Caring for and raising animals for meat is hard.
Caring for and raising animals for meat is really hard. Our steer, Burdock went off to the abattoir this morning and I am feeling the loss, especially as, due to travel troubles, I am stuck in the midlands and was unable to make it back to say goodbye.
I’ve over ridden self-conscious voices to write this post, telling me that i am too sensitive or am taking up too much space. Because i know that these thoughts are a wound of our culture and i keep coming back to a firm belief that we need more honest stories of care in our food systems.
I have worked with livestock for years in a background role but Burdock is the first creature whose whole life I have been responsible and accountable for. He was born the day I moved to Tinkers Bubble and has taught me so much. He has been tricky, a big excitable creature with a tendency to head butt. But Burdock is also soft and loves to be scratched and stroked. We have spent many mornings grooming each other.
I had to learn to communicate with him better in order to not get hurt. Doing a dance of respect, not entering his personal space, and not letting him enter mine - growling and making my body big if he tried. Mostly it worked. Then I avoided stroking his head for a while, starkly realising how invasive it is that we pelt towards animals, hands outstretched and rub their faces without consent. If someone did that to me i would be pretty disturbed. This appeared to also help with what i perceived as his confusion between the boundaries of care/play/hurting me.
It wasn’t perfect but he taught me to respect my own space and to hold it more than I ever have before. At the start my growls were weak and quiet. Later they became ready and strong. Not only this but he showed me how to respect him and to care for his being, to listen and engage in a sense of call and response, to assume less that i already knew.
Many people say “how can you care for an animal and then eat it/kill it !?” I get it. Our meat industry is largely so disconnected and cruel, always based on structures of control and the idea of human supremacy. I sit with these thoughts most mornings when I milk Daisy and I don’t have clarity on it. I still see my ingrained participation within these concepts.
But what I do know in my heart is that this is a process that should be hard and deeply felt. We should not be scared to feel the grief of death. Consumption has a whole different context when we are truly connected to what we reep and sow. I know that when I do consume his meat I will not do so with greed, I will know my fill, know my place and know it as a gift. These words are hard to write. And i have my doubts. But we must learn again to be connected and accountable for death in our lives. All food is a gift from life to life.
Thank you Burdock you lovely creature. I say your name with pride and respect. You have touched my heart.