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“The hardest part of the slaughter was the betrayal.”

You probably know about the new trend of chefs killing the animals they will cook, or at least getting to know them before they are slaughtered, or in the cases of Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, actually have episodes of their television shows dedicated to educating the audience about the lives and deaths of the animals they're about to eat. (And killing the animals on the show.)

If you think about it, it's a brilliant strategy. These men are highly unlikely to stop their unnecessary killing, so they highlight what others are doing and how unethical and atrocious it is, and present themselves as the alternative–the "humane" alternative. And guess what? People eat it up (sorry, but they do). They love thinking that they can still eat eggs or chickens, and sales of the products the chefs feature rise accordingly post-show. And the market is going the way of the humane myth anyway, so they look like they were the first to really care about the welfare of animals.

The great thing about animal welfare as a product to market is that you can always do something about it. You can always say you're slightly improving the experience of an animal to be killed and used as food. And even if a slight improvement is all you're getting, it's better than no improvement or worse treatment, right?

My favorite part of the most recent article in the New York Times about this topic: Chefs’ New Goal: Looking Dinner in the Eye," by Julia Moskin, is that I'd bet Moskin doesn't realize that though she appears to be writing about animal welfare and "happy" meat, she makes the case for animal rights.

But more chefs are trying to bridge that gap. Tamara Murphy, the chef at Brasa in Seattle, took delivery of 11 freshly killed piglets last Friday, destined for dishes of pork belly with braised greens and paprika-rubbed roasted chops. “I don’t name them,” said Ms. Murphy, who wrote a weekly blog in 2006, chronicling the short lives of some of the piglets earmarked for her restaurant from Whistling Train Farm. “They are being raised for food, and there is a respectful distance I need to keep” she said. Ms. Murphy visited the piglets weekly, starting the day after their birth, and accompanied them to the slaughterhouse before serving them in a dinner that was called a Celebration of the Life of a Pig.

When I see that, I am of course enraged. Murphy acts like it's some kind of magical sacred moment full of respect. But then a kernel of truth comes out. And it's the only one that matters.

“The hardest part of the slaughter was the betrayal,” she said. “The pigs get in the trailer because they trust you, they get out of the trailer because they trust you, they go into the pen because they trust you.”

Ah, so maybe killing someone when you don't need to isn't the worst thing you can do to them. To my list from the 13th, I'd like to add: betray my trust. And there's not a cage big enough or a range free enough to fix that.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan #

    I published an essay on Unpopular Vegan Essays about a year ago on this same topic of getting to know your death victims entitled "Two Pigs". I re-wrote an article about the two pigs as "Two Orphans". The re-write makes salient the similarity of the cold, vacuous reasoning of serial killers and animal killers.

    January 18, 2009
  2. Dan #

    Sorry, I didn’t expect to have Internet access except via my iPhone today, but it looks like I just found an unexpected connection on my computer so here’s the link to the blog essay:

    January 18, 2009
  3. Jamie Oliver has a point when he reveals consumer's penchant for "cheap" meat and it's cost to animal "welfare". Perhaps we are progressing into an era where only the affluent dare (attempt to) "justify" *happy meat*?

    And they say "veganism" is "exclusive"?

    The clique now includes the "intimacy" of a $300, upscale weekend course in butchery:

    Of course these people aren't slaughtering the animal – they leave that betrayal to other hands.

    And you are SO right to add betrayal to your list. I never really thought about it before. Now that I know – it makes it all that much vicious and reprehensible… I don't say this often about information or knowledge – but on this: "betrayal"… I could have remained blissfully ignorant. 🙁

    January 18, 2009
  4. This is actually one of my reasons why eating animals is wrong:
    Two kinds of people slaughter animals, the kind who don't enjoy killing animals and the kind who do. Should either kind of person kill animals?

    It reminds me of a portion of a children's story that had a strong effect on me, A Day No Pigs Would Die. Robert's pet pig was barren. The orchard's trees didn't produce enough fruit. So Robert's father decided to kill Robert's pet pig. Robert led her to the barn and recalled, "I had to hit her hard with the stick a few times to move her forward. It probably hurt her, but what did it matter now?"
    The abuse that occurs in slaughterhouses will NEVER, EVER end. Cruelty is inherent in slaughter. I mean, true, violent cruelty, not abolitionist slaughter = cruelty, I mean inhumane slaughter will never go away so long as there is any slaughter. There will always be a few who enjoy it. There will always be a few who accidentally go overboard. There will always be a few who hate it, and get angry or violent simply because they hate it. They will rationalize the cruelty away, just like Robert did with his pet pig.

    January 18, 2009
  5. Nick #

    How many welfarist articles can the New York Times publish before people realize they're reading the same thing over and over again?

    January 19, 2009

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