Harvest Time

I recently finished an excellent book by Barbara Kingsolver called Animal Vegetable Miracle. I really enjoyed this book, and found it to be a great motivation to attempt to change my lifestyle. The biggest step I am going to try to take is cutting beef (of unknown origin) out of my diet. This is going to take a while, as I'm accustomed to going to Burger King when I don't feel like cooking, and really enjoying beef jerky. It was a very fun book for me to read though, especially being a city dweller, and really made me appreciate farms even more than I already did. I am impressed by her family's dedication, but then again to me canning your own food is a foreign and even dangerous concept.

One of the chapters in this book was on "harvest time" which was when the family harvested their roosters and turkeys for the year. In other words it was when they took the animals they planned to eat out of the flock, killed and cleaned them. I don't have any problem with someone else killing an animal for food, but I think I might have some difficulty doing it myself. Now saying that, I have a slightly different perspective than most people do about killing animals. First I fish, I have no problem killing a fish. I realize that when I catch one, and put it aside to eat later that is exactly what I am doing. It is probably even more cruel considering that I unintentionally lengthen their suffering slowly suffocating them, rather than swiftly killing them, but for some reason I have an easier time doing it. I don't know if it is because of the nature of fish being very different from mammals or even birds, or if it's because it is a more passive killing, but it doesn't bother me. I do not hunt, but know how to shoot, and even that seems somehow different to me than the process of the harvest. It is much more involved to me to cut off the head of an animal than to shoot them with a weapon.
In her book Kingsolver wrote that when friends would express the sentiment that they would be unable to harvest a farm animal, she stated that she tries to explain that killing one of these animals is different from killing a family pet. I can understand what she is saying, there is a huge difference between a beloved pet and an animal that is raised for harvest. This however, was the statement that really caused me to think about why I would have difficulty killing a farm animal. I have worked as a veterinary technician for over two years now, and I have assisted doctors in killing dozens of those beloved pets. If I were in an unfortunate situation I would feel no qualms about giving that final injection myself. Now I know that Kingsolver did not have the people who kill pets every day in mind when she stated that a harvest is different, but the difference between what we do and what farmers do goes beyond her intended meaning. I have some reservations about personally killing a farm animal because that animal is perfectly healthy. The time when we kill an animal for harvest is somewhat arbitrarily chosen by people. When I kill an animal with a veterinarian 80% of the time the animal is noticeably ill, and 15% of the remaining time they are not likely to live for more than one or two months. I have never worked in a shelter, and know that it would break my heart to assist doctors kill healthy animals (yes, I have done it to very few animals). One of the doctors who I work with tells her clients (especially people who work in the medical profession that have reservations) that she thinks of euthanasia as a gift, that we can allow our animals a death without the suffering they would endure in a natural death. We may be killing a beloved animal and not a crop, but I also think of it as something that I can do for that animal, instead of something I do to that animal.

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