Teaching young people about ethical animal slaughter

Since 2012 David Schaefer, along with Featherman Equipment, and I have demonstrated poultry processing at MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS. During our poultry demonstrations, David and I strive to teach humane slaughter techniques, which David calls “the Screaming Shipping”. At each fair, David and I kill, scalding, pluck, eviscerate and refrigerate eight pasture chickens, and leave little to the imagination. (If you haven’t been to a MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR, go ahead, it’s the experience of a lifetime.)

Even with three years under our belt, a 9-year-old participant surprised David and I at the 2015 Oregon Fair by innocently asking to take the stage with us at the protest. Of course, we were in agreement, and before I knew it, this youngster had torn off the head of a dead chicken and triumphantly lifted it up. The crowd hooted and applauded.

Before David and I could get together, more children approached. Some looked into the boiling water. Others grabbed a souvenir foot. A few even tore off their heads. David and I looked at each other and realized that we had definitely added a new theatrical dimension to our no-frills shoot. At the next fair in Asheville, NC, we asked parents to allow their children to come forward – and nearly a dozen did!

Although the response to this story has been overwhelmingly positive, some people are strongly opposed to children being actively involved in the transformation of animals. I would like to touch on this thorny issue a bit because I believe that many of the negative reactions to exposure of children to animal slaughter are based on two major misconceptions.

Myths about meat

The first misconception at play asserts that, because eating meat is unnecessary and immoral, killing sentient beings is neither civilized nor charitable. Refusing to kill animals does not indicate a new state of evolutionary cosmic consciousness; rather, it reveals a profound disconnection from the life-death-decay-regeneration choreography that underlies all life on Earth. Everything is being eaten and being eaten; if you don’t believe me, go lie naked in your garden bed for three days and see what eats and what is eaten between you, the bugs and the vegetables.

Let’s be clear: animals are not the only reservoir of sensitivity on our planet. All of nature vibrates with observation, language and adaptation. When the sunflowers rotate with the sun’s course in the sky, it is sensitivity. When the leaves change their chemical makeup to become less attractive to herbivores and nibbling insects, that’s sensitivity. The depository bacteria communicate by guarding every human cell; it is sensitivity. In addition, cyclicality is just as prevalent in the world as sensitivity. A compost heap, perhaps better than anything, illustrates how biological cycles require death to produce life. Having recognized that death is a part of life, we can understand that animal slaughter embodies what happens every day in the ground and in our bodies.

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