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Ethical Slaughter and Butchery

16 Sterling Drive
Craftsbury Common, VT

This course explores ways to safely, ethically, and humanely bring our livestock from the field to the table. The sessions combine presentations, dialog, and debate with observational slaughter and hands-on butchery of several species of livestock. We will explore some traditions that have provided a framework for understanding and carrying out the slaughter of animals to meet our needs, including perspectives from Jewish, Muslim, and Zen Buddhist presenters. Over the course of five days, students will respectfully observe several on-farm slaughters, participate in the butchery of animal carcasses, and engage in lectures and discussion of the ethical questions surrounding our choices to consume meat. Students will learn from a skilled itinerant slaughterer who travels to the farms where animals were raised to do her work, eliminating dislocation and minimizing stress at the end of an animal’s life. We will watch this deeply respectful expert perform solemn tasks, learn about her methods, and hear why she is called to this work. Additionally, this course highlights slaughter and butchery from two major religious traditions, Judaism and Islam. We will spend a day on shechita (kosher slaughter) and Jewish understandings of the human-animal relationship. We will also study halal, Islamic laws pertaining to animal consumption, and differences in halal practices over time and at varying scales. These sessions are designed to give a deeper understanding of faith-based approaches to using animals for human sustenance. Finally, we will attend to the health benefits of ethically raised, grass-fed meat and learn techniques for cooking this good meat well, maximizing both nourishment and enjoyment. We will work with hogs, lambs, poultry, and other livestock from field to freezer.