Friday, July 27, 2012

Full and difficult disclosure.

This post is inspired by Peggy 
who introduced me to Temple Grandin 
and the [somewhat oxymoronic] phrase 
"humane slaughter" 
and  by something Pamela brought up in her comment on the whales and sharks post -

"...And I also recognize that it's human (and very Western) to be horrified that Asians slaughter sharks for their fins while ignoring the chickens, turkeys, and cattle we raise and kill in huge feedlots ..."


I've eaten some things in my life that I'm not proud of. Foie gras, shark fin soup, caviar, turtle eggs and drunken prawns are the ones I most regret.

I've also had the opportunity to try meats that are perhaps not so commonly found on the home dinner plate [at least here in suburban Sydney] including wild boar, buffalo, goat, kangaroo, frog, crocodile, snake, reindeer and bat. I've had bunny stifado in Greece, balut in the Philippines, piranha soup in the Amazon and escargo in San Fran. Of all of these, the snails were the hardest for me to swallow.

I personally wouldn't be able to eat horse, dog, cat, whale, insects, turtles or witchetty grubs [to name a few] but those are just my sensibilities. I don't ever want to be judgemental about people who do eat them and cultural preferences in diet. One man's  hákarl is another man's meat pie.

What I am concerned about is how we manage, kill, cook or eat animals and in some cases, these can be pretty horrific.

I believe cruelty in preparing animals for our table has been going on a long time, knows no geographical boundaries, and will likely continue till the end of days.

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Heston Blumenthal, talking about some [alleged] historical recipes.

"In another example, the French would pluck a live chicken, brush the skin with saffron, wheat germ and drippings, then put the head under the belly, and rock the chicken to sleep. The live chicken was then placed on a platter with two cooked chickens, carried to the table and the cooked chickens carved as the live one ran wildly around – theater on the table.

The most disturbing recipe I've ever seen is for "how to roast a goose alive" from The Cook's Oracle from the late 1800s. It's written almost in biblical style, and it's really disturbing. The idea is that you've cooked the goose’s skin but the vital organs are still working, and you carve the goose while it can still scream." 

Here's the full recipe and it's not for the faint-hearted.

“How To Roast A Goose Alive.”

Take a goose, or a duck, or some such lively creature (but a goose is best of all for such purpose), pull off all her feathers, only the head and neck must be spared, then make a fire round about her, not too close to her, that the smoke do not choke her, and that the fire may not burn her too soon; nor too far off, that she may not escape fire: within the circle of the fire let there be set small cups and pots full of water wherein salt and honey are mingled, and let there be set also chargers full of sodden apples, cut into small pieces in the dish. The goose must be all larded and basted over with butter, to make her the more fit to be eaten, and may roast the better: put then fire about her, but do not make too much haste, when you see her beginning to roast; for by walking about, and flying here and there, being cooped in by the fire that stops her way out, the unwearied goose is kept in;[1] she will fall to drink the water to quench her thirst, and cool her heart, and all her body, and the apple-sauce will make her dung, and cleanse and empty her. And when she roasteth, and consumes inwardly, always wet her head and heart with a wet sponge; and when you see her giddy with running, and begin to stumble, her heart wants moisture, and she is roasted enough. Take her up, set her before your guests, and she will cry as you cut off any part from her, and will be almost eaten up before she be dead. It is mighty pleasant to behold!!!

The eating of animals that aren't dead is something that happens every day in the wild and in our backyard. It's the food chain at work. Unlike The Other Half, I don't bleat and switch channels when I see lions on Discovery, tearing into a wildebeest whose legs are still twitching. 

The eating of live animals was a staple "attraction" on Fear Factor, [and if I remember correctly] early seasons of Survivor and some episodes of that show with the man who teaches us how to survive alone in the wild while being trailed by a production crew. 

My 2 cents on this is that eating live animals for entertainment is not cool, even if they're at the bottom of the food chain, are slimy and disgusting, and have [apparently] been scientifically proven to feel no pain.


I had an exhausting day yesterday, googling ways in which we humans eat and prepare food for our table. Some of these methods were entirely new to me. I was going to include links, pictures and videos here, but I don't think I want to any more. 

Maybe I am a bleeding heart after all.


Years ago, when The Other Half was regularly diving, I saw a video on a dive club night about some villagers in Flores, Indonesia who still use traditional methods of harvesting whales for food. They are exempted from the international ban on whaling.

