As omnivores, we have eaten meats from the beginning as a critical source of nutrients. The consumption of meat was a major part of most all aboriginal cultures, and harvest a sacred rite with honors and respect for the ‘spirit’ of the harvested animal. Virtually all of the parts utilized. This is the original “ethical” meat.
The issues of concentrated factory meat, fish, poultry, and dairy are well known and well documented. Many of us know the ethical treatment of life is the foundation for a sustainable planet. This is our story of how we’ve incorporated fellow sentient mammals in our diversified farm.
Farmers and Ranchers, who truly incorporate animals into the environment in balanced ways, are producing “ethical” products. We utilize sheep as a foundation for the fertility of a very diverse fruit and vegetable farm. Sections of the farm are returned to pasture for up to two years letting the small flock of sheep revitalize it, and then it is strip cultivated leaving the microbiology of the soil intact, those trillions upon trillions of soil organisms are the foundation of healthy soil and therefore good food. Our flock is a mixture of many breeds selected over over twenty years, breeding the best suited for our farm’s environment. A visiting animal science professor once declared them GOK sheep, “God Only Knows what” breed and this suits us just fine. The lambing occurs late winter and early each spring so the lambs and ewes are ready for the spring growth of green manure crops grown over the winter to help the soil recover from the previous season production, then kept in pastures and fed the varieties of weeds pulled from the fields, cull fruit and vegetables and are not harvested for meat until nearly a year of age. We believe each deserves a reasonable time on the farm. The dominion we have over them is a trust that must be earned and honored.
I harvest each in the same way, a ritual I find critical for me and the animal. The animal is separated with a small group to keep their social group whole to minimize stress, and avoid panic, when all is ready, one is caught, the others removed from the area, and then it is gently placed on its bottom, as when shearing , allowed to calm. Sheep tend to get relaxed when laid back. A helper holds a couple legs; I synchronize my breath with the animals, and say a silent prayer. For me this is a critical moment for both of us, without which I would not feel whole or honest with the killing. We lay the lamb down on its back, and with a very sharp knife cuts all major vessel’s including the spinal cord. The animal is neurologically removed from its body. Animals killed when panicked release endorphins into the blood and muscle. For our lamb little or none is released as they are at rest. I hold the animal saying a silent “thank you” until all is quiet. I am linked with each animal harvested and emotionally can only do few in a day. While this is what works for me and our farm with our sheep, other meat producers use similar procedures in their quest for ethical meat.
Ethical treatment of animals and the planet is fundamental.