TV Dinners

After yesterday’s initial episode of the ‘Chicken Run’ documentary,

we were interested to watch the consecutive programme: entitled ‘Kill It! Cook It! Eat It!’ it continued the theme of UK meat consumption with an invited studio audience who were asked to witness the slaughter of an animal; after which it was eviscerated, cut up & cooked in front of them & then they were asked to taste its meat. 

Yesterday’s programme covered suckling pig, a dish less common in the UK but very popular on the continent; although in the UK piglets are normally killed at twelve, as opposed to three, weeks.  The slaughterhouse used by the programme was a model of excellence: it was clean, hygenic & the farmer himself was allowed to take the animals to their deaths – after all, they trusted him so it was less stressful for them.  They knew nothing about what happened when they were stunned, not even letting out so much as a squeak; & the rest of the process was swift & efficient, from bleeding the carcases to handing them over to the (equally efficient) butcher. 

It was interesting to see the reactions of the studio audience.  One was a vegetarian who said she was impressed by the quietly compassionate way in which the procedure was carried out; & felt more comfortable about the choice her omnivorous friends had made as a result.  Another was a pig farmer who oddly enough found the whole thing (except the resultant pork dish) unpalatable; & said she might even give up farming for food & keep her remaining pigs as pets!  The majority of the audience said they were happy to eat meat from animals which they could be confident had enjoyed a good quality of life & a quick, clean death; although some were clearly less comfortable (but will this prevent them from buying ‘value’ cuts from the supermarket in future? I wonder…). 

Meanwhile UK suckling pig rearing & killing practices were compared with other parts of the EU: namely, Spain in which farrowing crates are still used & the piglets culled at only three weeks of age having never been outside with an opportunity for fresh air, free-ranging & foraging; in short, never experiencing natural porcine behaviour.  And the slaughterhouse practices were far more brusque….with no vet on hand to monitor proceedings.  Whilst the Spaniards guesting on the programme refused to acknowledge any problem & even dismissed the piglets as “not even animals….they don’t live long enough” an observing restauranteur subsequently declared he would henceforth no longer be serving foreign suckling pig on his menu….only that sourced in the UK (incidentally the farmer who provided these pigs deserves praise – his animal care & welfare were faultless). 

So how come, if we’re all in the EU, aren’t we all following the same ethical codes of welfare & slaughter?  It seems so duplicitous…& of course explains why so much meat is imported into the UK – less quality of life (& death) for the animals equals less cost to the producer & ergo the consumer.  Sickening.

Tonight’s programme is one we’ll find particularly difficult as they’re slaughtering very young goat kids…..I suspect it will bring back deeply unhappy memories of having to take our own little boys to the abbatoir when it became apparent we would not be able to find them homes elsewhere.  But again; at least we had the cold comfort of knowing they were not aware of what was happening; their deaths were quick, clean & painless; & we were with them, to the end.


So, we did watch the above programme; although tired, afer a long & busy day.  Despite some fairly heavy & persistent rain Tony realised he realy needed to muck out the lambing shed so that we could fully disinfect it, hitch up the hurdles & fill it with deep, clean straw prior to lambing; besides which I was concerned that we needed to ensure we were fully prepared for lambing this year, well in advance. 

In 2007 we hadn’t expected to start lambing until around the beginning of March but got a very rude awakening on a frightful, stormy day whilst a BBC TV crew were here filming an episode of ‘Escape to the Country’; we received an urgent call from a neighbour informing us a little lamb had just been born in our upper pasture!  It was a real shock but by acting swiftly the lamb was mercifully saved.  Ironically she had no new pals to play with for another couple of weeks; but at least it taught us a valuable lesson: BE PREPARED.

I ran Tony a lovely bath & cooked his supper before we settled down to watch Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s second episode of ‘Chicken Run’, coinciding with this week’s national ‘Chicken Out!’ campaign (click the connection – PLEASE – in the Poultry Links in the right-hand column; because we, the consumers, really can change things for the better!).  Tonight’s episode was pretty harrowing, as Hugh was forced to cull suffering birds in his intensive poultry shed; whilst their free-ranging neighbours happily pecked corn & fluffed up their sun-filled feathers in dust baths, only inches away next door blithely unaware of how lucky they were.  I seriously hope this makes consumers think twice about the chicken they buy; we used to keep our ponies adjacent to an intensive broiler farm which provided the oven-ready birds for Tesco’s rotisseries, & saw much of what went on – not pleasant despite that particular example having better welfare standards than many.

It may sound odd, but we were more comfortable in a sense with the next episode of ‘Kill it! Cook it! Eat it!’; we had been dreading said programme as very young kids were being slaughtered which to us is against all we’re trying to achieve here.  Again, the abattoir was wholly professional, calm, & efficient; again, the goats knew nothing about what happened (& caprines really do yell when inflicted with even mild pain; such as having their annual jabs, you’d think we were murdering them…!).  Also, these were Boer kids, raised specifically for meat; plus animals do not have a sense of time (apart from meal time!) in the same way that we do: they don’t anticipate old age etc & just live in the moment so their age – to them at least – was not an issue.  The breeding farm was also impressive for its’ sympathetic raising of the kids although unlike dairy animals they stay with their mums for a prolonged period which I would imagine makes weaning more difficult & could increase incidences of udder damage such as teat abrasions/bruising or mastitis & I’d welcome meat producers comments on this.

But I really do hope the programme has made people realise that goat meat is such a wonderfully healthy, tasty alternative to lamb – although I must emphasise I could never condone halal slaughter of ANY animal (a common practice with goats for the UK’s ethnic community) & simply would not allow it to happen to any of ours under any circumstances.  Whilst the killing of kids for meat in other countries was not shown on this occasion there were audience members from the Cypriot community as well as some who had widely travelled, all of whom said the methods used in the UK were – again – far more humane than those employed in much of the rest of the EU.  So why, oh WHY, are we still importing meat into Britain….??  We can feed ourselves; so it simply is not appropriate!






About LittleFfarm Dairy

The LittleFfarm Dairy Team: Jo - Goat farmer & Gelatiere Artigianale, plus General Dogsbody; Tony - Airline Pilot & part-time Herd Manager, Product Taster, Accounts Secretary, Handyman etc!
This entry was posted in Animals, Business, Diary, Farming, Food, January 2008, Life, Livestock, Smallholding. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to TV Dinners

  1. Nora says:

    I LOVE the idea of a show like that. It would never fly here in the states, however. Americans are masters of denial, especially when it comes to the subject of death. As for me, I’m getting to be more and more picky of an omnivore. I’m hoping to limit my meats to the happy, frisky, healthy variety exclusively by the end of 08′. Until I can get my own flock/herd of critters, that is. Happy new year!

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