I found a video of a hunt on youtube to share here. It's in Indonesian so you might not understand it, but the footage is worth seeing. CLICK HERE if you want to read about it first [might be helpful to get some background]. Disturbingly, it seems to have become an item on the tourist itinerary.

Watch with an open mind. Don't watch if you're squeamish.

No questions today, but I'd love to know what you're thinking.


Karen Friesecke said...

I am a HUGE fan of Temple Grandin! Her book, Animals Make Us Human is an outstanding read.

What I like about Ms. Grandin is that she acknowledges that animals are going to be slaughtered for meat. She has simply come up with ways to make the slaughter process more humane for the animals. Now if the all meat packing companies will adopt her technologies, that would be a step in the right direction!

Since I am a hunter, my view is different toward hunting animals than someone who does not. As long as the animal is dispatched in the most humane way possible, I don't see anything wrong with hunting an animal for food. A goose being killed by a hunter is probably a kinder death than being killed by a fox, but since I'm not on the receiving end, I'm only making assumptions.

And thanks for the nightmares I'm going to have tonight about the goose cooking recipe. Damn.

Jen said...

It can be a difficult topic!

While I am very definitely a meat eater, I to hold the belief that the animals we eat still ought to be treated humanely, and with as little fear and pain as possible.

I've heard that strides are being made in ethical fois gras (okay, I watched the segment on Gordon Ramsay's The F Word). I haven't tried it myself, in either iteration.

Jean said...

I tend to be a bit like an ostrich with its head in the sand (do ostriches really stick their heads in the sand when faced with something scary?) when I read/see videos about the inhumane way we slaughter animals. In Canada, videos on battery chickens and pigs in factory farms make me cringe in horror, and yet I still eat chicken and pork - and not always knowing the source.
I am very disturbed by the human treatment of other species - whether is pertains to raising them for food, killing (or not killing) them for dinner, or abusing domestic pets like cats and dogs. There's rarely a day goes by that I don't think about it. But most days I simply have to shove my feelings down instead of exploring them, because otherwise my own life would not be worth living. Somedays, the only way to deal with the pain we inflict on others is to turn away from it. Sadly, that doesn't solve anything.

Jan said...

I'm wondering what i'm missing in life by not reading or seeing something that has a graphic content, not for the squeamish or fainthearted warning. I still have a mental picture of the Survivors eating living crawling things even though they haven't done those for years.

And I once read how hot dogs are made and haven't been able to eat one since. The post about eating living vegetables has me thinking seriously about potatoes and carrots.

houndstooth said...

I'm a big fan of Temple Grandin, too, but I'm going to admit that you lost me at the goose recipe. I've experienced enough human cruelty in my life without giving myself nightmares about it.

verobirdie said...

Did not read the goose receipe, nor watch the video. I prefer not to know. In fact, I know but I prefer not to. Sure enough I would turn into a pure vegetarian otherwise...

georgia little pea said...

Sorry if I'm giving anyone nightmares. That's why I decided not to include unnecessary pictures. The goose recipe is something I first read about in the 90s when I was doing research on foodstuff for a supermarket campaign. It stuck in my head, as you can imagine. Those who enjoy Discovery, Nat Geo and such programmes should find the whale video educational. It's not sensational, just how some people have always lived.

Jean - I couldn't resist googling your question! Apparently, the answer is NO! :)

June said...

I got to "...while it could still scream" and stopped reading.

Pamela said...

I think taking responsibility for killing your own meat is very profound. Killing is not easy. And farmers and hunters who bring respect to the process impress me.

One of the reasons I limit my meat eating is because I'm not sure I'm capable of killing my own food (except for carrots and potatoes). And why should I place the burden of providing food for my table on an underpaid worker in a dangerous slaughterhouse?

Which does make humanely farmed animals different in my mind. But it doesn't answer the question of whether I should eat something I'm not willing to kill myself.

The whale hunt video reminded me of footage i've seen of Inuit hunters. There is something profound about being so closely linked to the source of one's survival. It's a very different experience than mass, commercial fishing.

I think confronting these questions is very important. You've built up a lot of trust with the people who follow your blog. And you're facilitating a really good discussion with a light touch. Thank you.

Kristine said...

