Jamie Oliver Spills the Blood of a Lamb, Film at Eleven

So, Kate of the Accidental Hedonist scooped me on this bit of controversy, but since it is an issue near and dear to my heart, I figured I’d post about the flurry of shock and outrage across the pond over an episode of superstar chef Jamie Oliver’s new show where he slaughters a lamb on camera.

This way, instead of boiling into a rant that will have me frothing at the mouth and gibbering incoherently on her blog, I could jump up and down about the stupid hypocrisy of the human race in the comfort of my own damned blog.

Anyway, there is that monster Jamie Oliver, off to the left, in a still from the show (courtesy of Kent News), doing the heinous deed of slitting the wooly critter’s throat, with the help of a more experienced sheep-killer–his host and the patriarch of a country Italian farm family who gave Oliver the honor of slaughtering the lamb for a feast.

Note that Mr. Oliver’s head is turned away–he is just the picture of the bloodthirsty sort who enjoys frightening children and shocking their mummies and daddies.

It is obvious to me that he did not relish the experience, but he managed it, and I must applaud his brave words before setting out to give Britain a taste of real reality TV. He said, “It’s a beautiful creature, but it is tasty and we are top of the food chain. A chef who has cooked 2,000 sheep should kill at least one, otherwise you’re a fake.”

Not surprisingly, lots of people are het up over the entire issue. The website for the Daily Mail has around 315 comments following their story on Oliver’s experience with the lamb. A good many of them are evincing great shock and dismay at this bloody bit of video.

Even though there was a warning of graphic content on the show before it aired, people are complaining that their children are going to be scarred for life because they saw the truth of where their little lamb chops come from. To be fair, the Times ran a signed column by Martin Samuel yesterday that defended Oliver’s action, saying that all he did was show a bit of gritty reality to his viewers, and that anyone who is upset by it should check their grocery trolleys to see if there is any meat lurking therein. Because if there is, they are glass house dwellers who might want to set those stones back down.

And though she usually holds little truck with Oliver, Clarissa Dickson-Wright, the yet living member of the infamous “Two Fat Ladies,” came out strongly in support of the episode, saying, “If I had my way, it would be shown at 6 pm when as many children as possible were watching.”

Now, I am certain that any readers who have been following along with me for a while are going to know where I will be standing in this food-fight.

I am right there next to Oliver, just where any woman who got fed up with whiny meat-eaters and penned an essay entitled, “Meat Comes from Animals, Deal With It Or Eat Vegetables,” should be.

I don’t see the problem. He participated in a traditional killing of an animal for the purpose of eating it, and broke no laws in doing so. The animal was conscious–well, guess what folks–animals who are killed and made kosher or halal are also conscious when they are killed, because by Judaic and Muslim law, they must be killed by a single clean knife-stroke to the throat, and the heart must still be beating so that the blood can all be pumped out of the body quickly.

You don’t like that?

Well, now, saying that people cannot do that is telling them how to worship, isn’t it? And here in the United States, we have laws against telling people how to relate to God.

So–if it is alright for Jews and Muslims–why is it wrong for Oliver and his hosts, the friendly farm family in Italy?

In fact–why is it wrong at all to hold an animal down and quickly cut it’s throat, but it is okay to string hundreds of them up, stun them with electrical shocks , and then cut their throats? Don’t you think that cows that are strung up while still alive aren’t terrified and in pain? Believe me–cows are big animals and do not like to be strung up by their hind legs.

Well, guess what? That is how cattle are killed in slaughterhouses all over the world. But because they are “stunned” after they have been strung up–that is more humane?

I have said it before, I will say it again.

If you are going to eat meat–recognize that death is involved, and honor the animals who die for you by recognizing their sacrifice. Look it in the eye. Know what you are doing when you bite into that lambchop.

Or bloody well don’t bite into it at all.

Now, I have to go–I have some lamb flank steaks to slice up and marinate for my Beijing Lamb and Leek Stir Fry.

(No, really–that is what is planned for dinner tonight. Coincidence, or fate–you be the judge.)


