I am self sufficient.
I have a farm that is capable of producing all of my food needs.
I also enjoy eating meat from time to time—which means that I have a personal relationship with my hamburger.
I expect some eye rolls, looks of disgust and condemnation, but I’m here to say that if my vegan friends still like me, then I can’t be a monster.
A few year ago (before I had my own animals for meat), I tried to be a vegetarian, but with the level of physical work that I do, I was not able to sustain myself.
Needless to say, I began to eat meat once a week because I don’t like fish and the vegetarian fish consumption rule confused me. This worked wonderfully at first. I had my energy back.
I felt that I was holding to my principles as well—eating just a little meat from a local farmer. I knew this farmer, and his animals, personally. They were well cared for, fed with quality food and happy. This was my biggest reason for being a vegetarian—I believe animal welfare is important and I am against factory farms.
Then the day came when I wanted to turn my little homestead into a farm. I wanted to produce my own meat. I needed to be held 100% accountable for my needs, even if it was going to be difficult. I knew what was involved in raising meat animals, I knew the commitment, and I knew what needed to be done when the time came.
I started small, with a few chickens.
My flock had extra roosters that were no good, as they did not lay eggs and I already had a friendly rooster for chick-making purposes. They were sweet, wandered about freely, ate like kings, and had nests lined with fresh herbs each night.
It is safe to say that my meat was very comfortable with life. As the chickens got older, they started to slow down and get fat. Winter was coming.
I sat down with some friends (all vegans), and talked about what I needed to do. I was so sure they would all banish me from our circle, but instead they hugged me. They all knew that I was not happy about what I was going to do, they knew I loved my chickens. They knew my chickens lead a happy life. They also knew that chickens (especially those designed for meat) did not live long, even if they were not put down. It was this level of understanding that, despite our differences, allowed our friendship to continue without fail.
I cried that night, but was sound in my decision.
My family was fed for the winter, I was humane, and through it all my chickens remained calm and content. I believe they knew, but accepted that fact of life.
It never gets easier, and frankly it shouldn’t.
I continue to raise meat and maintain a loving relationship with my animals, no matter their fate.
I want them to know I love and care for them despite the inevitable.
This was, and always will be, the hardest part of farming for me.
Author: Regina Marie Gillis
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Don O’Brien/ Flickr