Guys, raising your own meat is some high-end, bittersweet, splendor. It's a sacrifice very different from your garden or your laying flock of pet hens. It is emotionally and physically messy. It's decision with consequence. And it means intentionally killing the same animals I woke up three times a night this past spring to check on to ensure their safety. Perhaps the same animal I brought into my bathroom with a space heater - holding them as I angrily blinked through tears - hoping they wouldn't die from the bad luck of being born at the wrong time on a cold night. And that hope was because I wanted to give them three seasons of grass, forests, sunlight, and rainfall. I wanted them to grow strong enough to be worthy of that one horrible day I always knew was coming.
To some people all of this is horrific. I understand. I was one of those people. I was a vegetarian for most of my twenties. But a decade of farming has taught me a feral maturity. There is something child-like and naive now (to me) in the minds of people who are against eating livestock for reasons of "kindness". It is as foreign a concept to me as people who choose celibacy in a world riddled with child abuse. Yes, your abstaining means you will not have a child and therefore never abuse it. But that doesn't help a single kid quivering in some monster's bedroom closet does it? It just makes you feel like you're not part of the problem. Farming ethically is moving past the illusion that animals aren't living in concentration camps for assembly-line efficiency. It's doing something to stop it. Providing an alternative to those who don't pretend they don't love being part carnivore. You like animals? Fine. Don't eat them. But know it's a philosophy as simple as a child drawing a circle with a crayon and then labeling it "circle" in graceless, akimbo letters. Hard to argue with but tragically missing out on the scope of what art and mathematics actually are.
I kill animals at this farm. They die to feed my friends and neighbors. They die well, fast and with professional hired guns who travel to this farm instead of me tailoring them to some cement facility where the water bill for the hosing could halt the L.A. drought. Blood is never hidden here. I don't hide the evidence. It sinks into the same ground these sheep were born on. It feeds the grass that their mothers and father eat. It feeds the most vicious consumers on this farm - the vegetables - who thrive off a compost of blood, bone, and dead earth turned into black gold by writhing worms. I'll never understand why vegetarians feel any sort of moral superiority in a salad over a steak? The death that fed those leaves makes that single bullet look serene in comparison.
The lambs are all hanging now. They are being cut and packaged at local butcher shop and in a few days will go to the four families who purchased them in advance - completing the promise I made when they were sold in the spring. It adds to my own worth and sense of accomplishment. There is real honor is handing over something so artistically-complicated as a box of lamb chops. I want nothing more than dozens of savory meals shared around loved one's tables to come from all this, including my own. The stories and lives shared around those meals are the reason we do this. It's culture and connection - what happens around a table. I so look forward to it. And to eat with the wisdom of their sacrifice and that primal lever in my mind.
Eat the world you want to live in.