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  1. Brilliant retort! I had thought of your initial post when researching the brouhaha last night.

    BTW, your site is hardly damned.


    Comment by Kate — November 16, 2005 #

  2. Thank you, Kate.

    I know it isn’t damned. It was just me and my temper at a dull simmer, threatening to blow up into an all-out tirade of Biblical proportions.

    At least I managed to channel that irritation into a coherent series of thoughts.

    There was a moment when I feared I might just start snarling incoherently, when I read some of those comments on the Daily Mail site.

    I am still giggling over the dinner, though. I am just about to go slice up tasty lamb flank steaks.

    The irony is just–well, amusing.

    I swear that God, or the Universe, or whatever you want to call it has a sense of humor just this side of Monty Python.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 16, 2005 #

  3. I grew up on a subsistence farm, so the furor over this just makes me blink. I’m appalled at the number of people that cannot stomach knowing where their meat comes from, but we’ve had this conversation before.

    Comment by Kris — November 17, 2005 #

  4. Following your previous article, I ordered (for the first time in my life) a whole grilled fish, rather than fillet (readers who don’t know me: I was a vegetarian for twelve years, and am back to fish for health reasons). My mom said “How can you look the fish in the eye when you eat it?” I replied: “How can I not?”

    Comment by Hadar — November 17, 2005 #

  5. Yeah, me too, Kris. On one side of our family, folks were farmers who raised cattle, hogs, ducks and chickens, and the other side owned a slaughter house and meat market. Both grandfathers slaughtered animals and butchered them, and I grew up with it.

    So what is the big deal.

    Hadar–that is a wonderful story!

    Not only is it good to look your fish in the eye as you eat it–some of the tastiest bits of the fish are in the head and tail! The Chinese particularly prize the meat in the cheeks of the fish, and it is considered a great honor to have it bestowed upon you by another diner. Usually, it goes to the eldest at the table.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 17, 2005 #

  6. You are so right! I’m fed up with people eating meat (and wear and use leather things)who does not realize what it involves, slaughter, not to talk about the horrible conditions most animals have to LIVE in before they are slaughtered and consumed. Wish I could come and eat your Beijing lamb!

    Comment by Ilva-Lucullian delights — November 17, 2005 #

  7. Yes, Ilva–unless these folks calling foul eat organically raised free range animals, or are vegetarians, they are living in glasses houses and launching stones all over the place.

    Factory farmed animals are raised in awful conditions, period. They lead miserable lives. Then, they are loaded up on trucks, and taken to the slaughterhouse–for animals, being transported by truck is horrendously stressful, especially the loading and unloading.

    And then, they are unloaded, strung up–then stunned–and then killed.

    How is that better than taking a lamb from the field where he was born and lived with his fellows, with enough room to run and play, and bringing him to the barnyard, laying him down and calmly slitting his throat.

    The fact is–it isn’t better. It is only better in the minds of people who have no experience of what it means to kill an animal to eat meat. They say they have sympathy for the animals–but they don’t know what they are talking about, because they don’t know what those animals lives were like.

    I will put it this way–I would rather die in the open air, under the sky I was born in at the hands of someone I trusted than be loaded up like baggage in a truck so crowded that my feces fell on my fellows and theirs on me, to be off-loaded into a cavernous building that stinks of blood and shit and death and then, be hoisted up by my legs and finally, stunned into oblivion.

    The stunning means nothing by that point. The animals are already terrified for thier lives.

    That is the reality of factory farming and large slaughterhouse practice.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 17, 2005 #

  8. Just can’t understand why so much ado about this. While so many here have the luxury of being able to worry about whether or not to wear leather and also have a choice of food on their daily menus, I can’t help thinking about all the people, children included, that are starving and living(not to say dying) in poverty in many places around the world. For them, such considerations wouldn’t be a question of cruelty but of survival. In the vegetable world, certain plants sometimes have to plucked from the ground(meaning KILLED)in order to become food for us. Yet, never heard anybody around here making a fuss over eating carrots, peanuts and potatoes (except for the Jains and forgive if I failed to mention others).

