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May 4, 2011 11:09 AM

Have you ever slaughtered an animal? Would you?

I spoke with a friend yesterday who told me that she had spent the day eviscerating 28 chickens. She had become friendly with the family from whom she buys eggs and they said that they were going to start raising and slaughtering chickens to sell at market. They invited her to help and she obliged. She did not/could not do the actual throat-slitting, but did disembowel the chickens. She wasn't as affected by it until afterwards when she had time to reflect. From what she had told me, Mr. Farmer had a similiar discomfort afterwards with slitting the chickens throats.

I was fortunate to visit a suckling pig restaurant in Portugal a couple of years ago. The server was kind enough to invite me into the back of the restaurant to view the baby pig holding area, the slaughter and evisceration area and the refrigeration rooms housing the prepped pigs and, of course the roasting ovens. It was all very interesting and I was grateful to have a better understanding of the process.

I thought about whether I could clean the chickens and I'm not certain that I would want to. Part of me thinks it's important to know the true process but the scaredy-cat side of me enjoys my blissful ignorance. Although I think I could conjure up the fortitude to participate if I were invited or the opportunity presented itself to me.

So have you? Could you? Would you?

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  1. If I was starving and I had no other choice, yes. It wouldn't be fun but I would thank the animal for giving its life to feed me. Other than that ... it's more laziness than gross-out factor though like you if the opportunity presented itself I might be intrigued enough.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MandalayVA

      If starving than yes. But mostly because I don't know what I was doing and the animal would suffer. Crabs, lobsters, oysters, rock fish, and the such I can handle.

      I have been to a harvest area and the dispatches I have seen are very precise and quick.

    2. I have, I can, but I generally won't. It's messy, and it's far easier to buy it in cello wrap. Also, as I've said before, I can't bring myself to slaughter anything that I've named, so our chickens are safe, even after they stop laying eggs.

      5 Replies
      1. re: ricepad

        Me too. I even go one farther...I pay the vet to put my chickens to sleep if they get too sick or old -and I think they might be suffering.

        That being said, I lived in a country where they slaughter sheep right at your house and I have seen chickens and beef slaughtered as well. Not pretty. I would only do it *personally*if hungry -but I think everyone should witness it (at least). It seems more respectful if you don't turn a blind eye to the process.

        1. re: sedimental

          " I think everyone should witness it (at least). It seems more respectful if you don't turn a blind eye to the process."

          That's pretty much my thinking on the subject.

          1. re: sedimental

            "I pay the vet to put my chickens to sleep if they get too sick or old -and I think they might be suffering."

            I admire you for that.

          2. re: ricepad

            My late father was director of our county conservation commission and they had a bison that had been injured in its pen. He proposed they dispatch it humanely and donate the meat to a local shelter. Tthe critter had had been named by the previous director. Public outcry, TV news stories, and newspaper decried that "Bessie" or whatever its name was couldn't be "FOOD" because of the name recognition. He aquiessed and and it went to waste. He later instilled a policy that no critters be named. That was 25+ years ago and it's still in place.


          3. Ive been on ranches/farms and see it done, I have also seen deer field dressed. But other than dispatching and cleaning a whole live fish Ive never done it. I would have no problem dispatching an animal for food purposes, but I am sure there would be a mix of emotions attached.

            1. Yes. I have dispatched chicken and duck, but nothing larger...which I would jump at the chance if given the opportunity. To me, it's fascinating to see sustenance created from the utmost rawest of ingredients. From life, to death, to a nurturing meal, once again prolonging life.

              It also gives the chance to utilize parts not readily available to the everyday grocery store shopper. It almost binds you to use up every little scrap.

              28 Replies
                1. re: twyst

                  I don't doubt that you could do it, but just because you hunt and fish doesn't mean you're able to do the deed - there's a difference between pulling a trigger on an animal that's 50 yards away and putting one in the forehead from point-blank range. I hunt and fish, too, but I'm also a freakin' hypocrite. I can't slaughter my own chickens because I've formed an emotional attachment to them. I watch them pecking and scratching in the yard and think, "aw, they're so cute...." That cuteness is their salvation. OTOH, I could slaughter somebody ELSE's chickens, because I have no emotional stake in them.

