“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.