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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 ...to "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.

                            1. Yep, that's where the chicken in the freezer came from when I was growing up. Both my grandparents and parents were very strict about the actual killing part being quick and painless, so they were beheaded with a very sharp axe. The cleaning part was kind of gross but part of it.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Samalicious

                                That's exactly how my grandmother did it. I still remember the smell of putting the chicken in a pot of boiling water to pluck the feathers. She had lots of chickens - the hens that laid eggs, what she called spring chickens - those were the ones we had as her delicious baked chicken - and of course a few roosters.

                                1. re: Jeanne

                                  I vaguely remember my grandmothers doing the same thing. One was a wringer, one was a chopper. Neither lived in the country, either. The birds came from the city's outdoor market.

                              2. I hunted as a teen so I have killed an animal and have helped with small game and deer butchering many, many times.

                                I am far removed from that life now and I probably would have a bit of a hard time but could do it if I had to feed my family. I wouldn't, however, sign up to do it.

                                1. I spent a summer on a pig, chicken and bunny farm two years ago and got to see first hand what goes into slaughtering and processing these animals.
                                  It was an education, and I have to say it only really bothered me when the kill was less than perfect. It is an art, and after watching several farm interns try to repeatedly behead a chicken, I took issue with letting just anybody carry out the task.
                                  Far more successful were the pig slaughters (a total pro, famous for his skills around these parts) and rabbit harvests.
                                  I decided not to partake in the chicken slaughter that summer, but did lend a hand in the momma pigs birthing of 11 piglets. I pulled out two of them myself, which was far more rewarding.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: rabaja

                                    The scene in Food Inc. of the farmers in Virginia cleaning the chickens came to mind when I started this thread. They seemed completely unaffected by the process but not in a cold, unfeeling way because they were speaking passionately about food and our relationship with the animals, crops, etc.

                                    I'm curious, was witnessing the bunnies being slaughtered more difficult than, say, the chickens? You know, because they're furry and cute? My guess is that it would be.

                                    It's interesting that you pointed how important it is to be skilled at the kill so the animals/birds suffer minimally. What a great point. It would be more troublesome to see one struggle needlessly.

                                    1. re: lynnlato

                                      Yes, the bunny slaughter did prove to be difficult over time. I practically hand fed them as the Summer went on, picking through the produce bins at the back of Whole Foods each morning, selecting all of the lettuce and herbs and vegetables I knew that they loved, and doling it out to each hutch which contained a variety of does, bucks and/or babies.
                                      It was hard not to pick favorites, and I tried to only get attached to the mommies (of course, each baby was adorable, but they grow fast) who were proven breeders, as they were not intended for meat.
                                      Occasionally a mother would eat multiple litters, or stop producing, so it was off to the slaughter for those girls. I had to walk away from the farm a couple of times during those kills, and definitely shed some tears. The method was cleaner for rabbits than chickens. They used a rake, set over the rabbits shoulders and grabbed them straight up from their legs. Instant decapitation.
                                      I still like a good braised rabbit.

                                      1. re: rabaja

                                        Wow rabaja, you paint such a picture. The way you describe it is just how I would imagine it The desire to try and distance yourself and how you'd have to fight, at least at first, a natural wanting to bond with them.

                                        Thanks for sharing your experience - very interesting.

                                        Oh and I too love braised rabbit, suckling pig, etc., etc... :)

                                  2. >>"So have you? Could you? Would you?"<<

                                    Yep. Yep. and Yep.

                                    Poultry is easy. I've personally dispatched or been involved in the slaughter of hundreds of chickens. It's smelly, noisy, and generally unpleasant, but not a big deal. Rabbits are kind of like chickens - a quick jerk and it's all over. They're not noisy very often, but it's far more disturbing when they are.

                                    Bigger mammals are harder; the first time I butchered a lamb I cooked up a big meal for dinner the next night and couldn't eat a bite. And at least lambs are relatively sedate; keeping a kid calm enough to humanely slaughter it requires nerves of steel.

