Taking A Life

I was raised vegetarian as part of my early upbringing in the cult. That is an entire blog post in and of itself but suffice it to say, I was more aware of turkeys as something I could draw by tracing my hand than I was of it as a relative and source of nourishment.

True, my aunties would sneak me pieces of turkey under the table at Thanksgiving when we celebrated with my father's family who was decidedly carnivorous and not in the cult. Also true was the delicious feeling of transgression and taste delight that co-mingled in my mind and mouth as I savored the juicy morsels. But it was an unimaginable leap between this low key rebellion and actually connecting with a living, breathing being that gave its life so I could feel a little naughty and then scrape any evidence into the trash.

Skip ahead 30 years and I'm deeply interested in knowing where my food comes from, how it is raised and treated, and how it is killed.

Food justice is not only about access to healthy food, it is about practicing respectful, sustainable, and ethical practices of growing and harvesting the food.

How are we treating the land the food is planted in or raised on? What are we doing to nourish the soil, tend the waters, and support plant and animal diversity that allows us to steward nutritious and cyclical crops?

Seem like a lot of factors to consider? True, it does require a shift from a "nature as commodity" to "nature as relative and respected sustainer of Life" mentality, but the benefits are a healthier planet and life for all.

I wanted to put these principles into practice this Thanksgiving as there is no more centrally featured food than Turkey.

Over the years I have held myself to more conscious standards when it comes to eating meat. Translated to turkey, I have opted for free-range, organic, vegetarian fed turkeys that cost a fortune and have to be ordered months in advance. It is an absolute privilege to be able to do this and it also makes me a lot more thoughtful about how much I really need to be eating turkey for Thanksgiving. These birds can cost over $100.00 if you want one large enough to feed a family of 10+ so having an ethically sourced bird can mean cinching in the belt for other things over the holiday.

This year, it was time to take things a step further and actually participate in taking the turkey's life, dressing it, and being part of the ritual required to bring turkey to the table.

It is my extreme good fortune and blessing to have amazing friends who live their principles around food by raising and farming the majority of their food on a small, organic farm in Damascus, Oregon. When they called and offered me the opportunity to come out and help prepare our turkey for Thanksgiving, I jumped at the chance to take more responsibility for my nourishment. If I am going to be fed by another giving their life, I want to look them in the eye and thank them sincerely and treat their body respectfully throughout the ritual.

I use the word ritual, because to take a life is a transformative experience. Indigenous cultures have long created ceremony and rites to hold the energies that move when we ask for and receive the life of another so that we might live.

Espen, Tobias, and I had come to the farm a week earlier and selected the turkey we would be nourished by. Espen chose her and we spent the afternoon walking through the woods being followed by the turkeys who are hand raised by our friends and tame as dogs.

Reverence is the word that kept coming to mind as we returned to the farm two days before Thanksgiving. Espen and I were there together, and determined to help and be a part of everything. We had spoken about the fact that we when we arrived the turkeys would be alive and when we left their lives would be over because they were going to feed us.

I want my son to know how to treat another life with respect until its last breath. I want him to know that when we eat meat it comes from our relatives and it is a gift that requires us to change. It is not easy to take a life, no matter how kind and clear and skilled you are at it.

When the first cut is made and blood spills into the earth, soil turns dark and moist but the bird does not struggle. It takes time to die, but we are there with them, speaking softly, holding them close, honoring their gift. The body resists letting spirit fly in little flurries and shakes but then all is still and the moment is sacred.

I understand the desire for a "clean kill" now, not because it indicates mastery, but because it shows respect and kindness. I understand the significance of small scale farming and on premises life-taking because to die in the place you have grown up is to close a circle and begin anew.

I clean her body of feathers, feel my hands inside her still warm flesh, and hold the organs that kept her alive and vital. Life is so holy. The spirit that animates the earth I cradled and scraped, how it dissolves its adhesion to muscle and bone without regret.

I hope that I will die as well as these birds.

My heart is full of gratitude for the lessons she offered me through the gift of her life. She showed me a way back to relationship with living Life in a good way. To look at beginnings and endings within the cycle of life and know that I am part of it. To offer kindness and calmness whenever possible. To act with bravery and without hesitation when a gift is given.

Meat deserves our respect. Food deserves our gratitude. We are all connected. May we find our ways home through the gifts and wisdom of our friends and relatives. May our lives be nourished and fed so that we may nourish and feed Life.