                  1. re: ricepad

                    You don't shoot chickens, you wring their necks. I wrung the neck of my first chicken when I was about 8 years old. You wring the neck of any gamebirds you wound while hunting also. Cleaning big game is a mini biology course; it's hard work and interesting.

                    1. re: BN1

                      Actually, I don't wring chickens' necks, I behead them. The "one in the forehead" comment was poetic license, but also how you'd dispatch a domestic pig vs a 50-yard shot on a wild boar.

                      1. re: ricepad

                        Ricepad, I thought I remembered you from the wild boar hunting thread. I don't recall ever seeing a chicken killed with an axe. I don't carry an axe while hunting, so I've wrung lots of dove, quail, pheasant, duck and goose necks. I wish I had your e-mail address, so I could send you a boar hunting incident that a friend sent to me. Have you really ever dispatched a domestic pig with a forehead shot? I know wild pigs have really thick, sloped skulls that defy forehead shots. Once, I faced a rabid skunk eye to eye under my car at really close range with a 10 shot automatic 22 pistol. After 9 head-shot hits with no visible results, I decided to adjust my strategy. The final round in the heart did it. Lesson learned, I survived unsullied to tell the tale.

                        1. re: BN1

                          I don't wring game birds' necks, either - it's not a technique I've ever mastered. For small birds (quail and dove), I just pop the heads off if they're not already dead when brought to hand. For larger birds, I use a method taught to me by a cousin, which, admittedly, is not very quick, but it's much easier than flailing a bird around: just using my thumb, index, and middle fingers, cover the bird's nostrils and clamp it's beak/bill shut. It'll suffocate before too long.

                          As for the pig, I did not administer the kill shot personally - a neighbor did.

                          1. re: ricepad

                            A friend and I tried that suffocation technique when I was young about 50 years ago. We held a wounded Canadian goose under water until we were sure it was dead. It only took about 10 minutes….we moved on to other methods.

                            For those who don’t want to kill their chickens when they get too old to lay, just let them out of the chicken house to scratch in the yard. The neighbor dogs will do the rest; you can ask my wife. We had a Springer Spaniel that retreived any eggs the hens layed around the yard and put them unbroken on the front porch. If he broke one, he hid it in the pile of yard clippings in the back.

                            1. re: BN1

                              I would rather gently put them to sleep. Being ripped apart by dogs is not humane.

                              Especially when they have been good to give me eggs for years. I think it's the least I can do.

                              1. re: sedimental

                                I appreciate your feelings. To be precise, dogs give a quick, hard bite on the back of the neck and the bird dies instantly. They hate getting raked and bloodied by those sharp claws. After that, they eat it just like getting canned dog food. Cats will eat chickens, pheasants, rabbits, etc. too. Cats eat everything, including bones, feathers, hair, and so forth. Again, it’s just not in a can. They are all just animals doing what is natural. I observed 5 dead elk going north out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming one winter in a blizzard. When I returned 5 days later, there was no evidence of the carcasses. Coyotes and ravens had been hard at work.

                                1. re: BN1

                                  I have to disagree on the comment that "dogs give a quick, hard bite on the back of the neck and the bird dies instantly." Most dogs are quite inefficient in killing quickly. They are actually a greater threat to poultry and livestock than coyotes and other predators because many dogs will injure and move on within a flock without fully killing the animal. I've had neighbours who have come home to find their entire chicken flock half alive and a golden retriever romping around the barn yard. We prevent this by using livestock guardian dogs (Maremmas) that are bred to naturally protect their animals. There are probably more dogs shot by farmers than wild predators while in the act of injuring livestock. My cats also know that even eyeing a chick or hen will get them in trouble with the rooster.

