Yesterday, just as we arrived off the boat from Nong Kiaw, we watched wide-eyed as three little piglets were being slaughtered. They lay on the ground, their throats slit, warm blood pooling rapidly into the dirt. It was hard to watch the little creatures twitch and grunt softly as the life drained out of them.
I crouched down near one of them, looking into its panicked eyes, trying to convey some sort of comfort during its final moments, something to ease its pain, some ineffable reassurance about the circle of life and death. I failed.
Shortly after, the babe went still, and where a living creature had been moments earlier, meat lay in its place. The experience rocked all of us to our cores, and since I had pigs as pets growing up, I think I was probably the most affected of all.
The encounter was an intense reminder to give thanks for the life that was sacrificed for each and every piece of meat we eat. Here in the villages of Laos, there are no styrofoam trays of sanitized, saran-wrapped pork chops, or vacuum sealed packages of smoked bacon, or enormous plastic bags of hot-and-spicy pork rinds. There is nothing to disguise the undeniable truth: to eat meat, one must kill.
Tara and I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and how we want to approach the subject of harvesting meat on our homestead. We know we want to have chickens and a pig at the very least, but when the time comes to kill them, I'm not sure how I will handle it. There is one thing I do know for sure however—vegetarianism is in my future if I can't do it myself.
Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine have produced several short episodes which discuss these issues for their series The Perennial Plate (which is based in my home state of Minnesota!). I've placed one of the more poignant videos below.
This morning, on our way to the dock, we come across the same three piggies we saw slaughtered yesterday. This time, they're splayed open, roasting over some coals in preparation for a feast. I like to think the celebration will be for the birth of a child, and thus, the circle of life spins on.