Chicken Breasts Do NOT Grow on Trees!!! An Article About Animal Slaughtering
Chicken About to be Butchered
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Captive Bolt Pistol
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If you are a carnivore, read on. Please note that this article is not intended to offend, but rather, to educate.
I still get people who cringe and step back in shock when they see the display cases at the butcher shops here in Florence. As a food guide, I take clients into wine bars, gelato shops, gourmet food stores, bakeries, pastry shops, AND the mercato centrale (food market). Nestled among fruit and vegetable stands are the butchers, of course. In Europe, the entire animal is often displayed with heads and feet (fowl, rabbit, suckling pig, etc).
To many, this is normal...to some, however, this display is shocking. In addition to seeing clients recoil in utter disgust, I have been told by a surprising amount of people that they only purchase boneless, skinless chicken breasts or fish fillets- never meat with bone, much less an entire animal. And they make this statement with an air of absolute superiority, as if we here in Europe were backwards or uncouth.
These are the same people that, when ordering fish in a restaurant and seeing the entire creature presented on the plate with head and tail, will wrinkle their nose and push the plate away. Yet, oftentimes, these exact same people will have no problem eating the "ground up mysteries" at Mc Donalds. How strange. Of course, out of professional courtesy I remain silent to these bizarre comments, but the question I want to ask is: WHERE DO YOU THINK YOUR FOOD COMES FROM???
Despite having been born in the U.S., I was raised in a very typical Mediterranean household. I remember going to an ethnic butcher shop with my father where we could pick our chicken and it would be killed on the spot. I have seen my father kill rabbits and I have been present for the slaughtering of a pig. While my American friends in school where horrified that I was subjected to such grizzly scenarios, I feel very grateful- and lucky. I not only know the anatomy of the animal I am eating, but I also know where my food comes from!
More importantly, I learned at a young age to respect my food and not be wasteful. It is sobering to think that a living creature sacrificed its life so that I may eat its flesh, therefore, I have a deep appreciation every time I eat a fine cut of meat. Leftover meat does not get tossed out in our home, but rather, it is usually creatively recycled into another meal.
Today, most animals (pigs, sheep, cows) are rendered unconscious before being slaughtered for food by a technique known as stunning. Thanks to the Humane Slaughter Act in 1933, a device known as a captive bolt pistol sends an electric bolt through the animal's body, thus "stunning" it before it is killed and bled. Prior to this law, animals were struck while fully conscious, which was deemed cruel and unnecessarily painful. Unfortunately, many animals are still being slaughtered in this despicable manner.
Turning a blind eye to the fact that there is brutal killing involved with eating meat is not only unrealistic, it is a bit immature. Just because you ignore the facts, or are sheltered from it, doesn't mean it isn't happening. Meat comes from a living, breathing animal...it does not grow on a tree where you can pick it already cleaned, de-boned and wrapped up in cellophane.
It is my hope that this article will make people aware of the process involved in obtaining meat for consumption. Remember: we are part of a natural world and also part of a natural food chain. As always, thank you for reading!
C. De Melo
Author & Artist