On the Friday night of last year’s Hazon Food Conference I said, “put your hands up if you eat meat – but would not do so if you had to kill it yourself.” And a good number of hands went up.
Then I said: “put your hands up if you’re vegetarian – but you would eat meat if you killed it yourself.” And a different group of hands went up. And after a brief pause, everyone laughed.
They laughed because the two responses revealed what a self-selected group we were – and how fascinating our different distinctions. The first group were essentially saying, “I do like eating meat – but I know the process of killing it is awful – it’s actually so awful that if I had to kill it myself, I just wouldn’t eat meat.”
The second group were essentially saying “I’m vegetarian because I hate everything about how animals are raised and killed in our industrial food economy. But if I actually took responsibility for killing an animal myself, I would feel I was acting with integrity, and in accordance with my beliefs – and therefore, in that instance, I potentially would eat meat.”
And my response, when the laughter died down, was to say “Great: next year we’re going to shecht (slaughter according to kosher law) an animal here at the Food Conference..”
And people went: “Oooohhhhhh..”
So now we’re planning the 2nd Annual Hazon Food Conference, and started to get into this. How do we do it? Is it legal? Where do we do it? Who does it? How do we get it certified as kosher?
The first thing we found out (and this surprised me): meat has to be hung up for a few days before you can eat it. So we couldn’t, for instance, shecht a goat on Friday afternoon and then eat it for Friday night dinner. (Or a lamb either, of course). The solution to that is: we’ll shecht two animals: one on Friday afternoon, and anyone who wants to see an animal being killed will be able to see that. But we’ll also shecht one a week before, and that’ll be the one we’ll eat on Friday night.
So that’s the current plan. We haven’t figured out the other details yet. Adam Berman, the Executive Director of The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center (where the Food Conference is held), told me that they’d already shechted one goat earlier in the year – but although it was a kosher animal, killed by a shochet in the appropriate manner, they couldn’t get it certified for the dining room.
Meantime: as we started discussing this with the Executive Committee Food Conference, we had at least one member say that he thought the idea was disgusting and didn’t want to go to the conference if we went through with it. But the whole point is precisely that it’s disgusting. If we do it, no-one who doesn’t want to see it will have to go. But those who do eat meat, and haven’t seen an animal killed, will have the opportunity to do so.
What do you think?!
(The picture in this post was taken at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center of Aitan Mizrahi with a lamb from a neighbor’s flock.)