  1. Hi Jaime!

    From time to time I sit down to read your blog and it's always a great read. You are a beautiful writer! However I find this story to be deeply disturbing to describe taking a life unnecessarily as something beautiful.

    I have helped my family to kill family animals in the past. It always felt wrong and disgusting to kill someone you petted and loved just a minute ago, to kill a friend. But I was taught that killing animals was the only way, as that was their destiny. Whenever I saw the process it always tasted "bitter" to me. I had a pet goat I loved as a friend for many years. My family used her for her milk and treated as a friend until she was too old to give birth, which meant no more milk. Wo she suddenly disappeared and a few days later I was fed her for dinner.

    I felt betrayed by my family and couldn't understand why the destiny of some are so sad. But I have learned it doesn't have to be that way and have been choosing differently for the last 4 years.

    That turkey did not offer its life. Turkeys don't expect to be killed by someone who seems to be showing them compassion. You participated in an animal murder and there is nothing holy about it. If humans spoke turkey language and asked "would you like to be killed?", what do you think they would respond?

    We do not need other animals' meat/flesh to survive in modern society. Everyone is better off without animal agriculture, even if the animals come from small organic farms. The Amazon is burning to make more land for crops to feed animals, but such destruction is unnecessary and inhumane. Yes, there used to be ceremonies around animal sacrifices in the past, but with the information available to humans and at this stage of human development where some of us are entering the stage of compassion towards other species, we, modern first world humans should realize - animal suffering is unnecessary.

    Why do we protect some animals and kill others? You probably would not condone the Yulin dog meat festival. Does a dog or a dolphin deserve more compassion than a turkey? Yes, we are all connected and we are all animals.

    There is overwhelming evidence that plant-based is the best option in this climate crisis, the best for our health, and the best for animals. If you are interested to expand your horizons here are some documentaries to make you think: Earthlings, Game Changers, Unity, Cowspiracy, Dominion and many more. - https://www.livekindly.co/vegan-documentaries

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    2. Iryna,

      I am a vegetarian. I choose to be a vegetarian because I don't want to consume the energy around meat that's been infiltrated by the vibrations of death and fear.

      One of the biggest headaches that comes with being vegetarian is listening to other vegetarians be judgmental, self-righteous ass hats. First of all, I was with Jaime and Espen when the turkey was taken. Well, I wasn't actually there to watch it die (I was talking to a living pig that was the farmer's pet), but I went along for the ride no less. You have absolutely NO RIGHT to tell other people what to eat, how to raise their kids, or how to think. Get over yourself.

      And yes, there is evidence that a plant-based diet is the healthiest way to live, on many levels, but there is also evidence to show that meat consumption offers health benefits. When I stopped eating meat I developed anemia, and now I have to take daily vitamins to compensate for what my body is missing. Some people want to get their vitamins and minerals in a natural way, and argue all you want, but the hierarchy of species is a part of nature, so Jaime eating a turkey is her natural right to govern her own health. People should be able to make their own dietary choices, and only someone with severe emotional problems and the need for attention would throw stones at those who eat poultry while trying to force their ideals on others like a crazed tofu Nazi.

      Also, take your circular logic and insert it somewhere from the horizon of annoyance. Linking the the perils of the Amazon to eating turkey from a family farm is ridiculous. It's like saying Australia is burning because people make beef jerky in Omaha from their little wooden shed. Global warming and over-logging is to blame for those disasters, and Jaime sourced her turkey from an eco-friendly farm that leaves zero emissions. Therefore, HER THANKSGIVING CHOICES veered from the route of commercialism that pollutes the air, and what does she get? Your unnecessary and rude judgement.

      I get that you were traumatized on your family farm. But take your personal sob story and keep it to yourself. And ditch the narcissistic, arrogant impulse to dictate "how mankind should behave" based on your individual childhood reflection. You are not that special.

      Finally, the couple who owns the turkey farm are some of the most loving people I have ever met. The energy was magic, their hearts were full of warmth, their souls kind, and when they do have to offer up an animal to feed people, they actually shed tears. Everything they do is done in high respect for the animals, and although I personally do not condone the killing of farm animals, I at least have the ability to respect how others live, learn how they honor nature, and I am capable of looking past my own view to contemplate life (and this topic) from different angles.

      If you are really Jaime's friend, you owe her an apology. But ONLY if you can even dig past your own ego to find the required sincerity to offer one.


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