Logically we all know that the turkey on the Thanksgiving table was once a living, breathing bird, but very few of us will ever have a hand in the deaths of the animals we eat.
Ariel Kaminer is an exception. She decided to help slaughter her own turkey this year and documented the experience in a thought-provoking essay and video for the New York Times.
Kaminer goes to a halal butcher shop in Queens which allows its customers to pick out their own animals and witness or assist in their slaughter, giving people the opportunity to connect the meat on their plates with actual living creatures. She picks out a Bourbon Red turkey who has lived its days freely roaming around an organic Hudson Valley farm, a happy life most likely, though now "with her almond eyes downcast, her subdued manner suggested a kind of forbearance."
And then there is the slaughter. Out of fear, Kaminer ends up asking the butcher to hold the knife with her. And when it's over? "Stepping out of the slaughterhouse and squinting at the light, I didn't feel brave. I didn't feel idealistic. I felt crummy." But slaughtering a turkey has at least removed her for a moment from the disconnected, plastic-wrapped experience of buying meat in the supermarket and for that she is thankful.
We found this article and especially its accompanying video extremely moving. Watching Kaminer look at the living turkey whose life she will soon end and seeing the mix of fear, disgust and shock on her face as soon as the deed is done are powerful reminders of how much we take for granted. We are trying to hang onto this feeling of gratefulness for the animals that end up on our plates, to remember the reality of the slaughter even as we unwrap our feather-less, blood-less birds, so we may sit down on Thursday — and every day we eat meat — with true thankfulness in our hearts.
What do you think? Have you ever slaughtered your own animal? Would you want to?