                                    The fact of the matter, though, is that I would far rather have somebody else - somebody conscientious - take care of this for me than deal with it myself. Not just because the experience is unenjoyable, but because someone who slaughters animals on a regular basis is better at it and less likely to make a mistake. Still, every once in a while a "hobby farmer" friend who's never done it before will enlisted my help, and I figure I have at least marginal competence.

                                    I hope that if I ever have a pet that is mortally wounded I'll be able to pull the trigger instead of subjecting it to unnecessary suffering in the form of a lingering death or the pain and panic of a ride to the vet's office. Better yet, I hope I never have to find out.

                                    17 Replies
                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      I agree with all you say. Esp. about having someone experienced do the deed so there's not needless suffering due to someone's incompetence.

                                      When I had horses, I had a book "How to be your own veterinarian - sometimes." It had a section on how to shoot your horse. In case you're out on a trail, horse has an accident and there's no way of getting the horse out. It had actual diagrams of how to line up the shot. I've heard of groups that ride together where one of the group carries the gun. The others don't know who has it unless it's needed.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        There's a little Catch-22 here, though -- if the slaughtering is only done by a person with experience, how does anybody become experienced? This is a big ethical conundrum in medicine, actually: the surgeon with the one with the most experience at a particular type of surgery is generally the best; but if less experienced surgeons never get the chance to practice, they will never become experienced. The question, then, is "who/what do they practice on?"

                                        1. re: jlafler

                                          Whether it's killing chickens or performing heart transplants, people gain experience most effectively under the tutelage of somebody who knows what s/he's doing. It's the only reason I volunteer to help my friends learn how to slaughter their livestock.

                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            This is true, but there is still a learning curve.

                                            1. re: jlafler

                                              No doubt. You just try to control the damage done on the uphill side.

                                            2. re: alanbarnes

                                              I cleaned my first deer with a copy of "Outdoor Life" that had an article with detailed instructions open on the ground beside me. It was slow and there were some slight errors, but the outcome was delicious. Your tutelage is better.

                                          2. re: alanbarnes

                                            >>"So have you? Could you? Would you?"<<

                                            No. No. No

                                            I believe that such an act hardens the soul of a person. I have yet to meet someone who has killed an animal that hasn't been changed by it.

                                            I'd rather hire a killer to do it ... that is buy it at a store and distance myself from the act. Hypicrital. Sure. I saw one chicken killed and its enough to last me for life. It was killed as humanely as possible. For all those cheerleaders saying it is good to know the whole process ... nope. It ain't ... at least not for me.

                                            I find the trend of people thinking they have to experience the kill to appreciate their food appalling. As has been said, it takes practice to kill an animal. Leave it up to people who can do it as humanely as possible. This is not a weekend hobby. Give some consideration to the poor animal.

                                            My stepdaughter's mother had her kill her first chicken recently. I didn't see it, but I heard it. My stepdaughter screaming a lot during the process. Then the story of how she botched it and the chicken wandering around the yard wounded. Then the cold gleem of pride in my stepdaughter's eye when she talked about finishing it off. It changes people.

                                            Even though it is not my daughter, I wanted to slap that woman. All I could think is that we will be in the US in a few weeks, in a city. There's a skill she's never going to need.

                                            That being said, on the side issue of a wounded pet ... yes, I could kill it. I made the gross mistake of letting a sick cat die at home. I naively thought it would be some sort idylic end with me patting the kitty's head while she went to permanent sleep. That cat was in severe pain the last 15 minutes of her life and I wish I had the presence of mind to have ended her life. At that point It was too late to take her to the vet. The memory of that is a permanent wound to my soul. Wherever you are Lucky, sorry about that. Not such a lucky end.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              Slaughter needn't harden a person's soul, rworange. Just because your stepdaughter's mother isn't a thoughtful and respectful teacher, doesn't mean such skills can't be taught better or shouldn't. If we leave such unpleasant tasks as slaughter and butchering to professionals, there will be far fewer such professionals. So, I take it as a good thing that people are interested. I just hope they have better teachers than that particular one in your family! Unfortunate situation, to understate it.

