Goat Death

So let’s see. Last Sunday we celebrated the Genius Husband’s birthday. He loves to cook and entertain and hold large parties so that’s what we did for his birthday. Most of the guests have known him since he was a teenager, so it was a lot of fun, lots of kids and adults running around on his parent’s property. Why did we hold the party there instead of at our teeny tiny apartment you ask, aside from the obvious? Well, we don’t really have the space to keep live goats or to butcher them and roast them afterwards. The GH is decidedly not vegetarian, him likum roasted meat. UGGGH! So we bought a few young kids, the animal kind, cute little white things with little horn buds from a family who raise meat goats and took them back to his parents’ place. The next morning he dug a hole out of sight of the goat pen. A little bit later, with all curious children and party guests assembled, including our own he carried the cute little white kid over to the hole. Straddling it’s body with his legs he tilted his head back so the neck was exposed and grasping a horn to keep it from from moving he showed every one the vein he was going to cut. The goat sat quietly throughout all of this, completely unaware of it’s imminent demise. A few seconds later the GH slipped a sharp knife into the kid’s throat and it led out a surprised little bleat as dark red blood streamed into the hole. About 30 seconds later it was over. The goat was dead, it’s head cut clean off and it’s still warm body lay twitching on the ground. I felt a dull ache in the pit of my stomach for a minute or two and a lump in my throat as I watched but the moment passed and the food tasted good.

I bet you’re wondering why we would do that. Well, there are several reasons. In terms of economics it was a good price for meat. The GH’s family used to raise goats so it’s not like it was a new thing to do. Goat meat is a very healthy choice for red meat. We did it while the kids were watching though for a different reason entirely.

When was the last time you saw something die, in real life? What about something bigger than the goldfish you had to flush or the spider you stepped on? When your dog was put down where you there when it happened or did they do it in a back room when you weren’t watching? Have you ever been with someone when they died? Soem will have, but I suspect most will not. People in our culture are very insulated from death. We get our meat from a super market wrapped in celophane. We view the dead bodies of our loved ones after they have been made up and arranged so as to not really look dead only asleep. We watch hundreds of fake deaths a month on primetime television and in many of the popular movies. If you play video games someone dies every 5 seconds or so, usually at your hands. It is all removed, unreal, isolated from any actual viscera.

It was after reading The Buried Soul, a fascinating and disturbing book that the GH picked up while researching for his thesis that I came to understand this and see it as a problem. In it Tim Taylor uses the phrase “visceral insulation” to describe the way our society continues to remove itself further and further from any experience of mortality or death and how this skews our perception and thought. The GH used to say that it is important for us to be aware of mortality in order to have the proper perspective on our lives. All philosophy aside the fact remains that everything living dies at some point; people, animals, plants. I want my children to confront that information at an early age when it is just information, rather than running into it when their view of the world around them is more rigid and more likely to cause discomfort when it needs to be shifted. Right now, watching the goat die, concern etched all over their faces, they are not traumatized. They have been talked through it, they know meat comes from dead animals, they know that blood carries life and if you lose it all you will die. On this day they actually watched something die just as animals do every day by the thousands in slaughter houses around the country, out of sight and mind. They learned about their own bodies by examining the organs, they were confronted with the fragility of life and I hope that will keep them from being helpless in the face of loss or tragedy, though I hope it never comes to them, I know it will.

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