Two weeks ago I had the privilege of performing a shechita presentation for the excellent Ramah of the Rockies Summer camp for a thirds straight year. The kids that attend are always full of questions and so curious to understand where meat comes from. While most people do all they can to shield themselves and their kids from facing these questions I’ve found that children actually cope much more skillfully with animal slaughter than many of the adults I meet. But my short presentations can only do so much, to truly change the way society relates to animals we must begin exposing our children to the realities of meat production much sooner and more regularly.
Only 100 or so years ago most children grew up on farms and had exposure to slaughter at a very early age. Kids grew up understanding that chicken comes from chickens, that beef comes from cows and that we must kill to make this possible. But today we often get much older before we truly realize the connection between animals and meat. Because of this cognitive disconnect we tend to run away instead of engaging with these issues, often for our entire lives. Since we grow up not understanding slaughter we learn to fear it and this fear often grows more and more as we age. This has created a society where more and more people are becoming vegetarians while eating factory farmed eggs and milk from animals that are still eventually killed. A society where people that have never even witnessed a live slaughter demonize it as equivalent to acts of genocide. A society where most meat eaters choose to ignore how animals are treated and killed simply because they are scared of what may lay behind that curtain. We fail to properly engage with slaughter which causes us to misunderstand and fear it. This process leads us to make ineffective and misguided decisions which emanate from fanciful emotions and not from sound research and effective reasoning.
Exposing children to live slaughter is an important and powerful tool in battling this problem, but it's not enough. By the time that most people witness slaughter it is already too late. I believe that we need to teach children about where these foods originate from the outset. As soon as you feed your kids an animal product explain to them where it’s coming from. Don't wait for them to ask, set the knowledge in place before they ever pose the question. Another good tool for education would be to have children’s books that explain where meat, milk and eggs come from. There are a number of vegan kids books but I looked around the Internet and couldn’t find even one for the average omnivore. Eating animals is such a big part of human society I would think that there should be dozens of these books out there.
In the Jewish world there are so many great resources for teaching our children. We have Day schools, Synagogues, Sunday school, summer camps, yeshivas.... All these institutions could serve an important role is disseminating this information, we have a great educational structure and it is just a matter of inserting these discussions into the curriculum. But the change must start at home, with each and every one of us. We must make the decision that we will stop running, and then commit to bring our kids with us as we engage with the world of meat and animal slaughter. I can tell you from experience that if you do make this choice you may just find that it isn’t actually as dark and scary as you thought.
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.