Monday, November 12, 2007
Sean asked me, "From your posts, you seem committed to producing the highest quality meat for your customers with the best, most humane methods. However, you couch all concerns of the treatment of your animals in terms of the quality of the finished product. Do you strive to treat your animals well, over and above activity that will ensure a quality product? How can you reconcile the relationship you develop with these animals with the act of slaughtering them for food? Do you own pets?
I'm not trying to insult you but merely trying to understand what I, as a vegan, see as the cognitive dissonance of people like you who are intimately connected with both the raising and slaughtering of food animals."
Those are important questions.
Yes, I do strive to treat the animals well, especially the breeding stock. So does Gary, the herdsman.
We give them treats. We've bought them toys, which is ridiculously sentimental by the standards of other farmers - the pigs destroy them immediately anyway.
I try to pet the pigs, the way kids want to pet animals in a petting zoo. When I was with the Mangalitsa yesterday, I was shocked at how beautiful they are, and how great it is to have them out roaming around, despite the fact that it is expensive and difficult to manage them. We have to do everything on "pig time", not our own schedule.
We have personal relationships with the breeding stock. The breeding stock all have numbers (or in the case of boars, names), so you know, for instance, that Hans is very calm, Franz is skittish but a great worker, sow 25 is very friendly and demanding of food, that sow 5 is very protective (and bites) and that sow 22 has a particularly nice personality. They are essentially our pets.
When it comes down to slaughtering animals for food, it depends a lot on how it is done. I wish I didn't have to send them to USDA slaughter, where they tend not to get treated very well - especially in small plants. I've explained that here - small and local, in the slaughterhouse business, normally means that the slaughterhouse won't have the best lairage systems.
I don't feel bad at all about properly done on-farm slaughter. From the animal welfare perspective, it couldn't be better.
The eating of the breeding stock is an issue that probably bothers you. If they are like pets, why eat them?
What do you do with a retired 350 lb pet, that say, has serious arthritis, or is going around, biting the vulvas and eating the babies of the other pigs? All I can see is that you move the pig to a pig sanctuary. But there's no way a sanctuary can take all the pigs you might want to give it; the animals simply eat too much and need too much space.
You could euthanize them and bury them (with a nice grave marker), but then all that great meat would be wasted. You don't want to waste the meat. If I can't bear to eat the meat, you can bet that the folks who manage the pigs, who are essentially subsistence farmers, want to eat the meat. Even if they don't, Mangalitsa tastes so incredibly good that people would probably get angry at us if the animals didn't get eaten. You could give the animal to charity and raise a lot of money.
Posted by Heath Putnam at 8:41 AM