                                  1. re: earthygoat

                                    Earthygoat, you bring up legitimate issues. I only know what I've seen. The dogs with which I am familiar kill quickly. Dogs that injure livestock are in packs to which I was not referring. Dog packs are a real problem, as even trained hunting dogs will become part of a pack and kill. When under control, trained hunting dogs do not eat their quarry or they would be worthless. The golden retriever to which you referred was obviously untrained and uncontrolled. They are really friendly dogs, but I’ve known some really stupid ones. I don’t think hunting breeds make good pets for non-hunters; they don’t understand them and don’t train them. That’s like getting a pit bull not for fighting or guard dog duties but as a pet for your kids. Dogs have amazing abilities if used for their breeding. I’ve known cats that could catch and eat live pheasants and rabbits, so tell your rooster to beware. I guess everyone’s experiences are different.

                                    1. re: BN1

                                      I've had a couple of vets and breeders tell me that the sporting dogs -- Pointers, Setters, Labs and Retrievers are particularly bad about it because the instinct of how to kill has been bred out of them -- they are bred to retrieve dead/injured prey and return it to their human companion, and those who are trained to the hunt are trained to not injure the animal any further.

                                      There's still some instinct of "I need to do something with this thing" -- but the instinct of what to do is long gone.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        After 50 years of bird hunting, I have not observed in the field the advice you have gotten. I have dealt with live, slightly wounded birds and have shed my blood in the process. A dog could not retrieve a lively wounded bird without subduing it. The dogs are trained not to eat or maul the birds. Also, hunting dogs and retrievers are not the same. They are bred for and excel at different purposes. I only have my actual hunting experience to go by.

                                  2. re: BN1

                                    I live in the country in the Northwest -with elk, deer, eagle, coyote, cougar, etc. Domestic animals are not very good at killing. They not only lack experience, they lack instinct. They like to play with the prey. I *do* appreciate what you are saying, but I still feel it is more humane to put an animal to sleep. I have (at times) put a sick animal in the freezer also -for a quick hypothermia style death.

                                    I don't want to sound weird...but I believe that since I have domesticated the animals and used them for my own purposes- I should be the one to choose the most humane or compassionate death for them. I feel different about wild animals. I have allowed many a wild, injured animal "let nature take it's course". But that is because the trauma of handling the animal might be worse than letting it live and die on it's own.

                                    1. re: sedimental

                                      Wild animals are known to play/torture their prey, too. I've witnessed owls killing small mammals, and it's neither swift nor merciless. I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I just don't think we should make such generalizations about our distance from nature.

                                      1. re: amyzan

                                        No, it is not always swift or merciful. We don't disagree.

                                        However, I am always merciful in putting an animal down. That is something that I have control over. That is why I don't believe that I should let predators attack my chickens if they are injured. I believe that I should do it myself. No sweeping generalization there.

                                        1. re: sedimental

                                          I was inferring from your "Domestic animals are not very good at killing. They not only lack experience, they lack instinct." I must've misread because I have a killer domesticated dog, and have to keep her indoors or she lays waste to wildlife as well as culling the weak and sick from the neighbor's chicken flock. Bad scene, let me tell you. Sounds like we're basically in agreement, after reading your further posts.

                                          ETA: I feel impelled to add that this killing was before we kept her. She was a stray in the neighborhood who became quite good at foraging/hunting. I don't want other hounds thinking I'm some kind of Ted Kerasote type.

                                      2. re: sedimental

                                        Our cats would play with the mice, rats, and birds they catch for hours, if we let them.

                                        Luckily, they are too old and slow to catch anything these days.

