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Would you eat it if . . .

This query arose from a recent comment by someone on this site about eating food that had been harvested or produced under abusive conditions, and the fact that you probably would eat it anyway ( grapes anyone?). I started thinking about my childhood, my mother's childhood and a conversation I had one time about capital punishment ( I live in Texas and many of you know of the controversy over capital punishment here ( How long has it been since you executed somebody? Well, thas' too long.))

I was debating capital punishment with a friend, who favored it, and I asked simply, " Would you be willing to pull the switch ( to the electric chair) After regaining their color , they meekly replied "No." End of debate.

Now I ask you, if you had to kill whatever it was that you eat,would you be willing to do so? Would you even be able to watch it being killed and slaughtered, and is it relevant even to ask such a question?

The supposition is that if you do not feel able to do it your self or at least watch it being killed and cut to pieces., should you be eating it?

I recall as a young boy hanging out at the local butcher shop and seeing cattle and pigs being killed ( kindly with a single .22 shot to the skull) and remember my mother describing hog killing season when she was a young girl. ( Hang them up, slit their throats, bleed them out, then cut them up.)

What do you think folks. Should eating a product have the hidden supposition that you should be able to kill, harvest it before you eat it, or is okay to require someone else to do the dirty work and just not think about it.

( I saw the movie " Fastfood Nation" and still have qualms over eating grocery store chicken although I continue to do so. But OTOH, I saw my mother ring a lot of chickens necks. Personally, I preferred a hatchet)

Looking forward to your comments.

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  1. Singlemalt,

    As someone who helped my dad catch/filet fish, and my nana kill and prepare live chickens, using your arguments, if I wished to live terribly honestly, I would limit my meat consumption to fish, shellfish, chicken and turkey...no mammals.

    1. Vivisection is cutting into living animals. You may want to edit your OP.

      1 Reply
      1. I am by nature squeamish. I would not have the intestinal fortitude to perform any sort of invasive surgery -- ranging from removing an infected appendix, cancerous growth, or open-heart surgery. I have no moral qualms about, and indeed am grateful that, there are many doctors who willingly perform such surgery. In other words, one's squeamishness to perform the task itself cannot suffice as a measure of its moral rectitude.

        1. It would be hard for me to kill Cows and Pigs and Deer etc - I am too empathetic - unfortunately they are also very tasty animals and I am not as principled as I could be I guess - I think if held to this standard it would be fish and chicken for me - I have not so much empathy for chickens.

          1. Not every person has every skill or inclination. That's a practical matter, not a moral one.

            1. I have been a long term (25+ year) vegetarian.

              I grew up on the coast and have also fished and crabbed (so yes I have killed animals).

              I think that raising and harvesting (yes, that sometimes means killing) what you eat is a great thing.

              1. There are many things that I'd prefer not do but would do if I had to,. Killing food animals is one of them. BTW I do not count whales as food animals.

                1. If I had to, in order to feed myself and my family, yes, I would do it. I have no problem fishing and crabbing and I frequently dispatch lobsters, clams and oysters. I have never killed a bird or mammal but I imagine I would cry the first few times and eventually just carry on. I wanted to say I would get used to it, but I am not sure if I would. I am sure I would take my meat much less for granted, if I had to slaughter it myself.

                  1. I have no desire to kill any animal. I would if I was starving though. Hopefully...I will never experience that!

                    I put this issue in the same category of living in a house but not building it, driving a car but not doing all the maintenance on it, eating vegetables but not growing all of them..... flying to Italy...without sprouting wings.....


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sedimental

                      My SO engineers those cars you drive!

                      And if I had to weave the cloth of all of the clothes I wear I would be naked fer sure. ;P

                      Still, I think it's nice to understand and appreciate the labor, the work,and yes the death, that goes into the products we eat/drink/drive/wear.

                      Makes me appreciate what I ~have~ even more.

                    2. My husband and I have 5 chickens. I'm not overly attached to them, but when it comes time to dispatch them I'm unsure if I'll be able to eat them. I've just personally never eaten an animal I've raised. I understand however it's very common in many parts if the world, the US included.

