One of my favourite things about living on the farm is that the boys get to experience the full life-cycle of an animal; birth, life and death. They get to understand that the meat on their plate doesn’t just happen; there’s a process behind it. This, I hope, will make them more conscious and respectful of the meat they eat. Which isn’t to say I expect them to stop gorbing it in any time soon as if the world’s meat supply is about to run out forever.
On Monday, after much putting-it-off, Andrew killed one of our cockerels. Bear watched it peck its way out of the egg shell back at Easter time. It grew into a beautiful, glossy beast that my boys helped feed, water and put away at night.
But it was never going to end well for this cockerel. The numbers were against it. Out of the eight chicks that hatched, five were boys. Boy chicks aren’t much good. They don’t lay eggs. They make a hell of a lot of noise. Most of the time in the commercial world they’re killed and minced on their first day of life.
It’s kind of the opposite of boy feminism.
And this cockerel grew nasty. On Sunday it chased our friends all the way from the barnyard to our house – a distance of a few hundred metres. Later it returned, all the way up our drive, looking for them (or so we liked to say). Andrew knew he had to kill it, but he wasn’t looking forward to it. He did it the next day. There are several ways, he used the broom handle method, which was quick and relatively painless.
And afterwards the friend which had been chased by it the day before helped Andrew pluck and gut it. It’s a pretty gross process. The smell of cockerel flesh in warm water on a hot summer’s day, coupled with the sight of feathers floating about in blood and the sheer weirdness of their feet, made me a Double Vegetarian.
But it didn’t put the boys off, they were engrossed. Preparing a bird to eat is a long, laborious process but they stuck around to watch.
And later on, after our friend cooked it for us, our boys certainly weren’t squeamish about getting stuck in. And even though I think I’m going to be the Only Vegetarian in the House for quite some time, I was glad that they’d got to play a part in this animal’s life and death. Bloodthirsty little fiends.