Tuesday, December 14, 2010

hatchet (wo)man

Anytime a group of people engages in an activity involving multiple steps and levels of complexity, it will eventually become clear that different people are better suited to different aspects of the task. Take home construction, for example: one person might be better than the rest at framing, someone else might be the best roofer, and another may be a stellar painter. It has become apparent that with regard to the chore of chicken butchering, I am best at killing. It's something I do quite well, and while it's never something I relish, I am noticeably less squeamish about it than anyone else on the job. As a result, I am now the de facto executioner whenever there is executing to be done.

This is a strange thing to know about oneself.

Hey, I'm a practical type of gal, and most of the time I chalk this up to "well, it needs to be done". But I admit that it does give me pause. What is it in my character that allows me to perform such a distasteful task with such a minimal degree of loathing? I prefer to think that I became skilled at this task because I owe it to the animals I feed and care for to dispatch them with the least possible stress and pain. But I do wonder if there's something darker in me that simply appreciates the businesslike efficiency of a task performed perfectly, regardless of how gruesome the task may be. Baser natures, and all that. It doesn't help that there seems to be some measure of gender stigma surrounding butchering, and I'm often looked upon with a hint of scorn for doing this job myself rather than pushing it off on my husband. You know, because men like to kill things and all. Right.

At the end of the day, this kind of introspection has led me to certain conclusions:

It simply is what it is. I'm just good at it.
It is not indicative of moral flexibility.
It IS indicative of a willingness to do what needs doing, period.
It reflects a desire to do things the right way, and the best way.

And above all, it reminds me to never be too certain about the kind of person I believe myself to be.


  1. We never know what we are capable of until a particular task needs to be done and there is no one else to do it. There is something to be said for a person who knows that despite the uncomfortable nature of some tasks on the farm, they still need to be done and done perfectly every time...killing is one of those tasks where there is no room for error.

  2. I've found myself filling this same role in our family, and it gives me pause as well. I've received criticism and praise for being the one who kills, and I'm not sure how to feel about either. Is it a contradiction to kill an animal you care for? Is it my responsibility to end the life I raised? I can't answer those questions to my own satisfaction, and I don't know what it means to be the killer. Here's what I do know:

    I eat meat, and I will continue to eat meat throughout my life.
    I want to raise my own animals for eggs, milk, meat, and everything else they provide, including love, entertainment, compost, sustainability, and community.
    I want those animals to live in the sun, to scratch in the grass and take dust baths, to flap and breathe and peck and do all the things their bodies were meant to do.
    I want to know that my food did not suffer while it was alive.
    I want to look my dinner in the eye before it dies so that I may share a connection with my food, with my animal family, and with the part of me that is an animal also.