Thanks for providing all this information, even if it is hard to stomach for some. In my opinion, and this is just my opinion, I think it is important to show these things and to pay attention to them. It's too easy to turn away and forget otherwise. I find if something makes me feel uncomfortable, I need to explore that uncomfortable feeling to find the cause. I appreciate you not holding back. While none of this was a huge surprise, it's still important to know and understand.

I agree with Pamela's statement and I am glad you quoted her as I didn't see her comment the other day. It is so easy for us to look at something different and feel horrified without thinking about our own actions. I mean, here I sit, eating a turkey sandwich, is it really my place to judge? It's easy for us because we don't have to do any of the killing, we don't have to see this stuff if we don't want to. But that doesn't make it right.

There is huge controversy in Canada over the seal hunt. I am sure you know all about it. I have my own opinions that I don't usually choose to share as I've ended up in pretty serious and pointless arguments. But this post made me think about it again and reminded me that nothing is black and white.

Pup Fan said...

I'm fascinated by Temple Grandin's work.

I have to admit, though, that I had to skip over the goose recipe and the video... I just couldn't take it. :(

3 doxies said...

Whoa...dis post is all kinds of fascinatin'! My mum eats meat but only from da grocery store and hers will only eat chicken. Howevers, I will eat any kind of meat and I don't even has to get it from da grocery store. Nows, mum does think it is just terribles furs me to kill stuffs but hers does recognize dat I is a huntin' dog and it's in my genes to do so. I do think I is gettin' off topic.
Though mum is a meat eater hers would like to remain totally ignorant in da methods.

In reference to your comment...does you knows I was STUCK in da kennel on my birfday last year? And da year before dat mum gaves me toenail clippers furs my birfday!!!!!!!!!

PS: What's fur dinner tonight? I is starved.

georgia little pea said...

Pamela - that's how I feel about people who hunt, farm and kill for their own food too. It's very different from buying meat from the supermarket. My nanny used to kill our own chickens. It was dreadful watching her do it, and I know I could never do it myself. The most I can do is catch fish for the table. Thanks for watching the video. You may be the only person willing to go there.

Kristine - I'd love to know what you think of the seal hunt. The more I read, the more grey I find. Too many things are interconnected for there to be one simple straightforward answer.

Puddles! You made me laugh :D You not off topic at all. It good to hear a doggy's opinion. It IS in your genes to dead rats! Though maybe next time, just not to waste stuff, you can get your mama to pop them in your dinner bowl instead of the bin? Bwah ha ha!!! Happy bifday x

THANKS EVERYONE for sharing your thoughts!

Rose ~ from Oz said...

(Hack, cough) I'm still full of it Typist and really not up to a big response at all. The body and the mind are both weak :(
Pamela and Kristine pretty much said it all for me.
Had a random thought though - when we kill a sheep for the table the kill is FAST and it is no more stressful for the sheep than when we gather them into the pen for their worm drenching and vaccinations. They get stressed just being handled, whether for their own health checks or, a kill. And no,we don't leave the rest of the flock to watch. It is orchestrated very carefully and as respectfully as we possibly can.
Another random thought - We hunt ROO for meat for the Team, we are excellent shots and the 'kill' is instant, responsible.
And another - we were Primary Producers and prided ourselves on our animal husbandry techniques, even transporting ourselves to lessen stress. All methods on-farm were geared to be as stress-free as possible for our cattle and sheep. Having said that though, some of our neighbouring farmers did not employ our methods.
Dogs - some farmers use working dogs irresponsibly on their mobs and flocks creating (unnecessary stress) and some farmers (in our opinion) create even more unnecessary stress with quad bikes. We regard bikes as the big NO-NO. Cattle and sheep (we believe) get more stress from bikes than from anything.
Our 600 head of cattle had a 'thing' going with our expert Team, when being moved it was a quiet, slow, easy, relaxed endeavour. My husband was oft shunned by his counterparts for many of the methods used on our farm.
I could go on and on but I just thought it would be (nice?) for others to hear from a 'responsible' hunter and kill-person.

georgia little pea said...

Rose - you are a trooper! I think you're doing a marvellous job on your farm. I've seen quads being used on telly before but have never thought about the downside. I knew you were a hunter, might have been something I read on your blog about The Team getting their roo from your (humongous) shed. Considering how hard we find it to kill even slugs and raiding rats here, I do respect people who are able and willing to hunt and farm their own food. (Though I am staunchly against hunting or fishing for sport.)

