All night I tossed the turned, dreaming fitfully of the morning’s macabre task. Each time I woke- my stomach dropped as I realized it had been a dream and the deed still lay before me.
I woke up before dawn and headed out to prepare my station. I cut the top and bottom off a milk jug and screwed the handle to a log, machete at the ready. I entered the coop with a sock in my hand. I bid the rooster a good morning and picked him up him gently, fitted the sock over his head to calm him. He struggled very little at first and then not at all as most birds tend to do once in the dark.
Outside, I grabbed his head through one side of the jug, pulled it through with my left hand so that his neck stretched along the length of the log, while grabbing the blade in my right. Three whacks later, what was once one body lay in two parts. Blood stained the fall leaves and splashed the stone wall. There was the usual post mortem flailing and I sat back and bowed to my kill, apologizing and thanking it for its life. I cried a little, sorry for the pain I had caused. It is always beyond me to see suffering and not be struck down by the sorrow of it all.
I reminded myself that this is where all meat comes from. With each of these kills I am faced with the reality that eating meat, means taking life. Most people will pass their whole lives and never look their dinner in the eye. They don’t have to watch as the body and soul part ways- never mind preform the deed personally. I truly understand not wanting to take part in the brutality but for myself I think it is important to participate in the nasty bits before I reap the harvest.
This rooster came to us this summer by way of my well-meaning husband. He arrived home from work and called me out into the yard.
“What is that doing here?!” I said gesturing to the caged bird that had not so magically appeared on our land.
“They were just going to leave it in the woods.” He said as if that was some sort of explanation.
“So?!” I was completely unimpressed. “What does that have to do with us?”
“Well, I thought…” But I waved it away, what’s done is done. We were back up to two roosters. Since last summer (after the not so untimely death of Dude) and for first time in almost four years, our male bird count had been one. A fine number of cockerels to have on the homestead. Our one rooster had been hatched in our house,
and had reached maturity and beyond with no signs of aggression or overly exuberant mating habits. He is so well mannered that I have even let him keep his spurs, well over 2’’ long and sharp as knitting needles. In my opinion he is downright sweet.
The newcomer was beautiful for sure, but BIG and only about 4 months old. We let him out and saw quickly that there would be a problem between the two of them. They postured and pecked through the fence and it was only a matter of time before one of them flew over and things would get serious. I didn’t want to see if the advantage of spurs would outweigh the size difference. Nothing good ever comes of cock fights. The newcomer was soon given quarter in the Rubbermaid shed all by his lonesome.
I entertained splitting the flock and letting him have his own haram for diversity’s sake. The next day I put a hen in with him and the reaction was swift- as was my conclusion that he would have no hens. The one I gave him is well-mannered and used to mating, she instantly acquiesced to his advances and assumed the position, hunkered down and wings out. He was very heavy and I could tell that just the process of mounting could produce injury if not done with care. He was as far from careful and in addition pecked her head viciously as he “ahem,” did his thing. The assault on her head was so violent that I broke it up before it was done and shewed her out of the shed. She left quickly and a little unsteady on her feet, a logical result after being hit in the head hard repeatedly by a sharp object.
I decided then and there that yesterday’s beheading would be this poor creature’s fate. I can’t say that his last few months was exciting or fulfilling. I never gave him another hen out of concern for their poor little heads, but he was very well fed and had the run of the largest coop. His quality of life was not as good as the others, outside in the sun free to roam the yard if they choose. The run is enclosed by a 6 foot fence that helps to keep the foxes at bay but they are capable birds that can (and do) jump it any time they wish.
I cannot easily say which is worse; to have a long life in solitude and captivity or to have your life snuffed out prematurely. He and my favorite rooster crowed back and forth every morning. It was loud, but the noise was not the motivation for my decision. Rather, he was the unfortunate extra of a system that had (in my opinion) enough. I don’t know if it would have been better that he be left in the woods to be eaten by some other predator. It is likely that his death at my hand was much swifter than it would have been otherwise. I can only say that this time, in this situation I take full responsibility for the choice I made.
He ate well and dressed out at over eight pounds. Since he was still quite young his meat was sweet though a little tough. I can’t say that I ever get used to killing. I hope I never do. I am always aware that my feelings about the process cannot result in hesitation during the act. That would only serve to elevate the suffering of my prey and that is something I can’t abide by.
If I am to be honest with myself, last morning started out with a murder. Though it was clean and quick there is still blood on my hands. As a meat eater this is something that I accept in all its violence and brutality. Meat does not grow in sterol styrofoam packaging. It grows lovingly over bone that does not wish to be parted from each other.
We spend a lot of time on thanksgiving being grateful, for family, togetherness and food. We are grateful to have food on the table but we should also keep in the forefront of our minds the gratitude we should feel to the beings who died to fill our dishes and our bellies. This bit is often overlooked because we have removed ourselves so completely from the act of killing. For those plants and animals the preparation for the day required the ending of all of their future days.
I am not trying to make anyone feel bad about what we consume. I am asking that you remember that a feast for us necessitates the deaths of many beings, from turkey to potato a full table means many lives cut short. We should be mindful above all that the bounty we reap has a cost. For every one of these mouth watering pictures.
There is a scene like this that most of the time we put out of our thoughts.
Today, I am grateful to the chicken I killed for the gift of his flesh. He was dinner last night and soup today. It was not his choice but I am truly grateful for he bounty that we have received.