                                              Killing should change a person, but that change doesn't have to be dehumanizing. My grandfather died at home, and the experience changed me profoundly, but I would do it again. Life entails death sometimes, and we can't separate the two without losing a bit of our humanity, either.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                Yes, killing an animal changes you. But I don't believe it hardens the soul. On the contrary, it creates a deeper appreciation for the significance of the meat on your plate. Too many people prefer to ignore this, and IMO it's that ignorance that allows factory farms and inhumane practices to thrive.

                                                  1. re: ricepad


                                                    I just don't get this. Connecting factory farms to detachment from the killing doesn't seem logical.

                                                    Awareness of factory farming is more than enough for most thinking people. I bought responsibly slaughtered meat whenever possible long before I saw that poor ducks neck twisted. That changed nothing for me.

                                                    If everyone killed a chicken with their own hands or slaughtered a cow ... or watched such happening ... would KFC suddenley close down? Would McDonald's sales plummet. I think not.

                                                    I think the questions the Salon article asks are something to consider


                                                    "I have to admit that I am left only with questions. Will I think differently of chicken in the supermarket after this? Or will this just be a memory, something to write about? Will it become easier if I do it again, and would that mean that I'd be in greater harmony with the "circle of life" or just that I'd become inured to killing animals? Did we honor or debase this bird any more or less than what Tyson does? I believe so -- it had a good life, ran freely, was slaughtered by people who, for better or worse, feel badly about it. Cold comfort for the bird."

                                                    Slaughtering animals is reality for some people. Where I live in Guatemala ... and most of Guatemala ... there's a chicken in every backyard. It is the way of life. I have no problem with that .. other than this was an unnecessary skill for my stepdaughter.

                                                    But it is the whole foodie attitude about it being necessary to truly appreciate and respect the animal. That to me in nonsense. There's no connection there.

                                                    And someone who is doing this to satisfy their inner foodie ... that is just worse than what Tyson does. At least Tyson is upfront about what it is doing ... making money. The hobbiest is just likely torturing an animal ... not on purpose but due to lack of experience ... and you know ... lots of these people don't make that a regular part of their lives. It is just killing something to see how if feels.

                                                    Have some real respect for the animal ... buy only responsibly raised and slaughtered animals. That means no fast food, no cheap Chinese takeout, etc, etc.

                                                    Can anyone who has killed their own decided to eschew any of the factory-raised food whether it be from the market or in a restaurant? That would be real respect and a true life changing experience.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      Please don't mischaracterize what I've said. I never claimed that slaughter is "necessary to truly appreciate and respect the animal." My point - and the point of the article you keep quoting - is that killing your food makes you think.

                                                      Far too many people buy meat on styrofoam trays precisely because it allows them to avoid thinking about where it came from. The vast majority of Americans (not you, of course, but you're in the minority) ignore the source of their chicken, beef, and pork. They view those things as commodities. That's why factory farms thrive.

                                                      Nobody's saying that you should start slaughtering your own meat. But if you're going to remain willfully ignorant of the process, you should probably temper your opinions somewhat. For example, your claim that most non-professionals "torture" animals when they slaughter them is simply incorrect. If you witnessed or participated in several hundred slaughters instead of just one, you'd know that significant unnecessary suffering is pretty much non-existent.

                                                      If killing a chicken is going to cause somebody to think more about where their food comes from and become a more conscientious consumer, I'm all for it. Only you and the chicken seem to have any objection.

                                                    2. re: ricepad

                                                      and echoes.

                                                      I know *how* to kill and clean, and have done it a few times (fish and fowl)...but I don't do it for the same reason I go to Jiffy Lube.

