Looking Death In The Eye…

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Virgil Evetts

Just like many of you, I’ve lived my life to date as a good keen carnivore but one quite divorced from the slaughter. I buy my meat from nice clean shops, where it’s trimmed to look as little like muscles, organs and limbs as possible. When was the last time you saw anything with a face in a butchers shop window (apart from the butcher presumably)?

Now as I’ve said many times before, I have no qualms about eating animals. What doesn’t sit well with me is that like some weekend dad, I only have to deal with the good stuff.  All those pigs, sheep, cattle and birds that I devour so very enthusiastically don’t simply fall down dead in a state of bliss. At the end they’re stressed, frightened and rarely die with dignity. Somebody I will never meet kills them. I don’t have to look on, feel the weight of all this on my conscience.  I can just hand over my money, go home and eat well.  I don’t actually allow myself to be so wilfully blinkered, but if I wanted to I certainly could.  It’s just too damn easy to be an amoral consumer these days.

Obviously I could get by without meat- millions do. I just don’t want to.  But nor do I wish to go through life without moral accountability for this choice. I believe I am obliged as a recreational carnivore, to bloody mine own hands,  if only on a modest scale. The thought of it makes me feel queasy, even a little teary. But if an animal is going to die for my pleasure- which is what it all boils down to really- I could at least kill it myself. My worst crime as a meat eater may well be my revulsion at the thought of killing.

So I’ve put a plan in motion. I’ve purchased a small egg incubator and I’m going to raise some birds for the table. I’ll start small, with Japanese quail, a species whose meat I enjoy very much. They’re easy to breed and grow to maturity quickly – around 5 weeks from hatchling to slaughter. I’ll raise batches of around 20 at a time, slaughter them myself and keep a stockpile in the freezer. They are not big birds, but in my experience one per serving is perfectly adequate. I will afford them the very best care and attention. They will want for nothing and will not endure pain or stress at the end.

And I know what you’re thinking though, there’s no comparison between killing cattle and tiny birds, and in terms of the actual mechanics, I agree. But ultimately, killing an animal is killing an animal. Besides, I don’t think my neighbours would be fully supportive of me raising cows, and you need a gun, or one of those compressed air bolt things, to kill them (the cattle, not my neighbours).You need to know what you’re doing too. Not much room for practise when it comes to killing stuff, by my reckoning- you either do it right (very quickly) or you don’t do it at all.

But I have room for small birds and I know how to kill them. In my first job, fresh out of school I was required to kill sick and badly injured chickens from time to time. While I hated doing so, I knew it was the right thing to do I quickly acquired the knack of a speedy, humane send-off.

This however is where my skill base peters out. I can physically do the deed, to a sick bird, when it’s clearly suffering, but when push comes to shove will I really be able to off a perfectly healthy one?  I think so. I hope so.

Next up, if the quail work out and I can stomach the whole process, the incubator will be put to work on chicken eggs. There are plenty of outfits that will courier fertile eggs to your doorsteps, you know…

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12 thoughts on “Looking Death In The Eye…

  1. Wild bird food preferences vary with bird species. While birds like pigeons and doves will readily eat any bird food given to them, more specialist feeders like Robins prefer small grubs such as mealworms. You can buy bird food from various outlets that have large stocks of bird food available in various weights depending on your requirement. Guides to feeding garden birds can be researched online or from various gardening bird books that give details about wild bird feeding habits. The autumn season can attract a large number of wild birds to your garden with the right food including siskins, goldfinches, great tits, blue tits, wrens, woodpeckers and many more. Each one of them has a different feeding habit and accordingly people can make use of different bird feeders and feeding locations within their garden to encourage them. *

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  2. We have a lifestyle block and grow our own meat – pork, beef, duck, and sometimes lamb. We have old chooks that I don’t thing we’ll ever kill for meat – they are light breeds and have become pretty much living garden ornaments that occasionally lay eggs.

    My husband kills the ducks – he has rigged up an effective head-chopping off device. We get a homekill guy with over 30 years of experience for the bigger animals. It’s really important to know what you’re doing.

    Good luck with the quail. I reckon killing your own meat gets easier after a while.

  3. Sue, you might have the pleasure of sampling my first efforts seeing as you live so close! Nicky I am facing the same dilemma with my chooks. If the laying doesn’t pick up again soon I will have to do something… Wish to god I hadn’t named them! Ralph I don’t think there would be much quail left if I shot them, but yes that is very humane and if useing a high powered air gun probably the least stressful to the animal. I have another method, which is very, very quick but I’m loathe to describe here. Bound to offend somebody.

  4. Fastest and most humane way is with a bullet through the head. It’s what I would choose if I was given Sophie’s choice (for myself not my children). I saw an Iceland farmer do it on TV. Walked up to a reindeer in his herd, pointed the gun and shot it through the head. It collapsed to the ground, dead, and all the other reindeers just went on eating. What could be more humane than that? It’s alot easier than running around the hen yard for half an hour to catch one then using an axe. So if you can’t use a gun, maybe a guillotine would work. Rig up a small nesting box with a door at one end and a hole at the other for feeding. Head goes through the hole to peck food, the guillotine is triggered. Quick and easy.

    • Wow Ralph that has almost left me speechless.
      I wonder if shooting a quail through the head would be akin to hitting the bullseye in darts. The bullet would be almost bigger than their head wouldn’t it.
      Virgil I don’t like to think of you lining your little quail up over the guillotine either.
      I am just waiting for Olive to have a say in this!

  5. I like the theory and quail are so very tasty. However, I know that I wouldn’t be able to kill them.
    This has bothered me over the years and caused me to question whether I should actually even eat meat since I take such a strong out of sight out of mind approach.
    I look forward to hearing how you get on.

    • pour ce petit cours d’histoire sur Mme Boucher. Je pense de plus en plus que lors d’une élections, on devrait surtout s’aatader à leur histoire plutôt qu’à leur promesses, on aurait une meilleure idée sur ce à quoi on doit s’attendre!J’ai un vague souvenir que Mme Boucher a déménagé très jeune à Ste-Foy. J’ai dû lire ce fait dans un beau livre sur l’histoire de Ste-Foy édité sous l’impulsion de Mme Boucher.

    • Hey Wayne!!!No, but I should. Actually I think green jello shots would be the most appropriate. ;^)Hey John!!!Yeah, I saw this one on a few other blogs, so I’d kind of been thinking about it… :D

  6. I will watch this story with interest. We are Queen Street Farmers also and have had red shavers (chickens) that are slowing down on the egg production front so having that debate about what we do next. My husband is not game to take action. Do we keep our chickens past their production stage or do we have to take action with our chickens that “the kids” have fondly named Dipsy, Lala, Tinkie Winkie and Po. Word of advice – don’t give them names! On the cow front, we have get the home kill guy in but as soon as he arrives, I am out the door and turn a blind when I pluck up the courage to come home again. Yes – actually doing the dead is a whole other level – good luck.

    • There are no persay city oraendncis on Quail. They are considered a pet not livestock. There is some more information under wildlife and gaming regulations. We have chosen to make sure that the guidelines for the chickens safe home are followed for the quail. Since they make almost no noise I am not sure my neighbors even know their there.

  7. Ooh Virgil, you’d better not tell me where the little darlings are going to be as I love quail meat too.If you here noises in the night it might be the quail rustlers! :-)