    Comment by Shakthi — November 17, 2005 #

  9. Great, well-articulated post.

    Folks opposed to all eating of meat in general because of the way the majority of animals are slaughtered would do better to promote and support small-scale farmers committed to raising and slaughtering their animals humanely. We’ll never be a world of vegetarians, there will always be carnivores. Why not just accept that and get behind humane animal farming rather than opting out altogether and pitching jibes from the sidelines at those of us who do eat meat?

    I’d gladly pay a bit more for my bird and red meat if I knew the animal was raised humanely (not an option in Asia, unfortunately).

    Thanks for linking me, BTW. Glad you did ’cause it’s how I found tigerberries.


    Comment by Robyn — November 17, 2005 #

  10. Welcome, Shakthi–I don’t get it, either–as is obvious. What bothers me the most is that the people making the fuss are not vegetarians–but primarily meat eaters. As if they want to eat meat but don’t want to acknowledge where it comes from! What hypocrisy!

    And yes–as far as I know, the only folks to worry about killing plants to eat them are the Jains.

    Hello, Robyn–I found you via Kirk’s blog! And and I am glad you stopped by to read here, too!

    I do buy from humane farmers, myself and yes, I do pay more for it. But the meat tastes better than the meat from the grocery store–it tastes the way the meat did from the animals my family raised when I was young.

    So, not only do I feel better about what I eat–it tastes better. And I think it is probably healthier–at least when it comes to grass fed beef I know it is. Studies have shown that grass fed beef have less cholestrol and fat in their meat than grain fed ones.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 17, 2005 #

  11. Just goes to show how much we have lost touch with our food that many of us cannot stomach the site of a well kept, well raised animal being killed to feed a family…

    Comment by Monkey Gland — November 18, 2005 #

  12. Indeed, Monkey Gland, indeed.

    I find it all to be frustrating and rather stupid, to say the least….

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 18, 2005 #

  13. I agree with you 100 percent. And bravo for Clarissa Dickson-Wright–I think it is a disservice to children to bring them up unaware of where food comes from. If they grow up with it, they will have a greater appreciation of, and respect for, the whole process.

    I think our culture’s living-in-denial is one of the reasons the factory farms and meatpacking industry can get away with such atrocities. We just turn our head away. Jamie Oliver was doing it RIGHT.

    Comment by Jamie — November 18, 2005 #

  14. Welcome, Jamie and thank you!

    I don’t always agree with Clarissa Dickson-Wright’s opinions or cooking choices (There were very few foods on the show “The Two Fat Ladies” that I thought looked good–but I loved watching them because they were hilarious and their personalities were so much fun) but, I have to say that her common sense is very strongly in line with my own thoughts.

    And yes–I think kids need to know as much about where food comes from as possible. It can only help them make good food choices both as youngsters and after they have grown up.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 20, 2005 #

  15. I don’t know what is wrong with the media and Great britain sometimes. Is the whole country turning into a bunch of whusses or what? (sorry I don’t know how to spell woss, wuss, whuss?, monkey gland will have to set me straight on that)

    When I was 4 years old, in a British school, we were bought a tray of farm eggs. As an educational experience they were cracked open for us to see chicken foetuses of various sizes inside. There was a lot of yok=lk and blood. It was a compelling image, one I will never forget, and I turned out alright, and I still love eggs, especially the yolks.

    I have never killed an animal I’ve ate aside from a crab, and a fish. but even as an ex-veggie I certainly have no qualms. In fact I would love to learn to do it. Do you think some people grow up imagining meat grows on trees? Or in plastic wrappers???

    and ps – I like jamie oliver. I think he is a good egg. I am making no less than 2 of his desserts for an unspecting American thanksgiving audience tomorrow.

    Comment by Sam Breach (Sixy Beast) — November 23, 2005 #

  16. Hello, Sam–it is great so see you here!

    (I think that wuss is spelled “wuss,” but that is just a phonetic guess.)

