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So in a discussion thread about vegetarianism and whether or not it's morally okay to eat meat(a subject I'm not getting into here!), somebody posted an episode from Gordon Ramsay's latest TV series about how meat animals are raised, kept and slaughtered. The idea is that if you eat meat, you should be okay with the processes that lead up to it even if they're invisible to you when you're doing your week's shopping in Sainsbury's.
Fair enough, I thought. I eat meat, I like it and I'm happy with its place in my diet. But I figure, if I'm going to get squeamish about watching a pair of meat pigs get slaughtered, aren't I a hypocrite? After all, I love a pork roast. I was also curious as to what exactly the process of slaughter is like.
So Mr. Ramsay brings his pigs(amusingly named Trinny and Susannah, I doubt the Americans will get that though) to the abbatoir, the slaughtermen show him in and explain what's going to happen. It's surprisingly simple, and both I and Ramsay were surprised by how fast it is.
One after the other, the pigs are led in, stunned into unconsciousness by an electric tongs applied across the temples, lifted up and have their throats cut. The blood runs out into a trough below, and when it's all out the bodies are processed - skinned(in an ingenious machine that uses high-pressure water to remove hair and skin), gutted and hung up to cool. I think the whole process takes about ten minutes but the video was cut so that after the initial slaughter it might have taken longer. Slaughter itself only took about thirty seconds.
Watching the process made me a little queasy at first, because the electric shock causes the pigs muscles to quiver so it looks like they're still awake after having their throats cut. Ramsay had a harder time of it, having raised the pigs himself in his back garden and grown attached to them. But seeing how quickly it went, and seeing that the pigs weren't in pain or even aware of what was going on, it settled me. They didn't suffer, the men at the abbatoir weren't cruel. Ramsay left making plans for how best to serve the pigs up at his restaurant, and I felt oddly relieved. It's not a cruel process, so I'm glad.