                                                      It's faster, less messy, a whole lot more efficient, and I don't have to deal with it.

                                                  2. re: rworange

                                                    A reply like this reminds me of just how distanced some people are from the realities of life (for most of humanity) since the beginning of time, until just a few years ago. The impracticality and lack of understanding combined with a fantasy reasoned out to excuse hipocricy is astounding.
                                                    Killing dinner is as basic and neccesary a human function as sex, or sociality. You were conditioned to this extreme view, not born to it.

                                                    1. re: weewah

                                                      It is not necessary or there would be a lot of dead vegetarians and vegans.

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        Word. And there have been vegetarians far longer than "just a few years ago."

                                                1. Yes, we raised chickens when I was a child. My Dad wielded the axe, but we kids did much of the rest. I don't remember it having any real effect on me, but I was a kid. It's amazing how kids can face these types of activities with such aplomb.

                                                  1. Many years ago, I worked, for a short time, as a volunteer on a kibbutz in Israel. The job that was assigned to me was removing chickens from a cage and handing them to the slaughterer. He deftly dispatched each one, with a swift knife stroke across the throat, as per standard kosher procedure. We processed 300 chickens each day. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't particularly pleasant. It didn't help that, since chickens were the kibbutz's main business, chicken was served at every meal except breakfast. After 3 days, I asked for a new assignment.

                                                    1. The only animals I've ever killed were mice and a copperhead. I can't say I'd choose to kill an animal unless it was out of necessity, but I think I could do it and would under some circumstances. Both my grandmothers killed and processed chickens, rabbits, fish, etc. with regularity throughout their lives.

                                                      1. Yes.

                                                        Raised a chicken.

                                                        Slaughtered it.

                                                        Skinned it.

                                                        Cooked it.

                                                        Ate it.

                                                        Enjoyed it.

                                                        Read about it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/707713

                                                        2 Replies
                                                          1. re: rabaja

                                                            We used to skin quite a few chickens. My mom said it was healthier. I say it's spinach.

                                                        1. I used to keep my own chickens, and slaughtered them myself since I thought it would be a wimp-out to ask my husband to do it. My mother told me that her grandmother wrung necks, but this was a technique I never learned. I used a hatchet. My husband tried to wring the neck of a troublesome rooster once...we were sheltering a one-winged turkey vulture named Walter at the time, so the rooster, post-wringing, was thrown in with him for a treat. Next day, Walter was at the top of his pen looking frantic and the rooster was up and around...but much more respectful...

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Altaira

                                                            Neck-wringing isn't very intuitive; instruction helps. The method I've found works best is to grip the head with your thumb on the side of the beak, which you use as a lever to twist the head a full 360 degrees. Unless your bird qualifies for a starring role in the next remake of The Exorcist, there isn't any recovering from that...

                                                          2. Absolutely not. I'm a vegetarian and the thought of killing an animal makes me tear up a bit, especially rabbits. We have 2 bunnies as our house pets, and they are like our children. I have seen and heard rabbits scared and in pain and can't imagine ever willingly inflicting that on an animal, however quickly the deed may be carried out.

                                                            1. I have dispatched and cleaned a fair number of fish. I grew up in a house with a handmade mallet designated for fish whacking - much easier to wield than a bat, and less likely to lose the fish overboard than hitting against the side of the boat. I learned to count by counting fish heads as my father cut them off. At first, I hated the messy part of fishing, but family rule is that if you catch it and want to eat it, it's your responsibility to see it through to the end.

                                                              I have witnessed chicken slaughters, but didn't participate. I would if I needed to, but would rather let the experts take care of it for the same reasons others have stated - I want the slaughter to be as humane as possible, and trust those with steadier hands and more experience to do it.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: mpjmph

                                                                Fish whacking - who knew?! You must be talking about big fish - all i know is trout and bass fishing (and crappy) but as ugly as a catfish is, I may take pleasure in whacking one in the head - ugh, they are nasty looking beasts.

