Today we facilitated a learning experience in slaughtering lambs. These aren’t just any lambs, these are high quality, grass fed, pasture raised, churro sheep. We had three educators learn the process from a local slaughtering expert, Edward Gonzales. All of us had slaughtered lambs or goats before, but our experience was based on research and not necessarily experience and definitely not on tradition. Edward has been slaughtering and butchering lambs, cows, and pigs for most of his life and learned from his brother who learned from their grandfather. We partnered with Peter Walker of Swashbuckler Media to film the process for later production into an educational video. We are hoping this video will be ready for the Taos Shorts Film Festival later this year.
It was interesting to compare our past experiences with the expertise the Edward showed us. He had techniques to slaughter the lamb that seemed brutal but were more humane in the limiting of suffering by cutting the throat followed by breaking the neck of the lamb. He showed us another technique in cutting the hooves to release the nerves and was otherwise very efficient at the whole process. He showed us how to remove the skin from the head to make head cheese and gave us some context about how he grew up raising animals and living off the land..
We feel it is important to understand, if not participate in, the process of slaughtering and butchering if a person is a meat-eater. There is right way to raise animals and provide them as food and a wrong way. The right way respects the life of the animal and views them as an integral part of the family and landscape and the wrong way is to mindlessly consider meat as a given or as a commodity for “efficient” profit. The benefits of home-based slaughtering leads to a knowledge system of animal husbandry and anatomy and an opportunity to make use of the entire animal.
Our next step will to be to learn more about the ins-and-out of utilizing the entire animal like actually making head cheese and other cultural delicacies like burinates, or little pieces of lamb meat wrapped in cleaned out intestines of the lamb and baked. There is also some learning to be had around the processing and use of the sheep hide. We strive to create and understand the agro-ecological cycles that allow for the raising of animals, the production of crops, and the augmentation of soils in beneficial feedback loops.