Your perspective and information here is much appreciated! Feel free to share more thoughts when the snot dries up or if the spirit moves you. I hope you feel better soon! It's the weekend. The sun is out. No time to stay in bed :) X

P.S. do you sell your produce in the shops?

Rose ~ from Oz said...

Hey hey Typist, I'm back on here trying to find out where one can buy neoprene fabric, wanna make my own sleeve for the newbie laptop.
Hunting for sport is another big NO-NO for us. Other than killing for our own needs, there is another kill that we feel is necessary. The cull. The population of possum down in our area of Tas had exploded to the extent that they were ill, emaciated, starving, suffering. We undertook a cull over a 2 week period and within 3 months the population were healthy, fat, happy and stayed that way for approximately 7 years. We left Tas at that point. Kangaroos - we have seen the roo population in say a particular area where the food supply is just not enough. A responsible cull has turned it around to being a healthy and happy population. When people drive around Australia, have a look at the native population's health and ponder. Especially in National Parks.
No we don't sell our meat. Just for us. We rarely eat beef as we don't raise our own and when we do, we'v sourced it from another farmer who does his own responsible kill for the table and shares with us. Fish isn't on the menu as we can't source it ourselves. Nor is chicken funnily enough, as we don't own chickens. We don't need to really as one of our neghbours has hens so we receive a bounty of eggs from her. In retirement we are only on a tiny little few acres so are limited to what we can raise ourselves.
Oh there is something I meant to clarify - LAMB. When I refer to "lamb shanks" or a "lamb roast" I don't actually mean that literally. We actually eat only HOGGART - a sheep between 1 = 2 years of age preferably closer to 2. It sounds awfully weird to say hey Typist having a Hoggart Roast tonight! Doesn't quite sound the same hey?
About quad bikes and choppers - I fully understand they have to be used on the HUGE stations when the yearly muster is taking place. I'm referring to the smaller farms of which there are more where dogs could be used much more gently than the bike. However that then leads us into different territory - working dogs; their treatment, their training; their owners. Oh yeah...

georgia little pea said...

Rose - may I just say you make super comments when you're crook! I don't think I've ever heard of this word "hoggart" which sounds like something from that Mr Potter.

Culling, as you describe it, sounds perfectly reasonable. Though I do wonder how the animals get to that poor state. In the wild, wouldn't the sick, old, genetically inferior and wounded just die off on their own? Is this because their range is restricted (by our development)?

I hate it when people talk of culling following a rogue animal attack though, or when too many animals are encroaching on their backyard swimming pools.

You know, I'd love to read some posts from you about your style of farming and how The Team work. Just saying' :D

I have no idea about the neoprene. How about computer stores? They should have them ready made. Or online...usually much cheaper. If you must make your own, check out spotlight or lincraft?

Rose ~ from Oz said...

Not fair - I've just had an early dinner - vegetarian by the way!
Anyway not fair, here I am just responding to this post (again)(groan) and you've put a new post up!! A girl just can't be crook in peace. I'm a bit drugged up tonight so try and keep up and make sense of what I'm on about Typist ;)
Bwah haha, Hoggart Roat at Hogwarts.
It would be a good world if all wild animals died from natural causes in their natural time and no doubt many still do but far too many of our native wildlife die a nasty death due to starvation and disease caused many times through as you say development encroaching on their habitat (to name one of many) and so that balance I harp on about is way out. Too many numbers for the food source. And as we know any species where overcrowding exists within a less than ideal area leads to hunger and disease. Some species die out altogether.
I'm in full agreement on your Para 3.
Heavens if I got started on farming practices and the Team, I'd have to I swear start another Blog.
Ha, I'm over the neoprene - going to recycle an old quilted spread instead! OK I'd best dash off and read your new post now - I'm going to try r.e.a.l.l.y. hard not to have anything to say. I talk so much on your Blog I'm getting a complex. :))

georgia little pea said...

Para 3. You mean under the first +? Make me work why don't you? I'm glad. Sometimes, I feel quite alone on that point of view.

Thought so about the cull numbers.

Maybe you could do a post a week about it? Don't be lazy!

Okay, well if you change your mind about the neoprene and can't find it your way, let me know and I'll have a go at finding it here.

Kirsten (peacefuldog) said...

"It is mighty pleasant to behold." Good God, I am baffled by the human capacity for cruelty.