                                                                I have learned a great deal from this thead! CHers never cease to amaze me.

                                                                1. re: lynnlato

                                                                  The mallet was mostly used on croaker and similar sized fish, though sometimes with larger catches. A quick hit to the head is much faster and IMHO more humane than leaving the fish to suffocate in a bucket or cooler with little/no water. It also reduces the risk of having the fish flop out of your hands and back into the water (I'm pretty sure that's the real reason my dad made/used the mallet - last thing he wanted was to lose a fish!)

                                                              2. In the late '70's I was very enamored with the back to the land movement and hoping to get my own little 5 acres. I was concerned about handling the reality of slaughter, so some friends offered to walk me and my then SO through it. They raised catfish (one of the first, in a Carter pond), chickens and rabbits.

                                                                Each of us was to kill a young rabbit. The fellow said he always just reached his hand into the cage without looking, he just couldn't get to the point of being comfortable choosing the rabbit to be dispatched any other way. He demonstrated, explaining how important it was to do a quick, thorough job of breaking it's neck. The look in his eyes when he spoke of hearing a rabbit scream - well, I was very worried about doing it right.

                                                                After the neck was broken, the head was chopped off with an ax and the rabbit was bled over a big bowl. I don't really recall much of the rest, some instruction about taking care of the gall bladder IIRC. The rabbit was skinned, butchered, soaked in salted water. They used every bit of the animal, processed the hides and made vests and purses for sale from the fur.

                                                                We were introduced to cooking on a wood fired stove and had fried rabbit for lunch. The entire meal was from food produced on their homestead, except the oil, flour, salt and pepper used to cook the rabbit. The meal was simple and utterly delicious.

                                                                I had wanted to do this for two reasons. One, to further my education towards the goal of a farmstead. Two, I felt if I was eating meat then I had to take responsibility to see it through or be a hypocrite. I came away knowing I could, if necessary.

                                                                Life brought me in directions far from being able to achieve that dream, but it laid the path for pursuing local, organic and sustainable options in my life and in trying to source it for food coops and later natural foods markets in my work path.

                                                                I now live in a city which allows chickens and have been contemplating taking the plunge for almost 4 years. I would love the eggs, but I am hesitant about dispatching the hens once they are unproductive or incapacitated by age. I know I could, just not sure if I really want to. I guess I'm more comfortable with being a hypocrite in my middle years.......

                                                                1. Just fish so far, though I grew up in more-or-less rural Illinois and my dad brought lots of squirrels and rabbits home, plus one sensationally delicious young raccoon. And the only way we could have chicken was to get'em on the hoof, and dad would behead it in the back yard (sometimes resulting in the headless bird having to be chased down). I've simply never had the need to kill and clean any animal on my own, but I've been comfortable with the process all my (fairly long) life and would have no problem with either of those tasks.

                                                                  1. Out of sight out of mind. If I was starving of course I would do the deed, but for some reason when I start thinking about it I am stricken with guilt and sadness.

                                                                    I will never forget watching a youtube video of a chinese fur farm and the utterly cruel and far from quick deaths of the animals (VERY disturbing - I DO NOT recommend watching). Honestly I cant even bring myself to read some of the more detailed posts in this thread.

                                                                    Out of sight out of mind.

                                                                    1. Only parts I have issues with are burning off the remaining feather and cleaning intestines, but those have to do with smell and nervousness about the thoroughness required.

                                                                      1. Does twisting the head off of spot prawns count?

                                                                        1. We raise chickens, goats and pigs, and hunt mainly deer. We love our animals and butchering day isn't something that we have pleasure in participating in. However, as the years have passed and we've gained more experience, it is a process we are more proud of. Many people ask us why we wouldn't just send off our animals to an abattoir. Our answers would be that we have raised the animals in a very humane and happy pastured environment and to not have control over their last few hours of life upsets us. Transporting an animal to a new location is extremely stressful, which definitely doesn't help with the meat quality. We feel quite good knowing that our animals' last thoughts might be "Oh, yummy, yummy, I'm getting a bucket full of apples underneath my favourite tree! BANG..........." I much prefer that over knowing that an animal I have raised since birth is going to die in unfamiliar surroundings.

