The article by Necia Wilden addresses the gaps and blindness in the farm to fork continuum, and her attempt to face her dinner. Necia travels to an anonymous farm to watch the slaughter of a 14 month old lamb by Farmer Rob.
It’s a thoughtful piece, which raises questions which beyond the scope of the article to answer, and she is honest with herself about many things:
- Her ‘prejudice’ in favour of pigs:
Irrationally, the only thing making me feel a little better about being here is that it's a sheep and not a pig. This is partly because of something Rob had said earlier, that the saddest place to visit is a pig abattoir, "because pigs are sensitive and intelligent animals and you can hear them screaming".
Would I have reacted differently if I'd gone to an abattoir? What if it had been a pig? Or it had endured a less merciful death?
The article pricks a number of myths dearly-held by many omnivores, hauling them out into the sun:
The fact is we live in an age that has taken us further from the source of our food than any other in history. … An age in which we have forgotten - or are choosing to ignore -where all the truckloads of meat we eat really come from.
Or even the simple fact that many people see no contradiction in voicing outrage at cruelty to dogs and cats while they're enjoying a breakfast of bacon from factory-farmed pigs and eggs from battery-farmed hens.
I wanted to reconnect, if only fleetingly, with the culture of my grandparents' era, when wringing a chook's neck in the backyard was no big deal.
We saw no evidence of suffering. I don't believe she knew what hit her. As Rob says afterwards: "The most traumatic thing for this sheep was being photographed."
I do, however, make a pledge to myself to be stricter in my policy of eating only organic or genuinely free-range animals, in the hope that the improved quality of their lives translates to an improved quality of death.
There is also, as our photographer Simon Schluter says, an amazing display of skill by Rob.
"If I were a sheep," he says later, "I'd want to be killed by this bloke."
Throughout the article a number of logical voids appear which are not recognised. The presence of Meg, the anthropomorphically-named sheepdog, is one darkly ironic one. Meg, of course, is not food.
For example, Rob’s position on which sheep are fit for slaughter:
He wouldn't harvest a pregnant lamb. Neither would he harvest a baby, despite the fact suckling lambs are said to be great eating.
"Morally it doesn't seem right to harvest the ones that are four weeks old," he says. "I won't do that."
His opinion about pigs:
… something Rob had said earlier, that the saddest place to visit is a pig abattoir, "because pigs are sensitive and intelligent animals and you can hear them screaming".The argument about intelligence is surely over, or do we need to repeat the Singer/newborn/mentally challenged argument?
… and his unintentional flash of insight:
"Can you see that what has happened here is a crossover, a transformation?" he says. "It is no longer something that's living and growing but a food."
He has never focused on cutting the throat. "You would be a bit sick to focus on that little bit. You're focused on creating food for the table. It's just a job that needs to be done.
"When you hunt and gather, that's a normal part of life. If you didn't grow the vegetables, if you didn't kill the animals, the cupboard would be bare."
Necia ends with a number of interesting comments. She writes, quite correctly, that:
the food industry will continue to avoid scrutiny only for as long as it can depend on a quiescent public.
For me, I am aware, like never before, that I am eating flesh. This is not an unpleasant sensation, and it certainly adds another dimension to dinner. … To paraphrase the old adage: Hunger is probably still the best sauce. But now I know that gratitude runs a close second.