It became impossible for me to keep my head in the sand any longer in 1989, when at the age of 16 I fell in with a crowd of vegetarians in high school and could not deny what they told me. I've been vegetarian, almost vegan, ever since--despite parents who ate meat and important family mealtimes focused around meat dishes.

There are so many delicious foods out there that don't involve cruelty. I have two of Temple Grandin's books, but can't finish them because I find the idea of "humane slaughter" so preposterous. Animals want to live, just like we do, and given the tremendous variety of foods available to us I can't fathom why it is so difficult for our species to give up those foods that cause other creatures pain and distress. Even if it's less distress because of technology that keeps animals in the dark about what's happening to them even as they are led to their deaths. In a way it just makes me more sad, to think that it is somehow OK to exploit our power over other beings just because we've found a way to kill them so that they don't know what's happening to them until its too late. Sort of like leading concentration camp victims into the "shower."

I understand that there are better ways of doing it than others, and of course I'd rather it be humane than not. But outside of the slaughterhouse, meat production requires enormously inefficient expenditures of water and grain and fossil fuels which we can no longer spare in this age of overshoot. No matter how we acquire our meat--unless we eat roadkill or carcasses left in landscapes in which natural predators have not been eliminated-questions of ecological balance will remain.

Another thoughtful post and great conversation. Thank you.

georgia little pea said...

Kirsten, I'm sure The Other Half will be nodding his head when he reads your comment. I am the weak willed one who craves meat in this house. The best I can do is eat less of it and try to source meat that has been produced humanely.

You're right. Meat production is harsh on resources and the environment and the world is getting bigger and hungrier by the mnute. Personally, I think we should be more serious about controlling our human population. I can't see any ecological balance without sorting out that bit of the equation. It's a tough one.

Kirsten (peacefuldog) said...

I couldn't agree more--that issue is fundamental to every other one. If there were a few billion less of us, we could eat whatever we wanted without regard to the environmental consequences. At the current rate, we are consigning large proportions of the world to disaster.

From what I've heard there is some productive discussion going on in Australia about how to get humans to voluntarily limit our procreation. Not so much here, but awareness is slowly growing.

georgia little pea said...

I'm not sure where you heard that from and will have to resort to my dear friend, Google, after this ;) In fact, there are baby subsidies here and lump sums are given to parents to help buy nappies and milk, though I understand the money is just as likely to end up being spent on a new plasma screen.

When it comes to controlling our human population, I have a lot of respect for Singapore and China's draconian methods. They're biting the bullet for the rest of us. Voluntary would be heaps better or course. Especially since the predisposition to boy babies (in China particularly) has led to more unnecessary deaths and an unnatural imbalance between the sexes (which has already come back to haunt them).

We have no children (by choice) and there is only 1 child among my other 3 siblings. I often wonder why so many people who would love to have lots of children, don't just adopt from the many millions already available. I can fully understand why anyone would want to have 1 or 2 of their own, but some are apparently keen on having their own football team while others who are unable, spend tens of thousands on IVF. Why not just adopt? "It's not the same." they say. That doesn't seem to me to be a sound reason, especially given the current population figures.

But it's a bit like encouraging people to choose a pet from shelters, isn't it? An uphill if not impossible battle.

Kirsten (peacefuldog) said...

I get these amazing daily articles from Population Media Center. Most are inspiring, if only because they affirm for me that other people think about these issues as much as I do. Also because some of the work that's being done on family planning and population in all corners of the world gives me hope. But I seem to remember a couple of articles recently on Australia. I'll pass along to you next time I get one.

I have similar thoughts on China. Liberals and progressives (like myself) love to bash such draconian policies but no one ever reflects on how much worse things might be for everyone if those few hundred million or billion births had not been prevented. Is dying of starvation/war/disease/malnutrition better than never having been born at all?

You are right though that a disproportionate skew toward young males can do dangerous things to a society.

I could go on and on--wish we could have a bevvie together to shoot the sh*t for a few hours! Maybe someday!

georgia little pea said...

It's a complicated, unpopular point of view and not something I would bring up at a public bar. We might get labelled radical LOL! Anyway, it would be hard to drink with a brown bag over my head ;) I've really enjoyed our conversation here though, as limited as it was. It makes me feel less alone and gives me hope. Perhaps like the "umbrella species" issue, it's a topic that just needs "better PR".

Have a great Sunday! X