Do we really know where out meat is coming from? This question was asked by a young lady who wanted to know more about what she was eating. She admitted that she used to be a ‘blind omnivore’ who never had a clue where her meat originated.
Never being a truly passionate meat eater, she never properly questioned where her meat came from. She made a decision that for two years she would only eat meat that she had hunted herself.
Her first killing was a disaster, where she injured the rabbit and it got away. After that she learned to be more accurate. Struggling to become a total vegetarian, she started with fish and then learned to shoot small game like pigeons, eventually graduating to a stag.
She admits that she never takes killing an animal for granted, tries to be as humane as possible and use every cut of the meat. She says that if more people understood where their meat came from, they might appreciate where their protein came from.
“Like most people I followed fashions, health fads and my appetite. I was never a passionate meat eater but despite being an animal lover I never really made an effort to properly question where my protein came from,” she says.
“I learned that livestock like cattle produce more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transport put together. So, I knew the easiest thing I could do to tackle climate change was to give up meat. Yet I struggled to become a full time vegetarian,” she said.
“I am a farmer’s daughter and I could see for myself that animals kept free-range were not only part of the landscape but sustaining the rural economy and way of life. Also, I saw nothing wrong with eating animals killed as part of managing the wider environment, for example killing deer to allow over-grazed land to recover.”
She finally realized that by eating only animals she had killed herself, she would be able to make sure that all the meat she ate came from a sustainable source:
“I guess my “ha-ha” moment was when I told people my idea and saw their reaction. I realized that it was not just me. Society as a whole felt uncomfortable with eating meat with no idea where it comes from. They wanted to find out. My job as a writer is to answer these kind of questions, so I decided to write a book about the project,” she said.
She shares about her first kill:
“I felt guilty the first time. That feeling never went away but I accepted it. Whenever you eat meat an animal has died and I would argue you have to take responsibility for that. Guilt I think is a negative emotion. Responsibility suggests you are going to take that feeling on and examine it, then decide whether you are willing to do it again. I decided I was willing to do it again,” Gray said.
“But I never took killing an animal for granted. I always feel the responsibility of what I am doing. I tried to be as humane as possible and used every cut of the meat. I think if more people understood where meat is from, they might appreciate animals more and see meat as more of a treat, rather than as a staple.”
Intending to stock her freezer with venison, she plans to continue hunting her own meat, which she prefers to source herself. She is also learning to cook vegetarian food and has wowed her friends with many delicious dishes.
Gray paid a visit to a slaughterhouse and came out traumatized. Her illustration of the place reads like a nightmare:
“The sows hang upside down, their heads soaking in blood dripping off their ears, their eyelashes,” she wrote. “The hair is burned off with a naked flame and the flesh is branded, adding the smell of burning flesh to sh*t and blood.”
Her experiment, however, has transformed her own habits for good.
“I never wanted to do this as a one off or a gimmick. It takes a lifetime to learn to do something properly so I continue to learn. I have been rabbit shooting and fishing a few times since finishing the book,” she said.
“I intend to go stalking again to fill my venison with freezer. If I am going to eat meat, I would much rather continue to source it myself, even if only occasionally.”
Because of her love of nature she feels that she has learned to appreciate her food sources and understand what went on with putting meat on her plate.
“I am also buying meat direct from butchers and farmers as I want to support the farmers I believe are raising animals free range and sustaining the countryside – often in very difficult financial circumstances. They deserve our respect too!”