I wish I had killed him
- 22 Dec 06, 04:33 PM
Last week I travelled up to Norfolk to meet my Christmas lunch in person for the first and last time.
I have followed Ned the Newsnight turkey’s progress from a lustrous chick into a magnificent one and a half stone stag. Now it was time for me to kill him.
I eat meat almost every day but I have never actually killed an animal. As Ethical Man I reckoned that it was time to take full responsibility for my food. An ethical man should be able to stomach dispatching his own supper or should decline to dine upon it, shouldn’t he?
But having said that, killing Ned wasn’t something I was looking forward to. My mother-in-law’s partner Dave was so upset after he killed two turkeys in a garden shed in York fifteen or so years ago that he’s been a vegetarian ever since.
I was consoled by the fact that Ned has had a good life. In fact he’s about as ethical a bird as you are ever likely to eat. But, when the time came, I couldn’t bring myself to wring his neck.
Wringing a turkey’s neck takes a fair bit of skill. You hang the bird by its feet, take a firm grip on its neck and then twist it slightly while pulling firmly down. Tony, the most experienced turkey slaughterer on the farm, assured me that - when done correctly - the neck is broken in a second.
So why didn’t I do it? I accept that morality shouldn’t be size-based but a living, gobbling turkey is a surprisingly bulky beast and Ned’s size was certainly off-putting. The clincher, though, was that I was worried that, in my inexpert hands, Ned might suffer unnecessarily.
So it was Tony who saw to our Ned. He flapped frantically for a minute or so after Tony had done his work, then twitched his last. It was a distressing sight but Ned did not appear to feel any pain.
As soon as his body was still Tony and I started to pluck him. The feathers come off much more easily in the moments after the bird has been killed. Ned’s body was surprisingly warm.
Then, a couple of days ago Ned turned up on my doorstep. He was in a white cardboard box and looked smaller than I remembered him. He’s in the fridge now.
I am confident that Ned will be delicious on Christmas day. I am looking forward to stuffing him, seasoning him and popping him in the oven. His giblets will make a rich gravy.
And, if you are wondering, I am not upset by having played such an intimate role in his death. If anything, I think I should have mustered the courage to kill him myself. In truth, I bottled out and I shouldn’t have done.
Because, let’s be honest about this: carnivores can’t afford to be squeamish. Turkeys like Ned have to die if we are going to get our Christmas dinners.
Anyway, I’ll have all of January to reflect on the ethics of what I eat because I’m becoming vegan. The idea is to explore how diet affects our impact on the environment.
I’ve been a meat eater all my life and I still think that this will be my toughest ethical challenge to date, even though I now have a good few tempting vegan treats to choose from
One consolation is that, according to a doctor I saw last week, I can expect to come out of the experience healthier. After a thorough check-up he said that cutting out animal fats would be good for me.