                      Does anyone watch "Alaska: The Last Frontier"? I cried when one of the guys on the show killed his cow because I could tell how sad he was, though it was a necessity for his survival.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: UTgal

                        I have some friends who have a few head of cattle, each one given a name like "MickyD", BK", etc.

                        And, btw, a pig that smart you don't eat all at one time.

                      2. Fortunately, in some sense, I am allergic to crustaceans, don't really care for shrimp, but love crab in any form, and that's where I discovered my allergy.

                        I cannot eat, and have never eaten lobster. I don't think I could knowing that a live animal was dropped into a pot of boiling water. Luckily for me, due to my allergy, I was able to legitimately opt out when travelling in Nova Scotia one time. Although, the lobstermen assured me that lobster have the intelligence of an insect.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: singlemalt

                          Recently I heard that some scientists believed that lobster might be immortal, unless if course caught in traps or killed by other means. Wow. That made me rethink my dinner plans for a while.

                        2. My dad is a farmer, I always knew what animal was on my dinner plate. Some were easier to eat than others, but could I pull the trigger- absolutely not.

                          One if the most melancholy feelings I have ever experienced was leading my 4-H steers to the truck on their way to slaughter and being handed back their empty halter. This always produced tears and made me grateful for the dairy cattle that were really pets with twice daily handling and a few distinctive members of the family that would never end up on the table.

                          It's much less worrisome to know the animal on my plate these days than wonder about the factory farm lifestyle the animal had to endure. When possible, I will pay more to eat local and try to purchase organically when possible.

                          1. This has been discussed elsewhere here and I feel sad for people who would shirk from killing their meals or that concept.

                            I recall one CH reference to wild Venison brought home described as "happy meat" and that resonated with me.

                            Slaughtering livestock or game for the table entails a deep respect for the beast.

                            1. If I weren't willing to kill it I wouldn't eat it. My dad and many people we knew in semi-rural Illinois hunted small game – rabbits and squirrels, mostly – and fished. When we wanted a chicken for dinner one of us would pick one up from the poultry house and bring it home, where Dad would behead it in the back yard, and Mom would pluck and clean it in the kitchen sink. Dad's job was a lot easier!

                              I've known more than a few pet rabbits, pet pigs and at least one pet chicken, none of which deters me from cooking and eating any of those. I could not bring myself to kill some other creatures – the usual – but I consider this a simple choice, not a show of hypocrisy.

                              1. Um, I guess you have never been fishing for a meal, or hunting, or clam digging, or obviously wringing a chicken's neck etc...

                                To answer your other question I would happily be the one to pull the switch on someone convicted by jury of a crime deserving capital punishment.

                                If you have certain sensibilities and harbor personal guilt then you should alter your behavior accordingly. Don't expect everyone else to share your opinions or reactions.

                                Perhaps you should investigate the various vegan/vegetarian lifestyles if that is more to your taste or conscience. But please don't expect everyone else to have to feel the way you do just because you believe in a certain way.

                                1. I've caught and killed fish and caught and killed chicken. I haven't killed anything bigger, but I'm not too worried about it. I know where meat comes from and the reality of how it was likely raised. While I didn't grow up on a farm, I've spent many a summer on them when I was a kid.

                                  Do I think it's a good idea for someone who eats meat to have killed/cleaned/butchered their meat at least once? Yes. Do I think it's a good idea for people to know where meat comes from? Yes. Would I enforce either as a rule? No.

                                  1. Watch a few utube vids about factory farms and youll think before you eat meat or eggs. I never eat factory eggs and try not to eat meat from resturants or groceries. The horror.

                                    1. Food Inc is another film to watch.

                                      When i was still a child i learned that burger = dead cow, and promptly decided nothing should die for me to have dinner since there are many many other delicious options. This was more than 20yrs ago i became vegetarian in a meat 'n potatoes family and community.....i have never regretted the decision and don't see my lifestyle changing anytime in the future. (I am also lactose intolerant and avoid nearly all dairy except the one greek yogurt that doesn't upset my stomach)

                                      I think it is very important everyone is responsible for their own decisions and understands the consequences and what it is they are supporting when purchasing the $5 rotisserie chickens at costco or the $2 burgers at mcdonalds, etcetc.

