This summer, we are featuring reflections from recent Eco Practicum alumni about the most moving things they experienced in the program. Billy Dimas finished Session 1 of Eco Practicum Catskills deeply impacted by what he saw and learned about meat production.
Describe an "ah-ha!" moment you had during the Practicum. What was the trigger, what did you learn, and how did it change what you had previously thought to be true?
My “ah-ha” moment occurred right when we began looking into large and small-scale meat production. Specifically, when we visited the large-scale slaughterhouse at Cargill Meat Solutions in Pennsylvannia and when we witnessed the lamb slaughter at Snowdance Farm in New York. Experiencing these things made me realize how our system truly works and how much there actually is in the world.
When I got back to camp after visiting Cargill, I was conflicted by the fact that these are living creatures and we shouldn’t be eating them at all and the fact that we are part of nature and we are predators and this is what predators do. In either scenario, I in no way agreed with the way that we are killing these animals for mass production and I really began to see that we can never have a sustainable system if we do it this way; shipping animals extreme distances from all over the United States and Canada.
Marc Jaffe, who owns Snowdance Farm, gave us a tour of the farm and showed us the conditions that the animals lived in. He also explained why the lamb was kept in a cage for an hour or two before the slaughter. He explained it as a gradual separation of the lamb from the other lambs makes it easier on the animals compared to having to chase it around for a little when it is time to slaughter it. While at the lamb slaughter, I thought that this was the way it needs to be done. He gave this animal life, cared for it, and comforted the animal as he took its life away. Then I realized, based on the things we built and the systems we created, that there is no way we can go back to the whole “you raise what you eat system,” or even a system where everyone has a farmer-to-consumer connection. There has to be a middle ground. All along the way, I kept going back to the thought that even though we have the most influence among all creatures on the planet, we do not run it. We have to learn to coexist with the rest.
- William Dimas
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