This is when it all started - it was the first year that I raised my own pigs and then my friends Justin Turcotte and Michele Seplak Turcotte came up to my house and helped me harvest the meat that was going to feed my family for the upcoming year. The experience was a mixture of anxiety, sadness, gratefulness, fulfillment, happiness and an overall sense of achievement for something BASIC ... I was following the steps of what millions of people did before me - I connected to what my ancestors did before industries were created, before we had electricity and phones and even gas. All these emotions I went through were once experienced by the young man and women that started my lineage and eventually saw me coming to the world. And the end product was incredible. I stepped out of the system and created something independently from anyone else. I felt alive. After starting my commercial farm I had very little time to harvest and see the animal start to end. Usually someone else does the slaughtering (a USDA inspected facility) and the butchering happens under extreme time constraints in a sterile and impersonal room. Today, for the first time in too many years, I will be harvesting again my own meat, at my farm, and tomorrow a group of people will join me as I carefully harvest each part and gratefully plan for meals for my family for the next year. And for the first time in a very long time I have again a mixture of all these feelings that made me feel alive the first time this crazy journey begun. It is funny how such feelings have remained. I am glad that the nervousness and sadness of harvesting my meat with my own hands has not gotten any easier even after so many years and so many animals I have raised and butchered. I have always been alarmed of how easy it is to take a life ... in the flick of a minute, with an extremely simple gesture, that life slips from your hands. The only thing that allows me to hold on to a sense of humanity are the emotions that go through me as I see this life go away - as soon as I am certain that I did my job as quickly and efficiently as possible and he/she is no longer suffering, all the images and memories of the time I had with this specific pig flash through my eyes. Sadness enters my body and questions about being a carnivore enter my mind. I am not interested in explaining why I choose to be a carnivore because I do not want this to be a platform to try to convince others of the legitimacy of my choice - I only want to share this experience with others who have never raised, slaughtered and butchered their own animals. My answers have always been in favor of being a carnivore, but just because the answers are positive it does not mean I do not question it. After, comes the stage of gratitude and the memories of the sacrifices done over the year to ensure this animal had as natural of a life as I was capable of providing. The memories of the pig running through the field with ears flopping in the wind, the times he rolled in the dirt, got to harvest his dinner from the parsnip field or laid down in the sun munching on an apple fallen by a wild tree, got into a playful fight with a sibling and, of course, the first time he got to suckle on mom's milk and snuggled next to her for some warmth. Comparing this to industry raised pork, or even local pork from farms that raise 900+ pigs, gives me a sense of accomplishment. Perhaps I do not provide the perfect setting for my pigs; there are times when they do not have enough hay, times when the shelter leaks, times when I waited too long to deworming - there is always something I can do to improve my management - but I look at them, all 89 of them, and I know in my heart they are happy animals. They would have not had this life if I did not decide to have a farm and if people around me did not value this sort of thing to spend a little more money and go a step further to come and find me and purchase the meat from my farm. They would either not be here or they would be in a sterile barn where they can hardly move and would never know what it is like to find an unexpected hickory nut under a tree. Now, as the day unfolds, I will have time to say goodbye to the pig we will harvest tonight. Tomorrow that will turn into a multitude of roasts and chops and cured meat that through the year will create new memories for my family and my farm. May I not waste one single bite that costed the life of this animal and may I have the energy and focus to ensure that each part will be honored in the way it deserves. Now, off to feed her and give her a last hug (and choccolate - I give them chiccolate the day they are harvested because I am not sure it is good for their health but... at least I want them to try it once... it cannot hurt them right?)
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