Food and Faith is a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
It is quite humbling to catch a chicken, hold her, pet her, attempt to calm her, pass her off to Steve, and look her in the eye as the hatchet comes down. Then after plucking feathers, and knifing away the vitals, I carry it on ice to my freezer. I did that today. I caught a bird that has lived at Ferncliff much longer than I have, and helped end her life.
This article is about killing chicken. I thought you should know that here before you decide to keep reading or not.
There was a bright vivacious red color blood. There were feathers--lots of them. There was a small child calling at his father, "please don't kill it Dad." There was slimy smelly guts. There was skin. There were feathers we missed. There was yellow fat. It smelled like a dead animal, it did a lot of twitching. It bled on me. It's smell lingers in my arm hairs hours later.
Picture of me removing the chicken's crop and cutting the organs away from the neck bone. Photo taken by Molly DeWitt copyright 2014
All food comes at a cost of life.* It makes me think of James Cameron's Avatar in the scenes when they hunt. The blue girl Neytiri, teaches the blue guy Jake Sully to respect the animals he hunts. A few times you see her approach the animal she has attacked and fatally wounded. She says. "I see you" "I thank you." She has a brief zen moment with it. Some call it a prayer. Then she slits it's throat to kill it. Jake does this later while hunting. That movie has a lot about "knowing" the other animals on the planet with the jellyfish tentacle thing from their hair that they touch each other with. I don't have one of those things in my hair (that I know of) but I appreciate the concept--A truer empathy and understanding with other people and other species even. What if we had that today. I think it was more prevalent a few generations back. A lot of adults here talked about butchering chickens with their grandparents. Fifty years ago everyone did this, somehow now it's new and blog-worthy.
In the real world how much of our food do we see? How much do we thank? How much do we want to see? How much are we thankful for?
My thoughts taper off into trying to empathize with the bird.......
I am a heterotroph. I must consume energy from something. I cannot generate it on my own. That's biology. I'm imperfect and rely on God for forgiveness and renewal. That's faith.
It hasn't made me vegetarian, but it's made me realize someone for a job has to get bled on every time we order meat. It's made me remember that an animal had to die to make my dinner. It reminds me death is hard and the inside smell really bad if you cut something wrong. It's gross and vile. This has made me very comfortable having meat only once or twice a week, and often less than that.
With chicken blood on my pants, and a chicken's blood on my hands, I realize more fully, I must inevitably leave a mark (or a pile of feathers) behind if I am to continue.
The chickens that died today left a mark on me (more than blood), and I will say some words about them.
(Placing my hat over my heart...)
While living, these birds put many a egg in a campers hand, they were the first animal many a child ever held, and they were used to teach many how to farm. Even today while dying 7 people from ages 7 and up were taught "how we eat chicken," how to kill it, and get it ready for your kitchen. They became part of a meal for the YAVs and the Americorps team. They lived a happy life eating a mix of grass, bugs, and feed and lived to a ripe old age before they had to go.
I thank you dear bird. I held you, I see you, I smell you, I thank you. I'm also sorry, it was kind of rude for me to move into your home and help kill you soon after.
This Chicken Killer's Benediction:
May all birds have the chance to give such light to the world.
May our human lives and deaths be a blessing to all who hold us.
And may there always be good soup!
Thank you God, Thank you Birds
*Idea: In the author's opinion, arguably fruits, seeds, and eggs do not cause death to anything living. Most edible fruits are like gifts the plant wants you to take so you spread it's seeds. (so plant a few of them once and a while-pay it forward) It doesn't damage a plant to pluck it's fruit in the same way tearing a leaf or cutting off the root literally tears cells apart and damages the plant. Unfertilized eggs will not develop into chicks so we might as well eat them since they are there, right? Nothing dies there because it wasn't really alive. I don't consider those alive in how birds are alive.
[Thanks to Gina Tonn for this important piece during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. From the ELCA's World Hunger Blog]
This week is national "Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week." The recent arrests of several activists in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, over public outdoor meals served to people experiencing homelessness has brought homelessness to the fore of media coverage in recent weeks. This year, Fort Lauderdale passed a series of restrictions aimed at moving feeding sites indoors. These include requirements that all feeding sites have toilet facilities and that any feeding sites be located at least 500 feet away from each other. These new regulations were passed in response to residents' complaints about crowds of homeless people in public parks. The Fort Lauderdale's Women's Club was a particularly vocal supporter of the restrictions, telling Mayor Jack Seiler that the use of one park as a site for feeding people in need made it problematic for them to hold weddings and yoga classes.
