Could you eat an animal you just killed?

Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge pioneered the nose-to-tail food trend in Australia.

I’VE ALWAYS loved bacon.

Even when I went to see the movie Babe as a kid, it didn’t quell my appetite.

But as I got older, thoughts of animal suffering crept in. At 16, my cousin indoctrinated me into the cult of vegetarianism and I spent a good two years abstaining from flesh.

In the end, I went back to my carnivorous ways, feeling sure my low iron levels gave me a free pass.

Then one day I clicked on one of those Facebook videos that you really shouldn’t watch if you want to enjoy your pulled pork slider — pigs being gassed before slaughter, which supposedly eases their pain in commercial abattoirs.

Their hideous screams launched me into another short-lived period of abstinence.

But although I love vegetables, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing — after all, hadn’t we evolved to eat meat?

This to-ing and fro-ing posed quite an existential burden.

Gotta love a bacon and egg roll. Picture: Jeremy Piper

Gotta love a bacon and egg roll. Picture: Jeremy PiperSource:News Limited

I finally decided that I was okay with the act of killing that was necessary to my protein-rich food supply.

Instead of taking my cue from Animals Australia, I embraced the ethical farmer’s credo — and their delicious free range, grass fed beef.

Whether wandering the stalls at my local farmer’s market or scoffing pig’s ear at one of Colin Fassnidge’s restaurants, I reasoned that nose-to-tail eating was the way to go.

As long as the animal had a happy life, and none of him went to waste, it was all okay — after all, he’d have to die eventually, anyway.

Hell, I bet I could even slaughter an animal myself if I had to.

So when I ended up in the Philippines with a living, breathing pig earmarked for my plate, I knew what I had to do.

Seven hours after this photograph was taken, this three-month old pig was on my plate.

Seven hours after this photograph was taken, this three-month old pig was on my plate.Source:Supplied

It was a hot night in Ulingao, 50km north of Manila.

My friend’s dad was planning a big family gathering the following day, and a spit roast was on the menu.

The only question was whether to order a live pig, or one that had already been slaughtered.

“I’ll just get a pig that’s already been killed, otherwise it will be too loud,” he said.

Asked what he meant, he explained that the pig would have to be slaughtered early in the morning to be ready in time for lunch.

“It will wake everyone up,” he said.

Call me sadistic, but I was in.

After years of guilt and uncertainty, I wanted to see how I really felt about eating dead things.

As animal liberationists never tire of reminding us, the modern lifestyle allows us to divorce ourselves from the reality of where our food comes from.

We associate meat with the tantalising sizzle of bacon, the fun of checking out a hot new burger joint or the pleasure of biting into pork crackling.

How it ended up on our plate — the killing — is not something we really think about:

In order to reconcile my doubts about whether I truly felt comfortable with this reality, I had to take up my friend’s dad’s offer.

So I set my alarm for 5am, wished the pig (now caged in the backyard) a pleasant last night on earth, and went to bed.

Why do they have to be so cute?

Why do they have to be so cute?Source:Supplied


The hour had arrived.

Two Filipino men gathered their supplies in the backyard: sharp knife, empty bowl (for collecting innards), and of course the long wooden pole that the pig would be skewered and roasted on.

They lit a fire, put a pot of water on to boil, and got to work, deftly opening the cage and dragging the pig, squealing, by its tail.

As my friend, her girlfriend and I looked on, one man held the pig down while the other quickly slit its throat.

The guttural scream, as I had been warned, shattered the air.

But I resisted the urge to close my eyes, or look away. My friend’s girlfriend, on the other hand, ran into the house, unable to keep watching.

I actually felt relief — that it was over quickly, that the struggle was brief. I’d also been told there would be “a LOT of blood”, which was not really the case. All in all, it was fast, and relatively clean.

Or so I thought while still in a state of shock.

I was saddened when I surveyed the scene and noticed deep hoof marks in the dirt, where the pig had dug his heels in for dear life.

When I mentioned it to my friend, she pointed to the spot where the animal had defecated in fearful anticipation of its fate.

The reality of the pig’s suffering was beginning to sink in.

Butchers in the Philippines offer a farm-to-table service.

Butchers in the Philippines offer a farm-to-table service.Source:Supplied

But the real impact hit later, after I’d watched the lengthy process of preparing the carcass for human consumption.

First, the pig had to be shaved — so as not to ruin the texture of that delicious crackling.

This task was accomplished deftly, with the practised hand of a high street barber.

Hot water was used to rinse away the course hair and blood, and then came the disembowelment.

Oddly, watching the intestines come spilling out of the pig’s slit-open belly did not disturb — all I could think was that they looked like clean, white sausages.

It was when the man reached deep inside the pig’s chest cavity and pulled out its heart that a wave of nausea hit.

I bolted inside, dry retching the whole way. I was done.

Preparing a pig for lunch is a full day’s work for two men.

Preparing a pig for lunch is a full day’s work for two men.Source:Supplied

Crawling back into bed, all I could think was: I have zero appetite for meat right now.

After dozing for several hours, I woke to find the house buzzing with visitors ready to celebrate.

House blessings are customary for new dwellings in the Philippines, so a feast was in order.

The tables were set, platters of food were laid out and about 40 family members gathered for the joyous occasion.

I ate a bit of everything, but could only manage a small piece of pork and, although it was incredibly tender and juicy, was unable to enjoy it.

Lunch is served.

Lunch is served.Source:Supplied

My tastebuds didn’t even register the flavour, but I ate out of guilt — who was I to reject this meat when I had enthusiastically welcomed the slaughter?

And what kind of ridiculous Western pomposity was I engaged in, when children were starving in the world (including in the very country I was visiting)?

I told myself: I’ll go vegetarian when I get home — I don’t want to offend my friend’s mum by rejecting her hospitality.

But a funny thing happened.

Within a matter of days, my mind did a strange trick, and the memory of what I’d seen faded into monochrome.

By the end of my holiday, it was all but forgotten.

Whether it’s an in-built human survival function or a quirk of my psychological makeup, I’ve managed to suppress the horror I felt at watching that pig die.

I’m really not sure if that’s a good thing, or a terrible one.


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