Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, Part 3: Pigs
Last night I finally watched the third episode of Kill It, Cook It, Eat It (BBC site), as it aired instead of recording it for later viewing, fast-forward button at the ready. (Links for the Part 1 review and Part 2 review.) In this episode, it was the turn of pigs to be slaughtered. (Warning: some gory details follow...warning put here since a reader complained about a previous entry. When animals get slaughtered, it is gory.)
Surprisingly, I didn't find it as traumatic to watch as the cow and lamb episodes. Perhaps I've already gotten more used to it. The procedure for killing a pig is similar to that for kllling a lamb: the animal is stunned with an electric shock to the brain, rapidly hung upside down with hooks, and the throats are cut and the animal is bled. The blood wasn't kept, though since the British do consume pig's blood in the form of blood pudding, at least some pig's blood must be reserved somewhere. (For a great account of a pig killing for the purpose of obtaining the blood to make boudin noir, French blood sausages, see Jeffrey Steingarten's It Must've Been Something I Ate.) Also, instead of skinning the animal the whole pig was put in a sterilizing and boiling tank of sorts, which cleaned and softened the skin so that the bristles could be easily shaved off. Because there was no skinning the whole procedure from live animal to prepared carcass took a lot less time than with the other animals.
It's quite clear that the small, family run abattoir being shown is about as good as it gets when it comes to conventional animal slaughtering. The farms where the animals are reared, while not organic and free range and so on, also seem to have very high standards. The government vet / expert commentator said that large slaughterhouses also have all the officials on hand to inspect things and so on, but when hundreds of animals rather than a handful are being killed at a time things must be different. They said that Britain has very high standards for anti-animal cruelty and good husbandry; I can't imagine what takes places in many other countries. (I believe that Switzerland has fairly high standards too...but most farms here aren't that large either. And Swiss meat is very expensive.)
What was repeated several times on the show is the simple fact that, if we want humanely produced meat, we have to pay more for it. I think it's quite clear that if we want food that has been ethically produced, be it meat that's slaughtered correctly or fair trade chocolate or organically grown produce, we have to wean ourselves off of going after the cheapest stuff. Not everyone can afford to do that though, or wants to do that. I may be a fairly serious food person but I go for what's on sale and stuff a lot of the time too - I like saving money as much as anyone. It is a dilemma, with hard choices to make. After watching this program though, I'm leaning more than ever towards the paying more option.
Tonight is the wrapup show where we'll see a little of what happens with chickens. I guess we won't see live slaughtering of the birds, since the featured abattoir probably doesn't do poultry. Again...if you can, please try to watch the show, especially if you are an omnivore.