    I haven’t actually killed any animal that I have eaten outside of fish and shellfish, either, but I have helped dismember newly dead cows, pigs and chickens on more than one cold, late autumn day. I suspect that after I got past the first killing stroke, I could eventually do it. (But you know–it is not normal for someone to be able to kill another being without thought–people learn to do this. And not everyone ever has learned to do it–that is why there are butchers in every culture.)

    As for those who grow up thinking that meat grows on trees or in plastic wrappers–well, I would not be surprised. I find that to be sad, but that is what happens when we grow up apart from our food supply. We forget where the food really comes from–and so we forget to be humbly thankful to the animals who give their lives so we can eat.

    I think that is very, very sad.

    You know–I have never done one of Jamie’s recipes, nor seen one of his shows, but anyone who sets out to get schoolkids better nutrition is a good man in my book. He seems genuine, honest and an interesting fellow. I shall have to look into his books now–since so many of his fans in the UK seem to be turning away from him, I feel the need to support him from over here!

    As for you sneaking British desserts to unsuspecting Americans at Thanksgiving–I giggle. Dearest one–where do you think that we Americans learned to bake pie?! The Pilgrims were good stout British folk, after all–where else did we get our traditional great roasted bird for the holidays, or giant ham or joint of beef? Not from the Native Americans, that is for certain!

    Most of our New England regional cookery is British–even we Southerners have a debt to the UK when it comes to cooking, though our goodies are also liberally mixed in with French, African and Native American traditions, too….

    If anyone gives you any lip for serving British food on an American holiday, send them to me, and I will give them a culinary history lesson and set them to rights.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 24, 2005 #

  17. I can’t believe people were upset that this aired. This is teh type of “reality” TV we need to wake people the hell up. I always wondered that if people had to kill their own chickens and turkey and lambs and goats that we’d have three times as many vegetarians in this country.

    Jamie you’re a good chef and I applaud you’re idealism around giving people a dose of reality. Maybe next ttime you won’t be so “giddy” to take a life.

    Comment by Japhet — December 2, 2005 #

  18. There likely would be many more vegetarians if the head of every household had to slaughter the animals for the family to eat.

    I think that is why communities have always had a neighborhood slaughterhouse and butcher. That is the service my great-grandfather’s business provided–they did the bloody work so that others did not have to.

    But even so–even if there is a butcher–one can still be aware and understanding of the fact that an animal died to provide the meat. That is what I object to–people wanting to “forget” that an animal was killed so that they could eat. To me, that not only is a person ducking reality, which I think is unhealthy, I find it to be a bad way to treat the animal. Lambs, cows, chickens, turkeys, ducks and pigs should all be honored for thier sacrifce that we may eat them.

    They should be treated well while they live, and killed quickly and cleanly, without pain and fear. And we should be grateful when we eat them.

    I guess a lot of people just cannot see it that way.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — December 4, 2005 #

  19. Nice piece, just found your website through livejournals food porn on livejournal

    It is important people are more educated about where their meat comes from. Luckly in the next week or so we should be getting our 1/8 of a bull from a lovely pair of hobby farmers who farm gloucester a rare breed to show, the “spare” bulls as it were are allowed to live till 30months (After that they can’t be sold for human consumption) then slaughtered and we get lovely tasty beef.

    We have visited the farm and the heifers are all really friendly and sweet and most importantly of course being happy the beef is really tasty

    Comment by laura clarke — February 10, 2006 #

  20. Wonderful that you can get good beef, Laura–a lot of people are not so resourceful as you and I. I just hope that by continually harping on supporting small farmers, people learn to go out and do it…and not just think about it.

    Comment by Barbara — February 14, 2006 #

  21. My god!
    You’re insane aren’t you?
    Killing animals is very common these days. It has always been. If the didn’t do it, you woulden’t be able to go down to your local butcher and ask: “Can I have to steaks, please?”
    Stop whining about nothing.

    All the best, Jakob.

    Comment by Jakob Bruno — April 19, 2006 #

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