                                                                          The respect we have for our animals, is also transferred to the plate. We rarely serve guests meat from our animals unless our guests also have that respect. Our neighbours didn't understand this until they raised their own chickens and butchered them as well. When they had a dinner party, they thought about serving that chicken to their guests, but changed their minds when they thought about how much love and effort went into raising and killing those chickens, whereas their guests just didn't have that connection.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: earthygoat

                                                                            "butchering day isn't something that we have pleasure in participating in."

                                                                            That is the sentiment I find missing with most people I know who slaughter animals. Theere's almost a detachment from what they are doing ... and maybe you need that to kill something.

                                                                            The whole thrill factor trend lately to slaughter your own is worse. It should be left to people like you who know how to do it.

                                                                            Not everyone needs to or should participate in or view the entire pricess. Some of us can show our respect for the animal by buying humanely raised and slaughtered animals.

                                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                                              rworange, "thrill factor"?

                                                                              I am not familiar with this. I do consider myself quite familiar with the trend in being closer to the whole process that is involved in raising, slaughtering and processing of livestock...but not the "thrill factor".

                                                                              1. re: DougRisk

                                                                                Bragging rights then. I'm sorry, I just don't buy into the whole schtick. There are too many threads on Chowhound about first time killers be it a wild boar or chicken that come off more as "aren't I cool?".I never see that 'respect' for the animal shining thorugh. Usually, the poor animal suffered and didn't fare any better than a factory-slaaughtered animal ... usually worse.

                                                                                As to the thrill factor, this Salon magazine article is good


                                                                                "I think the feeling I felt at that moment could be called excitement. For years, since the day I found myself hurling invective toward people freaked out by fish served with their heads on, I've been saying that meat eaters should have to kill their dinner at least once. "Meat is animals. You can love eating it, but you're not allowed to forget that," I said, with no small amount of self-righteousness ... I also have to admit that, in a world where we romanticize farmers and food artisans, there was a certain fantasy to it."

                                                                                And that is what always stands out in most of these stories about Lthe need to kill your own.

                                                                                Live on a farm? Do this professionally? Great. Otherwise, leave it to the first two groups.

                                                                          2. I have killed a rabbit and processed the carcus. larger animals would be tougher. not because of moral reasons but logistical reasons. I have been present at slaughters of goats and lambs, but not participated. As a cook you HAVE to know where your food comes from. I fyou care about food you should know where your food comes from. I believe in the nose to tail movement, but I am not a militant believer. People should be aware of food and where it comes from. You may not have to kill it but at least please be aware that it was once a living breathing animal. Honour the animal by remembering it and where it came from/

                                                                            1. Yes and yes. My first time was forced upon me when my father insisted we sacrifice my pet chicken for Eid al-Adha. He was unsure with his blade and merely gave the chicken a mortal wound as it shrieked and flew all around me, covering me in its blood. I ran away screaming and crying, and I can see how a slaughter like this would harden one's soul as rworange suggests.

                                                                              But ultimately life entails death; there is not one without the other. I could not continue to close my eyes to this reality and hope that staring into the void would spare me from this awful truth. So I learned to cook; I learned to harvest; I learned to take my place in the nature of things and kill. It is at times gruesome; it is at times unpleasant, but that is reality unsanitized.

                                                                              I have taught carnivores to cook meat and reacted with frustration when they refused to touch or look at raw meat. I sympathize with their revulsion, but ultimately that is a hurdle they need to overcome. If they are to be self-sufficient, they need to realize animals are not born cling wrapped in cutlets and tenderloins. And I try to walk them to that reality because from my vantage point, awareness and appreciation for the facts of life are far more preferable to the constraints of self-enforced ignorance.

