This is the first installment in our series featuring short films from Real Food Media, an initiative to catalyze creative storytelling about food, farming and sustainability.
In Soft Slaughter, director Allison Milligan takes viewers behind the scenes into the world of humane slaughter. Butcher Mary Lake, of Vermont’s The Royal Butcher, narrates a literal and philosophical tour of the slaughterhouse floor and the growing movement to produce “ethical meat.”
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, over 88% of hogs in the United States are slaughtered in industrial-scale operations with livestock raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These factory farms house animals in inhumanely tight quarters, causing stress and disease among herds and flocks. Their overuse of antibiotics breeds dangerous resistance; they cause water and air pollution; the list goes on.
But all around the country, bucking incentives from the USDA, farmers and butchers are embracing more humane and ecologically sound methods of animal husbandry, even slaughter. Conscientious slaughter, not an oxymoron to those promoting it, emphasizes things like comfort for animals up until the bitter end. For these butchers, it is a more humane process and produces a better product.
Can one stomach seeing hogs stunned while simultaneously craving bacon? What does it mean to be an ethical carnivore? In this short meditation on these questions, the answers seem to lie in changing our relationship to meat production – not only how your meat was raised, but how it was slaughtered, too.
Please note: Film contains explicit images.
Related: Introducing Daily Table: The Grocery Store that Wants to Take on McDonald's
5 Ways to Save the World Through Food that Are Way Easier than You Think
What You Need to Know About Your Seafood Choices