan is to butcher these two sows around November and expend the year living off them.
I left London three years ago, attempting a gentler life and a garden. Like many, Ive dreamt of growing and rearing the food I eat, of reconnecting with nature, for sometime. We moved to Hampshire and built a pigsty. We didnt act upon it immediately though instead, I get chickens, which liberally lay eggs.
When a friend mentioned their smallholding neighbour had piglets for sale( 40 each ), I decided to face the thorny issue that had been niggling me for a long time: the morals of eating meat. The period had come to try killing animals.
The benefits of raising these two myself are threefold: I choice their feed, I administer their drug, if necessary, and I ensure theyre free to scamper. I love watching them, enshrouded in the verdant woods by our crumble bungalow, galloping figures of eight and snuffling through the terra firma. I even attain them mud baths.
The question is, how do I feel about eating an animal Ive raised, cherished and enjoyed? At the moment, I feel a little tormented. For work as a food journalist, often waxing on about provenance, Ive visited a Portuguese familys visceral swine killing, Ive been scuba diving for scallops in the Hebrides and Ive fly-fished trout in Cornwalls river Tamar, but Ive never felt the blood on my hands as personally as this.
British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, a founder of utilitarianism, wrote in 1780: The topic is not: Can they reason? Nor :, Can they talk? But :, Can they suffer? Can my girls suffer? Undoubtedly. Im convinced these two talk, too. Through swine speech, grunts, pricked ears and high-octane tail wiggling, I understand happy, hungry, irritated.
Of course, Ive followed the farmers no naming mantra when rearing your own theyve no pet monikers although, occasionally I call them Bacon and Pat. Nevertheless, I feel uneasy guilty even when I learn that well-cared-for swine naturally live 15 -2 0 years: Ive been advised these dames should be slaughtered at around six to nine months old. Wouldnt they want to live longer? Who doesnt?
The final part of their life is beyond my control and that also bothers me. Bacon and Pat will go to a local abattoir. They will be killed, disembowelled, split in half from rear to nape, then the still-warm carcasses will be placed in a cooler. Eventually they will be delivered back to me. I want to visit several of the nearest abattoirs to decide which one seems most compassionate. Note: Im not attempting a humane abattoir. Humane a word provoking a sense of qualities befitting the best of human behaviour is counterintuitive to me. Were talking about slaughtering beasts, who Im convinced would choose life if given the chance not be killed en masse in factory conditions.
While I watch these gregarious swine racing to greet me, kissing and nibbling each other, or sleeping( they sleep a lot !) in their muddied oasis, Im slowly coming to the concluding observations. Ethical carnism cant exist.
Apart from supporting British farmers another enormous issue morally, I cant consider there is much justification for feeing meat in this day and age, in this country. Its cognitive dissonance in all its finery. My atavistic urge to turn my swine into bacon, to make the most delicious charcuterie, is at odds with the morality. I am conflicted. And that is only heightened by the obvious environmental impact that raising livestock has. Space to keep them on, the food( which they devour) … Im pouring bags and bags of pellets into my swine wooden trough, which they turn upside down once empty.
A typical meat-eaters diet involves up to 2.5 times the amount of land than that of a vegetarian( and 5 times a vegans ): eating meat is causing mass deforestation, making the same levels of greenhouse emissions as all automobiles, airplanes and develops combined.
For now though, Ill maintain chewing over these thinks. Although my eyes have been opened, I dont feel finished as a carnivore( yet ). I knew these complex impressions would originate Im not overwhelmed by them. The serious decision-making will be published in autumn. November is a while off.
Chloe Scott-Moncrieff is a food journalist and co-founder of The YBF awards, celebrating new food and drink talent across the UK .
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