                                                                              1. Yes ~~ Yes ~~ Yes ~~~ Been there and have done it all. ~~~ Today mostly game animals, fowl, and fish....Don't tell me you've never ran trot lines on the river, and cooked fresh catfish on the sand bar...Nor killed ducks and made a gumbo...Or skinned a buck....Or been Frog gigging...Or a hog killing on a cold Jan/Feb.day. ~~ My My...ya need to get out and get some mud between your toes!! :)

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                  I, for one, love the cool feel of mud between my toes on a hot summer night when I'm crabbing in the brackish waters in the outer banks of NC. ;-)

                                                                                  1. re: lynnlato

                                                                                    which, if you're like me, lasts for about 30 seconds before I shift my weight just enough to slip and fall...and while it feels nice between your toes, it's not so great in other parts of your anatomy.....and those darned oyster shells are *sharp*.

                                                                                2. My experience is limited to fishing. I kill and clean my own catch. Foremost in my mind is respect for the fish and to dispatch it quickly. I am against making anything suffer or wasting anything....when I see fish other anglers have caught and left on shore it really ticks me off. Eat it or release it.
                                                                                  I do not hunt or keep any animals for meat so I have never been in a position to slaughter anything else but would go about it the same way, quickly and humanely. I don't "gross out" about much, it would probably be harder mentally than anything.

                                                                                  1. I've killed and cleaned plenty of fish. The only large animal I ever helped butcher was an oryx, which I thought would freak me out, but I actually felt very connected to it.

                                                                                    Personally, I think if you can't handle killing and cleaning an animal, you need to be a vegetarian.

                                                                                    1. I've only killed fish. I've helped butcher a hog, though.

                                                                                      I wouldn't be jumping around with glee, but I could certainly slaughter an animal. I could handle any non primate mammal, and certainly birds, reptiles and amphibians.

                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: rohirette

                                                                                        So, Rohirette, knowing that you could not slaughter a hog, or cow, or a lamb, would you give up eating pork, beef or lamb?

                                                                                        It is difficult to convey "tone" in a forum comment, but, to be clear, I am genuinely asking.

                                                                                        1. re: DougRisk

                                                                                          I think Rohirette said they COULD slaughter any mammal that was NOT a primate, so no chimps or gorillas but cows, pigs or sheep are fair game.


                                                                                          1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                            Thank you. I completely misread that.

                                                                                            1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                              Yes, Jerseygirl, that is what I meant.

                                                                                              And I'm sure if I went more than a few days without anything else to eat, primates might not seems so untouchable.

                                                                                              1. re: rohirette

                                                                                                assuming they didn't touch you first, although it might be more prudent to follow them around and eat what they eat.

                                                                                        2. When I was young my dad did a lot of pheasant hunting and in that era they were quite plentiful where we lived. I remember watching him clean the pheasants and he would show me their crop and it was usually full of corn. He'd give me a pheasant to pluck while he cleaned the second one. After I got old enough to hunt the rule was, you kill it, you clean it. So I grew up cleaning ducks, geese and pheasants and the occasional cottontail. Back in those days we brought our deer to a processor. About 15 years ago we began to butcher our deer ourselves and made our own sausage.

                                                                                          The killing of the animal is the part that seems to bother people the most. The way I look at it is if you treat the animal with respect and eat all parts of the animal, it did not give up it's life in vain. I did not particularly enjoy wringing the necks of the birds that were still alive after we got to them, but it is something that has to be done quickly.

                                                                                          1. I dispatch live lobsters as often as I'm able thanks to sales and availability.

                                                                                            1. For me, it boils down to fish, or frogs, with a handful of shrimp and crawfish as exceptions, but otherwise, I am not much of a "hunter," so I do not "bleed out" most of my food.

                                                                                              I also try not to eat anything that I know has a name.


