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7 Oct 2009 - 1:59 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

It’s taken many weeks of buying seed and sourcing 'starter crumble’ and nurturing them, and I mostly want my chickens for eggs. Some people say I should cull my roosters before they begin crowing. It’s a bit late for that. At least two of these already raise me from my slumber. Mostly at 2am. They are keen to be the first voices heard.

Each morning the valley fills with the sound of crowing. Distant roosters awake to some light or other, and let out their instinctual yell. Before long, and always well before dawn, others join in the chorus. I’ve learnt to sleep through most, but the ones from just outside the bedroom window have volume enough to make me stir. A dim internal light flicked on for a nocturnal visit to the dunny is often met by a crow or two.

So it’s time to whittle the numbers down. I want one rooster to breed from, and the rest chickens. Jen and her friend Collette have offered to show me how to dispatch the roosters. Both former vegetarians, they hate having to do it, but they also like to breed chickens and feed their families their own meat. They have also learnt that a good support network and a team effort is what’s needed. We conduct, in brutal terms, a group rooster cull.

This kind of thing doesn’t sit easily with me. Taking the life of a sentient being, well, there’s something really off about it. I eat meat. I used to be a vegetarian, too, but now I consciously choose to eat meat. I’ve actually given great thought to how animals must die for that to happen, but when you’re faced with a rooster you’ve reared from week one, with the thought of blood on your hands, with the prospect of having to pluck a still warm bird in your own yard, well, that’s altogether different. They say that if abattoirs had glass walls we’d all be vegetarians, and here I am about to discover why.

I manage to get through it. To kill my own birds. I didn’t get through the process easily, however. Certainly not happily.

My five roosters went from contentedly foraging for grubs and eating grass to as low a stress end as is humanly possible. They were treated with respect and they will all be used as wisely, as carefully as I can when it comes time to cook them.

I now face the pig feeding with less joy. My Saddleback pigs, Prosciutto and Cassoulet, are animals that are also here for one reason. For me to eat them. Not because they look good or are useful for the land. They’ve been bred, and are being fattened, for the pot. The whole reason they exist is for omnivores like me to eat.

The best thing I can say is that – unlike their factory-farmed brethren - they have led a tremendously happy, instinctual, healthy life where they can feel the sun on their backs, eat windfall pears and dig for roots in the paddock. They will also die a quick, pain-free death. It doesn’t make me happy, but it is the reality of farming – if you choose to eat meat, or eggs or any dairy products, animals will be reared, and die, at the hand of man.