Changing Form: Butcher Day
Harvesting day can be the most emotionally challenging day on my ranch. It’s the day I have to say goodbye to my meat animal. It’s the day that spirit separates from body and returns to Mother Nature. It’s the day that the final purpose for my meat animal is fulfilled: to provide nourishment for my body, so that I may live another day.
The animals I raise on my ranch have multiple purposes. Yes, their ultimate purpose is to produce food for my family, but they provide so much more than that. Spending each day with my animals is what pumps blood through my veins. I live to experience them. Just watching them carry out their innate animal desires energizes my body. I can be in a terrible mood, and all it takes to make me happy again is to spend 15 minutes with my animals. Simply looking at them feeds my soul. I am so incredibly amazed by their perfect beauty.
These animals also teach me new things every day. I observe their behavior and reactions, and then create the environment they require to be happy and healthy. They live life so simply. They truly trust in Nature. They trust that their needs will always be met, exactly when they’re supposed to be. They don’t worry! It is these qualities that have inspired me to align my own life with Nature.
Yet another purpose for my animals is to benefit our environment. Their action on the earth actually improves it. Rotationally grazing beef cattle throughout the pasture causes undesired weed species, like thistles and horseweed, to diminish and beneficial forage plants, like clovers and ryegrass, to flourish. Free-ranging chickens provide natural pest control, as they consume insects wherever they go. Pigs renovate wooded areas as they consume the underbrush and till up the earth with their snouts. All the animals provide a natural form of fertilizer for the plants and organic matter for the soil with their poop.
Each different species of animal on my ranch has a different length of time in which they fulfill their ultimate purpose. Pigs have one of the shortest time periods, as they are harvested for meat at around seven months of age. This week, on the day of the full moon, my pigs changed form to fulfill their final purpose. As I am not yet skilled in the slaughter of pigs and cattle, I hire a professional to come to my ranch to complete this task. It is very important to me that my animals end their lives at home. Loading animals onto a trailer, transporting them, and holding them in an unfamiliar area during the final hours of life is incredibly stressful to the animals. My animals are giving their lives to feed my family. I greatly respect and love them, so I want them to have the best life imaginable, right up until the moment their soul leaves their body.
The hardest part of harvesting my meat animal is always within the moments before the animal is slaughtered. I feel anxiety at this time because I want everything to go well. I want the animal to pass quickly, without suffering. Once the animal’s spirit has left the body and returned to Mother Nature, I am immediately at ease. The vessel that once contained the animal spirit I so deeply loved is now food. My ability to see the body as separate from the spirit is the reason I do not view death as a negative thing.
Through the experience of raising and harvesting my meat animals, I have learned that it’s my choice as to how I perceive death. At one time in my life, I perceived death in a negative light. I believed I could not handle losing the life of something I knew, so I desperately grasped onto it. I held a lot of sadness around the idea of death, mostly because I did not understand it. Nature has taught me that death is actually a living thing changing form. That spark of life that once made that body alive, has returned to Nature. It will return again and again in so many other beautiful forms. It never truly ends. By observing Nature, I have realized that life isn’t about avoiding death. Death is a necessary component of Nature. For life to exist, death must also exist. One thing dies to feed the life of another. Death provides an opportunity to grow and to learn. Death exists as an opportunity to experience the bitterness of Nature, and to open to the sweetness that takes its place.