Fort Lauderdale is not alone in criminalizing the public provision of food to people facing hunger. In the spirit of raising "awareness" during "Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week," I want to share with you some information about where restrictions on serving meals have been implemented and what the restrictions are.
The passage of laws making it more difficult, or even impossible, to serve public meals to people was first brought to my attention when my colleague shared this article from National Public Radio with me. My interest was further piqued and motivation to put together this blog post heightened when, a few days later, the sidebar of my Facebook timeline informed me that the arrests in Fort Lauderdale were "trending."
A report cited in the NPR article mentioned above, compiled by the National Coalition for the Homeless and just released in October called "Share No More: The Criminalization of Efforts to Feed People in Need" provides an overview of laws enacted during 2013-2014 throughout the United States. These laws are categorized in several ways: restrictions on public property use, food safety regulations and community actions to relocate food-sharing events. The report also notes cities that repealed laws of these sorts during the last year, and places that attempted to pass laws but failed. I invite you to read the report for yourself in order to gain a full understanding of the regulations at hand and investigate whether your community imposed or repealed any restrictions.
Looking ahead, homelessness promises to be an issue that continues to demand the attention of federal, state and local governments, as well as non-profit and social ministry organizations. Just last week, Community Solutions, a national organization whose tagline indicates their mission toward "strengthening communities" and "ending homelessness" announced a new campaign to end veteran and chronic homelessness in the next two years. The campaign, called "Zero: 2016" will launch in January 2015 in 67 communities across the country. Many of these communities, listed in the press release, overlap with the communities imposing restrictions on meal programs. The "Zero: 2016" campaign is an attempt to accelerate housing efforts, connect people experiencing homelessness with available housing options and create public accountability around the issue of chronic homelessness.
ELCA World Hunger is a comprehensive approach to recognizing and fighting the root causes of poverty and hunger in our communities near and far. One takeaway from my time with the ELCA World Hunger team so far is that we are each a piece of a puzzle and all of the pieces are needed in order to make a dent in hunger and poverty. Yes, we need to change societal structure to eliminate homelessness through more accessible job programs, education and supportive housing, and more robust welfare programs. This is, in fact, the stated goal of many laws against feeding people who are homeless. Meals, some argue, create dependency and do little to help people gain access to long-term financial independence.
But we also need to support people who are suffering now. I believe we are called to be advocates of both serving meals to those who are hungry and finding ways to prevent hunger and homelessness moving forward. People who are hungry have a need for food, yet laws such as these are also borne out of need, such as residents' safety. What does it say about who is part of a community when some neighbors are treated as threats to safety or decorum? How are we called to balance different needs within a community?
Gina Tonn is a Program Assistant for ELCA World Hunger through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps.
"Guess who loved their Farm to EVERY Fork t-shirts?" asks pastor Warren Barnes rhetorically.
"Most of them wore them to school on Monday!"
The Farm to EVERY Fork Forum is in its 2nd year and culminates from nearly three years of networking in the community and with public health groups concerned about healthy eating and active living. Much of this was done through the Healthy Sacramento Coalition, which Grace Presbyterian Church helped to found. Their good standing in the community meant that speakers were happy to participate in a compelling program.
This year's FTEF followed the opening of Grace's CalFresh/EBT weekly booth where folks can purchase fresh produce with their electronic SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits cards -- year-around.
"Grace is a small church with a big heart and vibrant outreach, especially involving food justice and population health," says Rev. Barnes.
Indeed it is!
The Food Week of Action – Sunday Oct. 12 through Sunday Oct. 19 – includes World Food Day (October 16) as well as the International Day for Rural Women (October 15) and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17).
Daily actions are provided below, and see the Food Week of Action page for priority action, worship materials and more: http://pcusa.org/foodweek
The Boston Food Justice YAV program ended 2 weeks ago and since its end I have been doing some soul searching and job searching. I'm back at home readjusting to life in my hometown and trying to figure out where I go from here. Part of me know what I want to do and is ready to get started. Another part of me is holding on to my old ways, my apprehensive ways.
I want to build gardens. I want to build gardens that provide produce to those in need. I want these gardens to be a place where ...