Last weekend I visited our neighbours across the river at the land.
I asked them if I could buy a chicken from them, they said yes but that they were killing the chickens when an order came in now and so had none ready. I decided that it was now or never and asked if I could witness the dispatching of the chicken and help with the plucking and dressing of the carcass. They very kindly said yes... Bugger.
Well, the build up to it was huge. I dreamt about it, my stomach was churning and I felt weak. Luckily they are bloody lovely people and I knew that they would treat the situation with gentleness. Which, thankfully they did.
I wont go into too much detail, but I will outline what followed.
He held the chicken and stroked it's head. The bird cooed - which was very difficult to hear but it put me at ease to know the bird was not stressed at all.
Then he took the bird to a metal contraption attached to a post called a dispatcher. Within a nano second the chicken was killed, it's neck being broken.
For what seemed like an eternity the bird flapped like crazy as he held it by the legs. The bird flapped so much I found it hard to believe it was dead - it was though, this is just what they do. Something to do with the nerves I think.
We hung the bird up in the barn and we plucked it while it was still warm. Such a strange feeling.
They then put the plucked bird in the fridge over night as it makes it easier to dress the chicken the next day (dress means to remove all the inside bits). I was shown how to do this and it was nowhere near as bad as the dispatching of the bird. I thought I would be grossed out but I wasn't at all.
Sunday, at home, we roasted the bird and when it came to eat it I couldn't put the meat into my mouth. Normally I would scoff my food down but I just couldn't. I had a tear in my eye and I felt very humbled by the whole experience. This really brought the experience of mindfulness powerfully into the moment.
There is no doubt that I felt more connected with the meat I was eating, well that kind of goes without saying I suppose. It was so much more than that though. I had a connection to something deep inside, something very primitive. I did eat the bird and it was the tastiest meat I have ever tasted. I was determined to use every bit of it and so the following day I made a curry and boiled the carcass to make stock and soup. Willow got a few bits too!
Now, I've been vegetarian since I was a young teenager and was vegan for a few years when I realised that dairy products resulted in male calf's being sold for meat. I realised that my vegan diet was being flown over to me from all over the world, rainforest was being cleared to feed me soya products and the food itsels was not grown to the same environmental standards I would expect over here. I decided that in order for me to do my best by the 'whole' I needed to eat locally. This meant that I had to face the fact that I might have to eat meat during the lean months and if I wanted to have my own dairy products.
This is by no means my steadfast opinion, in fact after my experience with the chicken I am having to think really hard about what I can and can't cope with.
Sustainability is what I plan to live by though, so however I am able to achieve a sustainable lifestyle, in the environment I live in, then that is what I will strive to do.
Even if it means making difficult moral decisions like this one.