The other day (after my elevenses at ten o’clock), I stepped out of the greenhouse and looked to my left; this was what I saw:
These are hoggetts; one year old lambs. They are the brothers and sisters of the baby lambs currently being born up on the farm. And they are ready for slaughter. Indeed six are going to the abattoir this week.
I really like having Margaret’s sheep in the neighbouring fields. They afford me a little company. In a few weeks time, her cows will be let out from the sheds where they have spent the winter. They will then be my summer companions, eating grass, mooing loudly, poohing copiously and staring at me. Cows spend a lot of their day staring. That’s OK; I just stare back. They soon get bored. In the meantime it’s just me and the sheep.
One (the only?) advantage of supermarket meat is it’s anonymity. You don’t even have to think of the cellophane wrapped lump as animal. Just product. You don’t get that anonymity with Margaret’s lambs. At first, I was distinctly uncomfortable about eating animals that I had known in life. I saw the above lambs last year shortly after they were born. I have since watched them growing up. But as I do eat meat it seems right that I should eat meat whose provenance is absolutely known to me, whose food miles are only those to and from the local abattoir and the buying of which helps keep our local farmer, Margaret, in business. And it’s damn fine lamb too. Damn fine. In my opinion autumn lamb is far superior to spring lamb; the animals have been out to pasture and spent some months eating grass. This gives a far better flavour. And better still (if you can get it) is hoggett.
Nevertheless, it is very sad to know an animal that is going to be slaughtered. I have to tell myself that Margaret wouldn’t have bred them in the first place if she wasn’t going to sell them as meat. She wouldn’t have spent sleepless nights during the lambing season helping them be born. And fretting. And they wouldn’t have spent time in the fields about the Priory keeping me company. They’ve had a pretty fine life really. If short.
But I do wish that particular lamb would stop looking at me like that. He doesn’t know, does he?