                                                                                              1. I've shot, killed and cleaned my share of fish but might have problems with the kill of a mammal. I don't think I would have a problem with the butchering though

                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                  scuba, I have dressed a lot of deer and a few pigs. You get better at it with practice, same as fish.

                                                                                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                    These fish that you shoot...would they be in a barrel? I hear that's pretty easy!

                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                        Considering the poster's handle, I don't know why I didn't make the connection...

                                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                          Spear of course. In the Gulf I have to be too deep to free dive. At least for me

                                                                                                    1. Yes. Deer, moose, fish, duck and pheasant. I would do it again, if I had to but it does seriously gross me out and I prefer not to. I'm very aware of where my meat comes from and I know that I can but I prefer not to.

                                                                                                      1. A lot of responses are along the lines of, "I hunt/fish, so yeah, I could do it." There's quite a difference between killing a domestic animal for food (that is, slaughtering) and killing a wild animal in the field (ala hunting or fishing). In my experience, the former is harder to do, psychologically. And I think I'm going to amend my earlier response, too: I think I can still do it, but I have doubts about my ability to do it cleanly and humanely, so I'm not very likely to slaughter an animal in the near future.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                          Ricepad, I had a neighbor who raised a couple of turkeys in a pen every year. He was a real quiet neighbor, but once a year before Thanksgiving day, he took his shotgun into the pen and dispatched a turkey. Boom! My wife and I would look at each other and laugh that it must be Thanksgiving. I never understood; aren’t you supposed to use an axe if your such a traditionalist? I must say wild turkeys are a delicacy. I’m too lazy to hunt them and my friends who do so avidly are not inclined to share. Maybe the neighbor’s turkeys tasted more like wild ones than those commercially raised. Last year a wild turkey hen flew up into the power lines in my driveway, shorting them out and sending a fireball down the lines to where they blew down into the road at the main line. I bet that never would have happened if my neighbor hadn’t moved.

                                                                                                        2. Fishing and then cleaning out the Fish is no problem for me. And - years ago I had neighbor who liked to hunt, but didn't have a clue on how to clean out a Rabbit or clean and plug a Pheasant, so I did it and also prepared the meal. I saw my father do it when I was a child and I remembered exactly what to watch out for. Theoretically I think I would know how to take apart a Deer, but I never had to do it.
                                                                                                          Once it is killed I have no problem "seeing the dish/preparing it", but I would never want to kill a Bird or a Rabbit or a Deer etc.

                                                                                                          1. I've caught/killed, gutted and eaten a lot of seafood. Wife and I lived in asia for a number of years. You would buy chickens from the chicken lady who rings the neck, plucks the feathers. I haven't shot and killed a wild pig, although I've come across a few in the Yucatan, but I wouldn't hesitate. Butchering an animal is a skill.

                                                                                                            1. I am not sure what it would be like. But I intend to learn this year. I am a part owner, with three other women, of a darling log cabin in Michigan. The cabin is on a blue ribbon trout stream, in the middle of morel mushroom heaven and hunting territory. Love to cook. Two deer blinds came with the cabin. I say, why not let's give it a go. I'm 54, lost my fiance last December to cancer, my son is grown and it is time to begin part II of life. If I can eat meat, and I certainly cook it, I should be able to hunt and "dispatch"? it. Wild turkey with morels anyone? Signing up for hunting safety 101, How Not To Hang Yourself In Your Deer Blind.

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Willa

                                                                                                                I'm pretty sure the State of Michigan offers safe-hunting courses.

                                                                                                                1. re: Willa

                                                                                                                  Congratulations on your outlook on life. I grew up in a family with a hunting tradition. We have had our 'cabin in the woods' for almost 15 years. We used to send out our deer to a processor. But that started to get expensive plus we started to make our own venison sausage.

                                                                                                                  I agree with sunshine, about the safe-hunting courses. Here is a link to help you get started:


                                                                                                                  Good luck and have fun...