This morning started out the same as any typical morning. I was cooking my son’s favorite breakfast (Bacon and Egg Rice), and his father was separating the dog’s bulk raw food into containers. Every so often our three-year-old son asks where food comes from. He gardens with us – last week picking beans, and berries and pulling up the first of the sweet onions. We’ve told him pork comes from pigs, beef from cows, lamb from lambs, and so on. We’ve taken him on visits to local farms so that he can see where we get our food.
Then today he asked this question, “How do the animals die so we can eat them?”
The silence in the room was absolute. His father and I locked eyes, and I turned my body back to the bacon I was frying.
“It’s something called slaughter,” my husband said. He went on to explain (in a simplified way) that farmers raise and kill animals for food.
His next question was even harder to answer. “Why don’t the animals run away so they’re not killed?”
He’s seen Planet Earth. We’ve talked about the lions, tigers, wolves, and wild dogs who chase and hunt large game to survive.
This was probably the only moment in my life, I wished I was a vegetarian. My son and I have had so many discussions about kindness to all animals, and why we adopted pets from a shelter. We’ve impressed upon him the need to treat animals how he’d like to be treated, how it’s mean to stomp on bugs like other children. We’ve talked to him about not touching plants and animals on hikes, how nature is best left undisturbed.
Eating real food is very important to me; and this includes meat from pastured animals. I don’t eat food from factory farm, and avoid most processed food. How I eat is important, and I want to pass on a tradition of thinking ethically about where and how we get our food. But this morning’s discussion was hard.
My grandmother’s generation grew up on farms and by age three here and her siblings had no doubt witnesses the killing of chickens and the slaughter of pigs. I’d heard stories about all those things growing up, so there was no disconnect for me. We, his parents, will have to be that link for our son, and hopefully we’ll get it right.