on eating meat and plucking pheasants

I make no apologies for the above photograph. Unless you’re a non-meat eater, in which case I’m sorry you had to see it. But please read on, as I would like your thoughts on this.

The above photo was taken by my sister. It’s my Dad and I plucking a pair of pheasants. I’ll explain that shortly. My sister put the photo on Facebook, and a couple of people took offence. I assumed they were vegetarians/vegans, therefore I could understand their disgust, but she tells me they’re not. In which case, as far as I’m concerned they have no reason to be offended. I get that some people are squeamish, but their issue was the fact that ‘poor birds’ were being plucked.

Firstly, I’ll explain the pheasants. A colleague at work was gifted them but didn’t know how to pluck/gut them so didn’t want them. No one else knew how to deal with them so I offered to take them. If I hadn’t, they would have gone to landfill. A complete waste of two lives as the creatures were dead anyway. So this is how I came to find myself plucking pheasants on a Tuesday evening.

I had never done this before. But a few years ago I went fishing with my boyfriend and caught a mackerel. I told him he would need to kill it, but he told me to do it myself. And it occurred to me that if I had no right to eat this fish if I wasn’t willing to kill it myself. So I did.

The same goes with the pheasants. Rather than ask my Dad to prepare both birds, I decided to copy him and do one myself. I am a meat eater. This is where meat comes from. It was an education for me, and as someone who eats meat, I should not be precious about doing it. It wasn’t the nicest experience and I did feel bad for the birds but unless I decided there and then never to eat meat again, I had to toughen up. And I did.

If we eat meat, how can we be offended by the sight of an animal being plucked/gutted/killed/whatever, provided it is for food purposes? This is where our food comes from. The very food we eat. I’m of the mind that everyone who eats meat should have to visit a slaughterhouse and a mart, just once, to see what happens. I’ve never killed anything other than that fish. But if I was given the option to (humanely) kill an animal for meat and found I couldn’t do it, I shouldn’t be eating meat. This assumption that meat ‘grows on trees’ then lands perfectly plucked and cleaned on our plates, really bugs me. It’s nothing short of pure ignorance, and its downright insulting to the animals forced to give their lives just so we can eat them.

It’s been pointed out that perhaps the issue was the fact they were wild animals. So if the pic had been of us plucking domestic chickens, that would be OK? I doubt it. Whether they’re bred for the purpose of meat or not, is beside the point here. Pheasants are not endangered and these birds were not killed for sport as many others are. They were killed for the purpose of eating.

In all honesty, eating meat doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t like the idea of taking another life just so I can eat it. But I’ve tried being vegetarian and for various reasons it didn’t work for me. I may try it again in the future.

For now though, my compromise is to eat minimal meat and be conscious of where I buy it, what it is, and where its come from. But I will not accept other meat eaters telling me I’m being ‘cruel’ for plucking a pheasant while they’re sitting behind their computer screen tucking into a bacon sarnie. We’re so far removed from where our food comes from that we get offended by the smallest reminder that we are infact eating the flesh of another creature.

Are you a meat-eater or vegetarian? Does it make sense for a meat-eater to be offended by the image of an animal being prepared for food? Do meat-eaters need to see where their food comes from, or is it OK to avoid awareness of that part of the process?

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