As an organic farmer who has raised and dispatched many thousands of animals, I don't take lightly Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's recent pledge to eat only what he kills. In fact, I applaud the resolution and hope others will not dismiss his efforts as a publicity stunt or a frivolous effort at eco-consciousness. While I don't suggest we should all do as he pledges, if you do consume meat you'd be well served to know where the animals come from and who does the difficult work of raising, killing and butchering them.
After witnessing a pig being slaughtered, I made a similar pledge to Zuckerberg's which completely changed the course of my life. I, too, decided to only eat meat from animals I caught or killed for one year. Little did I know it would lead to a whole new career.
After I made my pledge, I realized quickly if I didn't want to starve, I could be a vegetarian, go fishing or learn to hunt. I chose to become a farmer. Knowing nothing about farming, naturally I turned to Craigslist, finding a job learning to grow row crops. I then apprenticed under pioneering pastured chicken farmer Paul Hain who taught me both how to raise chickens outdoors on organic grass and the morals and methods of harvesting animals for food. Paul's gift to me was to demonstrate the synchronicity between our human need to eat with the sanctity of all life, harmonizing human needs with the rituals and requirements of raising and slaughtering animals humanely.
Many years later, taking the life of an animal continues to challenge me. I don't think we all need to do it -- after all, we don't all need to be dentists. But what started out for me as a personal challenge became in the end a true calling. I don't think Facebook's Zuckerberg will change course and end up a chicken farmer, but his journey, like the one that may await you, will certainly offer a privileged insight into what his needs really are, not to mention where his food comes from and hopefully a glimpse into the lives of people who feed the rest of us. I encourage everyone who eats meat to visit a local farm and participate in the slaughtering of an animal. It'll change your perspective and it just may change your life.
With a Perspective, I'm Paul Oscar Hamilton.