                                        1. re: jlafler

                                          Yes, domesticated animals are not really *hungry*. Their motivation for killing is not the same. Most wild animals will eat what they kill almost right away. So, I don't think wild predators are "thinking about" being merciful- but they are also not thinking about the smaller critter as a "toy". Either way- if it were ME being sick or injured and having to die...I would choose for my nice human owner to quickly help me out :)

                                          1. re: sedimental

                                            As you know, mountain lions eat few of their kills. I was stalked by one when I was alone in the mountains one time. I really think I would be too stinky and wine soaked to make a good meal for a cat, so I think her intentions were bad. Fortunately, I was well outfitted that day and I called out and invited her down for a talk. She respectfully declined and we had no further trouble. I mix it up with CA black bears every summer, but I can growl as loud as they can so they leave. Grizzlies, moose and mountain lions are trouble that I try to avoid.

                                        2. re: sedimental

                                          "Domestic animals are not very good at killing. They not only lack experience, they lack instinct. They like to play with the prey." Depends on the breed. I would not expect a retriever to kill efficiently, nor a herding dog, but my gentle little whippet, fond sister to both the cats, dispatches any backyard creature she catches instantly. Her scoreboard now tallies one each possum, tree rat and crow, and thirteen squirrels.

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            which goes along with what I have heard about the sporting dogs (upthread) -- the fact that whippets are sight hounds would mean that the chase and kill instinct has been a valued trait through the breeding.

                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                              Well, sure it can depend on the breed...and the individual dog (or cat) too. Please put my comments in context with the discussion. I was explaining why I would not feel comfortable to put my sick pet chicken out to be killed by a "neighbors dog"as a humane or compassionate end.

                                              I would never make the assumption that a general neighborhood domestic dog would have the experience, instinct or what-have-you to dispatch of my pet quickly. Now coyotes...that is a different story, but I still think getting attacked and eaten is not a compassionate ending for my girls!

                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                No, no -- I absolutely understand and agree with you on not putting the dogs out to dispatch the chickens! I agree that it's not a quick, painless, or particularly humane way to end the life of any animal -- especially one that has been a pet. It also teaches the dogs that this is acceptable behavior...and sets them up for failure in a situation where it would be absolutely UNacceptable. (This does not apply to the normal circle of life of wild predator consuming wild prey.)

                                                I'd hate to see somebody's dogs hauled off to the pound to be dispatched because they thought it was okay to go after the neighbor's (insert pet here).

                                                It was more a side discussion on why certain breeds behave the way they do.

                                          2. re: BN1

                                            >>"dogs give a quick, hard bite on the back of the neck and the bird dies instantly. "<<

                                            Um, sometimes. My Jack Russell Terrier is a very efficient killer (especially when he gets a skunk), but the first time my dad made me kill a chicken was when I was 10 and forgot to pen up a couple of Irish Setters. They harried the bird nearly to death. It was far less than humane.

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              My chihuahua can't kill spiders well.... but his best friends are the two Jack Russells next door. They run circles around him until he gets embarrassed and wants to go home :(

                                        3. re: BN1

                                          Smart dog you had there! Mine is just an opportunistic killer, but I guess retrievers are more enthusiastic than anything. You'd have to be to jump into cold water after fowl.

                                          1. re: amyzan

                                            My little doggie (Pom) is a dab hand at killing mice. A good bite and a killing shake and Mickey is dead.

                                            Many years ago as a child my brother and I made a pet out of Porky who was being raised for winter meat. Fall came and a neighbor came to shoot Porky. He was a bad shot and Porky came screaming out of his pen spraying blood everywhere, shot in the snout.
                                            I wouldn't eat pork for years!

                                            However I had no problems with Mom chopping chicken heads off and watching them run amok.

                                            Have butchered many deer although I was never there when they were killed.

                                            I could slaughter if I thought it necessary. I mercy kill a few canaries every year as it is.

                                            I just try not to think of how the meat I buy now is killed.
                                            I'm not sure they are killed humanely in the slaughterhouse because profit always takes precedence.

                          2. i'm a complete and utter hypocrite. i wouldn't, i couldn't, but i eat meat that comes nicely sanitized and pre-packaged, mostly, with the blood of the animal on someone else's hands. shameful. But i couldn't, i just couldn't.