Slaughtering animals can be incredibly transformative and powerful. When first experiencing shechita (kosher slaughter) I found it so powerful that my waking mind could not face the many dark and disturbing emotions that it brought up. I'd often wake up from disturbing dreams feeling frightened, sad and guilty about what I'd done. Today I've learned to cope and rarely dream as I did then, but the dreams I've had and things I've seen will forever hold a dark and frightening place inside my soul.
I'm in a life and death struggle with a secret agent and I take a knife to defend myself. I slice his throat and blood begins to gush down his neck and flow away like a crimson red river… I wake up with my heart beating hard and fast. It's the night of my first encounter with shechita and feelings of guilt and regret wash over me.
While working at a large industrial slaughterhouse I had a dream during the Jewish holiday of Purim.
I'm being taken on a tour of a slaughterhouse. Florescent lights flicker, illuminating the dark concrete colored shapes and recesses of the stark and lifeless factory floor. I see a cow with a huge deformed neck like a giraffe slowly move its head out of a restraining box for killing. A stunning apparatus, reminiscent of those used in electric chairs, sparks and crackles as it's slowly lowered onto the animal’s head..... Suddenly I'm in a large, stadium like, slaughterhouse surrounded by a cheering crowd. In the center stand two gigantic weightlifters so disgustingly large it's clear that they're pumped up on drugs and steroids.
“Where are the animals that we're gonna shecht (slaughter)?” I ask
“We aren't going to kill animals today, we’re going to kill them!” answers my guide, referring to the weightlifters......
I am standing next to one of the weightlifters as he is strapped into a gurney. I see no knife or gun and am unsure of how the people will be slaughtered. The crowd around us goes wild as my guide pulls out a syringe. He stabs it into the bodybuilder’s heart and presses down the plunger. The man rears up trying desperately to cling to life as his heart stops and lungs give out… I wake up.
I've learned to better cope with killing animals since those early days. I rarely have shechita dreams and when I do they tend to be pretty mild. Despite my present day comfort, the things I've seen have changed who I am and will stay with me forever. As time has passed I've realized that while killing animals creates great struggle, suffering and death, at the other end of that suffering life goes on. I feel that all those animals whose lives I've taken are still here with me today. Some of them are in my freezer waiting to delight my Shabbos guests with dinner or to become a steaming pot of chicken soup that will heal me from a cold. Others are already in my body and when I see children playing, families celebrating and new life being made, a part of me remembers all the animals that have brought me to where I am today and I'm reminded of how precious every moment we have here truly is.
About the blog:
Welcome to The Kosher Omnivore's Quest! My old blog on kosher slaughter, kosher meat, and animal welfare. For new content check out my new website, The Kosher Cut™. There you'll find: blog posts about shechita and related topics, educational slaughter presentations, kosher slaughter training, and a selection of high quality professional kosher slaughter equipment.