The cry pierced the soft quietness of early night. It sounded like a child crying and I knew it wasn’t a child but a baby goat. I covered my ears. I was sitting under an old walnut tree, with my sister, my nephew and the man’s wife. She smiled when I covered my ears, a calming smile almost…It has to be, it’s all part of it, her smile seemed to say.
I felt ashamed and I put my hands down. I am not a vegetarian, I told myself. If I choose to eat meat, then I should know that this is part of it. I tried not to imagine the baby goat. It’s called a kid, I know, but I have trouble calling it that.
The man loves his goats, my sister said before we went there. The goats spend their days on green pastures among healing wild herbs and carpets of wildflowers. He talks to each of them and keeps them clean. He cares.
We make our way to the side of the barn where the young goat hangs upside down, skinned and hoofless. I don’t look away. This is part of it. I might not eat part of this one, but I eat meat occasionally.
The man cuts the young goat open, no choppy moves. He moves the knife fast and sure of himself. He asks for some clean bags to put some of the parts in. I run down to the house and get some. I hold the bags, one by one, and they get filled with various parts. Still warm.
I realize I am holding my breath and let go. This is part of the oldest ritual there is. I breathe the warm night air in. There’s more than the usual sweet night air smell but I will not hold my breath.
My nephew asks jokingly about the crime scene. The man calmly replies “This is not a crime, it is a sacrifice.” Everyone is silent. Thinking. Knowing.
Ten minutes later we are ready to leave.
We pass by the goats’ pen. They are all white except for a brown speckled one trying to pick fights. It got ignored and for a reason. Goat or not, a day spent in the sun makes you pleasurably lazy and unwilling to respond to fights.
On the way home, I think about it all. We’ve strayed from understanding the actions that bring food on the table. To grow vegetables is an act of grace, some say. There’s nothing inconvenient to witness.
To put meat on the table, you have to sacrifice the animal. Buying a tray of drumsticks or a round steak will not bring understanding. Gratefulness for every morsel comes from looking at the animal, thanking it for the sacrifice and not letting anything go to waste. It is not blood thirst that makes one opt or meat.
It is part of life. Death is part of life. Sacrifice without a purpose is cruelty. It does not honor us, nor does it make us appreciate life. Not caring to know where our food comes from and how also shades us from the very act of gratefulness, which makes us humble and responsible for our choices.
If you choose to eat it, have the courage to look at it and understand its connection to you and respect it. No need to cover eyes or ears, you need to see in order to be respectful of every morsel.