I made this piece several years ago, when I started eating meat after being vegetarian for 20 years. My health had deteriorated, and as a last ditch effort, I decided to try introducing meat and stock to my diet. Unfortunately, that was the thing that turned my health around. I had to resign myself to the fact that despite my principles, my health depends on eating animals.
While I was vegetarian, I always said, I don’t care if others eat meat, but I do think that if you eat meat, you should raise and kill it yourself, so that you understand the true value of what you are eating, and the life that had to be sacrificed for you to eat that. Once I started eating meat, I was somewhat appalled at the idea that I now expected myself to put my money where my mouth is, and raise my own.
If you’re going to eat meat, raising your own can offer benefits beyond understanding the value of life and meat. The meat industry is a cruel, cruel place. I decided I would only eat meat from local farms where I was satisfied that they raised their animals well and killed them humanely. But even so, I felt that I could give them a better life in a suburban backyard than when raised on a commercial scale. Afterall, our home-produced eggs are so much better than the most expensive, organic, free-range eggs we can buy. I’m also concerned about wastage. Despite repeated efforts, I’ve never been able to buy chicken heads or feet for stock. What happens to them all? Are the thrown out? When I watched a fisherman kill and fillet a fish, wasting all but the very fleshiest parts, I started to think that the meat industry may well operate in a similar way. If an animal has to lose its life for my health, surely we can at least make sure to make the most of every tiny bit of it.
I started looking into the possibilities. Would I raise my own rabbits? Start up an aquaponics system with my own fish? Or would chickens and roosters be a better bet? That’s when I made this artwork. I felt so confronted, so intimidated by what lay before me, that I needed a mission statement. This is it. it sat in front of my on my desk for years, repeatedly helping me to return to my mission until I learnt to raise my own.
And then I did. You can read about my journey to raise and kill my own chickens here on my blog.
I’ve come to terms with it now. I believe the animals I raise have a better life than those who are raised commercially. I learnt to cope with the conflicting emotions that this whole project brings, and to make my peace with it. My journey is complete.
Now I’m offering up this piece to someone else who needs it for their journey. It doesn’t have to be about meat particularly. Maybe it’s food in general that you are inspired to produce. This artwork is about taking charge of your own food, getting it to your table from scratch. I hope that it can inspire you to stay on track, and remind you that it truly IS possible. If you’d like to make it yours, it’s in my shop.