                                      1. I am only human, and I admit to sometimes being in conflict with vivid images of animals suffering, and my instinct to eat delicious and nutritious foods for sustenance. Sometimes one side wins over the other.

                                        A little while back, I shopped for a live fish from the fish tank, at the local Chinese grocery chain. I indicated the size and type of fish I wanted, the fishmonger scooped one from the tank, showed it to me to okay it, then proceeded to hammer its head with a mallet before "cleaning" it... Seeing the mallet action shocked me and affected me so much that it completely changed my experience of eating the fish that evening. I was feeling so guilty but was willing myself to enjoy it the best I can, so as to at least give it the respect it deserves for having its life given up.

                                        15 Replies
                                        1. re: vil

                                          We can all assume you have never been fishing or caught a fish then?

                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                            Not never, but "only occasionally" ;-)

                                            1. re: vil

                                              I had no idea that the fish were bashed in the head. I would have run out of there puking and crying:(

                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                Although I'm not an avid fisherman, when I filet a fish I first kill it by piercing it through the head with a filet knife.

                                                1. re: John E.

                                                  there are species for which this is not possible -- freshwater catfish, and a significant number of saltwater species. Their skulls are just too thick and hard to penetrate with a filet knife. Saltwater species frequently also have pretty impressive teeth -- it's prudent to stay away from the well-toothed maw of a pissed-off fish.

                                                  A stout short-handled bat is standard equipment on most sport-fishing boats.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    I did not intend my response to be all encompasing. I was mostly referring to fish native to Minnesota waters such as walleye, northern pike, and panfish.

                                                    I have not been fortunate enough to go salt-water fishing. I suppose if I were a more avid fisherman I would have.

                                                2. re: MamasCooking

                                                  On a blue fishing trip, the deck hands stomped on their heads upon landing them.

                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                    Me too and that's why I was shocked. Maybe that was only with that store or chain? I definitely felt sad for that creature.

                                                    1. re: vil

                                                      I think they do it to stun them before filleting. Crude, for sure.

                                                      1. re: vil

                                                        I lose my appetite so much quicker these days. I have seen hogs shot and bled....chickens assassinated for butchering by my late mother.....deers prepped for butchering and on and on when I was a youngster but nowadays I can not handle certain *food industry* practices. Honestly I would have probably thrown something at that ass hat who was beating the fish in the head and then ran like hell.

                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                          cracking them over the head is normal procedure.

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            Of the thousands of saltwater fish I've caught or seen caught, they've all been thrown on ice or simply left on the deck if the action is fast. Saltwater fishing can be hours of no bites and then furious action, since the fish school, and speed is of the essence. We're talking speckled trout, redfish, flounder, and snapper. Larger fish can require the whacking over the head.

                                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                                              Nobody said it was the *only* way to dispatch fish-- just that it's normal and common.

                                                              Those exhibiting squeamishness should definitely stay away from the cockpit of a boat that hits a hungry school of fish. It's a pretty gruesome mess.

                                                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                  when you're sitting down to a fresh meal, yes, but cleaning it all up is, well, gruesome! (and smelly, by the time you get back to the dock)

                                              2. i think that it should have much more of a supposition than that.

                                                1. Considering some of the things I saw when I worked in Emergency Medicine, you bet your ass I could throw the switch.
                                                  I could easily kill and dress a deer, hog, or steer with little compunction (and not much more skill).

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                    I am confused. Were you practicing emergency medicine on animals?

                                                    1. re: MamasCooking

                                                      "I was debating capital punishment with a friend, who favored it, and I asked simply, " Would you be willing to pull the switch ( to the electric chair) After regaining their color , they meekly replied "No." End of debate."

                                                      This is the portion of the OP I was referring to with that tidbit.

