I will never again make jokes so flippantly about killing our animals for food. Huey and the Boys or HueyDueyLouie, as they had been referred to very unofficially, are no longer living. I'm not sure what else to say except that the whole experience was on the verge of traumatic. This was the first death I have ever been a part of with the exception of a handful of animals--opossums, a racoon, a rabbit, birds, etc--that I hit with my car. Even with those I usually cried for a while as I continued driving down the road and making myself feel better by claiming "at least I didn't swerve and kill myself" as my mantra. It wasn't traumatic, but it came pretty darn close.
I was so darn cocky by saying that I could probably kill them, just not gut them. I kept us right on track with the preparation, plans (following this), and schedule. By schedule I mean that we were doing this at my parent's house and to respect my mother's wishes we were trying to be done and cleaned up by the time she returned home from work. I was even able to catch one of those slick little guys and put him up into the "restraining" cone. When it came time to pick up the knife, it all became very, very real. I didn't like it. I kept telling myself that I shouldn't own [non-pet] animals if I couldn't do this. I gave myself all kinds of silent pep talks. I was almost where I needed to be but then Ryan said, "Once you start, you have to keep going. Its bad, I know, but it will be so much worse if you only do the job halfway." First I asked if he could do the first one and I could keep my hand on his. Once that started all I could do was try to keep from crying while I barely managed to watch. Ryan did a fine job but even he wasn't comfortable with it. He squeezed my hand pretty tight and gave me a hug; I'm pretty sure it was for our mutual benefit.
My humor-coping-mechanism didn't fail me. I made sure to point out that we could both breathe a sigh of relief that now we know I am not a psychopath or a sociopath.
Why was this important? Why did I feel the need to do this? I am very firm that it was important. I'm very insistent that I am glad we did it and that I was a part of it. Just because someone else does your dirty work for you out of your vision doesn't meant that it doesn't happen. If I'm going to continue to eat meat I'm going to at least be aware of how it gets to my plate. I'm still in the mindset that someday we will raise our own chickens for meat... which will mean we have more days like yesterday. Originally we had talked about just doing an assembly line approach and get them all done at the same time. However, after the first one died [which I acknowledge, now that I've written it, as a subconscious way of absolving myself from guilt and removing myself as the cause of his death] I felt like it would be disrespectful to just blaze through the defeathering and gutting part; I wanted to finish one first before we started the next. I will almost say that the experience was... worshipful? I found myself stunned at being a part of a death but I just kept getting this overwhelming feeling of thankfulness to God for providing us food, to the ducks for the promise of filled bellies, and a great sense of responsibility to not waste what they had gifted.
I most certainly see why people want to become vegetarians. I wasn't pushed that far. I was pushed to be more responsible with my food choices, just a little. It was a great reminder that meat doesn't come from the supermarket in nice one pound packages with a sell-by date. At some point, that meat came from a cow or chicken or duck or pig. At some point someone raised that animal; hopefully with some compassion and respect. At some point that animal was a cute little guy with big eyes that are worthy of a children's book.
The worst part was the life ending. Once that part was over I was just fine with taking the feathers out and all the rest. I think next time I'll even be able to take the entrails out because by the last bird, it didn't really bother me. That is, unless the next time is Maude & Myrtle; our laying hens. They might deserve a burial site, complete with a marker.
Today we picked strawberries and I made jam for the first time (following this). Strawberries are dealt with a whole lot more flippantly.