I’ve been vegetarian since I was eleven. No one else in my family was. Growing up I was horse mad, and when I watched a documentary about horses being transported from the UK to Greece for their meat, I was horrified. Then my dad pointed out that a horse was no different from a cow or a pig; cows and pigs were treated like this all the time and I wasn’t horrified about eating them. So I stopped, and haven’t gone near the stuff since.
Andrew’s family are Irish dairy farmers and when I met them for the first time they reacted to my vegetarianism as if I had a very bad illness and deserved their sympathy. Which really, considering their livelihood is based on the consumption of animal products, was quite generous.
Andrew remains a meat eater. I do most of the cooking at home and the deal is I don’t cook meat, but if the boys want to eat it elsewhere or if their dad makes it for them that’s fine. But yes, the fact that they LOVE it is like a little dagger to the heart every time they shovel it into their bloodthirsty little mouths.
There were no pigs when we first arrived on this school farm nearly two years ago, but now there are 18. The plan is to turn most of them into meat. One of Andrew’s most enjoyable weekends this year (probably ever) was spent on a butchery course, learning how to turn pigs into bacon, cows into steak. We have a whole shelf in our freezer dedicated to the ‘work’ he came home with.
At the moment our pigs get sent away to a local abattoir to be killed and processed but the plan is to soon have a butchery on site. And actually, I’m really pleased. And people are surprised about that. But I don’t expect the rest of the world to be vegetarian, I don’t even expect it of my own kids. What I would like though is for people to consume it more responsibly, and to insist on higher standards of animal welfare.
So what could be better than free range pigs, carefully looked after and then humanely killed in their own home? (Actually being murdered in the comfort of your own home doesn’t sound that nice at all, but you know what I mean). It’s a kind way of raising animals, with none of the stress of transportation and abattoirs which so horrified me as an eleven year old. It teaches our sons as well as the students here, many of whom are city dwellers, about where their meat comes from and what, exactly, is involved in eating meat. And that yes, animals have to die in order for them to eat a Big Mac.
A wise Native American once told me that the only acceptable names for animals that you rear at home for meat were ‘Breakfast’, ‘Lunch’, and ‘Dinner’. Andrew has made the mistake of giving some of our pigs non-meal related names, and I wonder if any of the students here will think twice about eating sausages from Sonny, or bacon from Cher.
I hope so.
Although I rather fear it’s already too late for my kids.