                                                  2. There's no way I could kill an animal. I would pay someone else to do it. Oddly enough, I've gone fishing and just taking them out of the water kills them but, for some reason, I don't equate that with actually slaughtering a pig or whatever.

                                                    8 Replies
                                                      1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                        It does bother me to see live animals scalded that way.

                                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                                          So, no then? Or yes but it bothers you?

                                                          1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                            No, I would not do it. I imagine I hear them screaming in agony, yet I love the sea food.

                                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                                              drop them into cold water and put the lid on, then turn the heat on -- they'll be lulled into unconsciousness, according to an article I read (and forget the source) years ago.

                                                              Curiously, they expire at 98.6° .

                                                              Others submerge them in wine or beer, so they die VERY relaxed.

                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                I drop lobsters head first into boiling water. No banging around or movement pretty much instantly.

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    Ever since the screaming steamer clam episode, I've made sure to take no chances of lingering...

                                                    1. Probably not. I am not a big meat eater as it is. I would just be a vegetarian if I had to kill it, etc...

                                                      1. I grew up on a farm 60+ years ago. We raised and butchered our own meat and poultry. I could still do this.
                                                        I buy meat and poultry raised and processed ethically as well as free range, not cage laid eggs. I pay more for this and it is well worth it to me. I am careful with portions and treat these animal products with respect. I try very hard to eat at restaurants that do the same.
                                                        I do not eat factory farmed meats or eggs from caged hens.

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: Hecetamom

                                                          I think as human beings, we should be more concerned with the actual treatment of the animals we raise for consumption rather than the fact that we eat them at all. Animals on this planet consume other living beings every second of the day. No one is saying lions are being unethical by eating gazelles.

                                                          1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                            I'm with you, Jerseygirl. I read the same book that made Mrs. O go veggie, "Eating Animals", and what I took from it was the heinous lack of respect industrial farming shows to the animals they raise. Most of our meat animals are intensely social creatures, with a real need to interact in a natural way with their own kind and with their offspring, but to most factory-farmers they're not individual creatures, they're commodities, with no emotional needs that any human should bother to respect. It didn't put me off chicken, but it put me off Perdue and Foster Farms.

                                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                                              The end result (aka dead) is the same no matter how pampered the animal is while alive.....

                                                              1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                Surely, you're not promoting eating live animals? That would be cruel.

                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                  See my comments earlier re: vegetarian since childhood......

                                                          2. I field dress, skin, and butcher deer every year. (Well, we did get skunked three years ago.) Last November we butchered two deer, the year before it was five deer.

                                                            1. Yes, I could do it. I understand that meat doesn't magically appear in the neat little packages at the grocery store or laid out nicely in the butcher case. I try to buy the most ethically raised meat I can afford, even when that means buying less of it.

                                                              Maybe if more people were involved with the actual process of getting that meat to the table we would have a healthier and more nutritious food supply.

                                                              1. I grew up in a region where hunting and fishing was a way of life, and where there are enough farms that butchering is certainly not anything weird or gross or unusual. Kids knew that in the fall, the swingset would become the stand from which the yearly deer would be hung. (the hides were tanned for belts and gloves and purses, and everything edible was wrapped and tucked into the freezer for the rest of the winter)

                                                                I *could* kill, dress, and butcher my own meat -- but one of the hallmarks of a fully-developed economy is that we don't all have to do everything that needs to be done to sustain ourselves.

                                                                Not everyone has access to the resources to grow food, raise animals, butcher, etc., and others have reasons why they can't or shouldn't do any one or more of the above. They shouldn't be condemned to subsistence and charity for it.

                                                                1. It's always been a puzzlement to me: Where do I draw the line? I have no compunction about killing insects or vermin but, unless my life depended on it ( I wonder if I could do it even then) I could never kill anything. Why (rhetorical question)?

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                    do you eat meat? (not snark, genuine question)

                                                                    Creates a conundrum, doesn't it?

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      Absolutely. I'm a true carnivore from the get-go. Forget salads, desserts and whatnot; just give me meat, potato and a vegetable.