Apparently we can get around feeling any remorse for killing and eating a baby animal by appealing to “honour” and “respect.” I just read through a post on the Foodists blog about the happy times of dismembering a baby sheep.
Here’s an exemplary paragraph of wishy-washiness:
We all felt honoured to be a part of an event this special, and it was a sober moment as we laid out the carcass of Angus II, a beautiful, organic-raised lamb that lived a wonderful life running freely and dining on the wild grasses at Cutter Ranch Lamb. About 125lbs at slaughter, Angus II was about 65lbs with head and hooves on as she lay on our cutting table, with a bag containing the majority of its internal organs, or offal, such as lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, etc. Very little of this beast was going to be wasted.
I’ll get to the whole “honour” and “respect” bit in a minute. First off, though, notice how the author speaks of this dead lamb (a lamb is a baby sheep, by the way) as having “lived a wonderful life.” No matter that her life was less than one single year long. Can anyone’s life really be “wonderful” if it’s cut that short? She never even got to be an adult. If she were a human child, her death would be a tragedy, no matter how lovely a meadow she got to run around in. And what about the lamb’s mother? Does she not matter in anyone’s consideration? Who explains to her that her baby is being honoured by this wonderful event?
Also, why does the author refer to the lamb as “she” one single time, but “it” for the rest of the article? Does she really know the gender of the lamb? Or was the gendered pronoun just a slip – maybe for one second she recognized the corpse in front of her as an individual with characteristics, rather than an object? Probably just poor proofreading. And who in the world names a female sheep “Angus II”? My guess is that the lamb was named after she was killed and packed away.
Now, on to honour and respect. Notice that the author writes about feeling “honoured to be a part of an event this special.” But then she writes:
Many of the group had never butchered a whole animal before and were excited to learn new culinary techniques and processes, but some were pleasantly surprised by how the lead up to the event was less about techniques and more of the respect and honour to, not only our lamb, but to all ingredients being sourced from preparation to final plating.
So this butchering is about showing “respect and honour.” I think this is completely bizarre. I mean, who in their right mind talks about feeling honoured to be at an event, but then equates cutting up a dead animal to honouring that animal? Would she feel as “honoured” if someone were chasing her with a knife? How come she has two entirely different definitions of honour?
And how about respect? How does slitting a lamb’s throat and cutting her up into little bits and eating her show her any respect at all? When I respect someone I don’t reach for my butcher’s knife. Trying to call butchery “respectful” is an odd warping of the meaning of the word respect. Unless, of course, you really do consider animals as objects to be used.
Which is why this seems so soft-brained to me. On the one hand these butchers talk a lot about respecting the animals and humane care and treatment, as if the animals’ lives mean something – beyond our own purposes for them. But then they talk about respecting an animal as one would talk about respecting a car.
This weird and wacky tone is exemplified here:
Prior to the arrival, Foodists’ chef Anthony Nicalo sent a preparatory message to all would be butchers:
“Respect the animal. Show up on time and be prepared to work. You will eat some great food and take some with you to enjoy in the weeks and months to come, but the focus during butchery and prep is work—including cleaning. Take pleasure in the process of cooking and the responsibilities that come with the opportunity to cook—respect the animal and the farmer who raised it.”
Is he for real? Respecting the animal means that we should “Show up on time and be prepared to work”? That’s the most meaningless thing I have ever heard. That lamb doesn’t care one bit about whether or not you arrive on time or do a good job. All of your playacting about respect is for your own benefit.
All of this is really just a way for people who chop dead animals apart to feel good about themselves. What option do they have? If they were to actually consider the animal’s life from the animal’s perspective, how could they pick up their knife? In order to keep going, they need to tell themselves these lies about honour and respect. It’s really a tragedy that their fun and games has to lead to so many lives cut short, so many deaths, so much pain and suffering.