Thin Line Between Pets And Livestock

David Trammel's picture

I don't have chickens. My mother does and while she's a old farm girl and I have no doubt she could, if needed kill, pluck and cook one of her flock, she's named them and I think she might now hesitate about any "in the pot retirement" for her girls. She does enjoy the eggs though.

"How backyard chickens blur the lines between farm animal and pet"

Ten months after Ms. V got Helen, a hawk attacked, and Ms. V found Helen in a corner with her eyes closed and the comb on her head wilted and pale. Ms. V didn’t see any wounds, but Helen was clearly not herself. She brought Helen inside to recover. Helen drank some water, her comb looked better, but she died the next morning. Other backyard chicken owners advised Ms. V not to bury Helen as she would with another pet, because a raccoon or scavenger might dig up the body. Ms. V put Helen in a securely taped box in the freezer until the trash truck arrived.

“I couldn’t just put her in the trash can. I got the box and put it in there in the truck myself. Someone had asked me, well, why didn’t you eat the chicken? I have a hard time eating my pet,” Ms. V said. “If … your cat or dog dies, would you consider making a meal out of it?”

Yeah, I can see that being a problem. Chickens are very engaging creatures, and our society mostly isn't used to having to kill animals for food they've known personally. People are used to meat arriving wrapped in plastic and looking like meat rather than animal.

I suspect that as collapse gets going, the culture around this is going to change.

Perhaps if you named your chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. correctly.

That is, Dinner, Stew, Fricassee, Sausage, and so on.

Yeah, you're right! As collapse gets going, we're all going to be a lot less dainty.

ClareBroommaker's picture

When my niece was very young and the family raised one pig at a time, each of them named "Hambone," she was impressed at how Hambone repeatedly was taken to town one day and returned as a piglet. Of course Hambone was going to a butcher and a piglet was purchased the same day. "Hambone is a baby again!"

I recently heard about someone naming their pigs after politicians so they could send them for slaughter without remorse.

David Trammel's picture

I posted a link to the WeekendHomesteader site about their experience with chickens. They had a second one I almost linked to. It was on taking pigs to market. The blog is down for some reason but the Wayback Machine has a copy. This is their experience with taking pigs to market and the emotion it generate.

"Taking Pigs to the Butcher. A New Farmers Viewpoint." by Weekendhomesteader

Yesterday the three little pigs went to market.

I’m not an overly emotional man (my wife may say otherwise), but I will admit that the process of raising those piglets with the knowledge of their demise did not affect me until the moment I loaded them onto the trailer. At that point I succumbed to what I imagine any one of our rational ancestors would – who spent a substantial amount of time caring for an animal, ensuring its safety and health, protecting it from the elements, and feeding it the highest quality rations available.

The pigs went willingly into the trailer, following the feed trough I pulled ahead of them, which daily assured them of sustenance, and took their places beside one another for their last supper.

I’ll remember these three, my first, forever, I imagine.

While I refused to name two, one came with a name, “Fast Eddie”. He infuriated me, with his pushy demeanor, that ‘me first’ attitude, and stubborn unwillingness to relinquish just the smallest amount of space beside him at the trough for the runt of the litter. But he was admirable, as a pig goes, for his size, and color, and commanding action in the pen. And that runt, always off doing something else when it was feeding time. Never paying attention to the fact that the other two were half done with their breakfast before he even bothered to get down to the trough. The third, well, he’s probably the one I liked most. Unnamed, average in size, with no distinguishing marks, but curious about everything, daily testing the electric fence, always the first to jump up to greet me in the morning, and willing to share a bit of space with the little guy, even stepping back and waiting for me to fill a second trough as they all got too big to share just one.

They say pigs are smart, maybe even as smart, or smarter, than dogs. And they’re funny too. Even cute. These three were no exception. Good pigs, the lot of them.

As I look out into the yard and see their empty forest pasture pen, it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge to myself where I know I sent them, and I wonder if other farmers ever feel, or felt at one time, the same way, or if maybe I am an overly emotional man…"

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

To look at this the other way around, I guess the line between pets and livestock is how hungry one gets. Here is the opening line from one of my favorite novels, High Rise by J.G. Ballard:

"Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months."

It's got to be one of the great opening scenes in literature.