If you don’t kill your own meat, at least watch The Slaughter
If you are an environmentally conscious foodie looking for a Halloween horror film, I’ve got just the one for you.
From the start, The Slaughter — a 15-minute short film directed by Jason Kohl — is filled with foreboding. The Slaughter is about the father-son relationship on a small, outdoor hog operation. It’s no spoiler to say that something bad is going to happen; we know from the title that death is coming, and Kohl keeps a subtle undercurrent of anxiety running throughout.
I like this film because it’s a corrective tonic to the triumphalism of food culture. When people gather around the table it’s only natural to celebrate and delight in our food. But we should also be aware that, no matter how scrupulously correct our food choices are, there are always tradeoffs.
After considerable wrestling with the morality, I’ve chosen to eat meat from animals who were not made to suffer during their life. But even in the best-case scenario, meat-eating — mine or anyone’s — does require slaughter.
Agriculture is hard, and messy, and sometimes brutal. That’s a big part of why we are so alienated from our food these days: Deep down, we don’t want to confront those hard realities and tradeoffs. Obviously there’s a huge difference between animal agriculture, where killing is part of the picture, and horticulture. But even vegetable farming leads to hard choices and agonizing uncertainty; just read Arlo Crawford’s sweet book, A Farm Dies Once A Year, or this funny, angry, expletive-laced rant by organic farmer Claire Boyles.
The only thing that seemed off to me in The Slaughter was a final confrontation between father and son. (I won’t spoil it; suffice to say that there’s an unusual sort of trauma at the end.) The strength of the rest of the film is that it simply dramatizes the usual trauma of farming, the normalized, everyday pain that we try not to see.
For me, watching this film was a reminder: Farmers do our dirty work, and for that they deserve our thanks. If we don’t like the realities of agriculture, farmers will gladly accept our money to produce different foods — tofu, or vat-grown meat, perhaps. But no matter what foods we choose, there will be tradeoffs — good and bad — in the mode of production.