I am reminded of a letter from a chapter leader, Elizabeth Benner, about the nature of animal sacrifice, which we published in Wise Traditions some years ago:
“It is crucial to understand and accept the gift of sacrifice from our animal friends. Otherwise an individual can really struggle with the eating of animal foods that are so important in developing the will and the physical body to do one’s calling here on Earth. This mystery was understood in all ancient cultures and is still found in the indigenous cultures. Living here in Kansas, I find that American lore is full of the esoteric mysteries on the great sacrifice of the buffalo. I am always moved by the stories that they tell. When the tribal community was in need of buffalo, they always performed a great ritual of prayer and ceremony. Deep was the appreciation and understanding of what this buffalo was going to offer them. The tales are told repeatedly of how, after the prayer and ceremony, one buffalo always separated itself from the herd to offer itself up.
“My buffalo farmer here in Kansas has read and studied these myths. The way they honored the buffalo before the sacrifice was so moving to his soul that he took upon himself to honor them in his own way. The night before he kills a buffalo, he prays deeply to God, thanking him for these animals and for all they provide him and his family and his small community. He tells me that he does this every time–and every time he goes out to his herd of over two hundred head, one buffalo always separates itself from the herd, coming towards him. When he first told me this, I cried, it was one of the most powerfully moving things I had ever heard. . .
“When animal sacrifices are done in this manner, members of the younger generation who have been struggling with vegetarianism are often able to participate in taking the animal foods, provided they are respected and raised the way my buffalo farmer does. They often realize as I did when I disdained meat-eaters, how arrogant I was and condescending I was about a way of life that our ancient ancestors laid down as the means to achieve great strength and powers within the human temple. When you take in the animal food, you take in its spirit and powers. I do not have words to describe the incredible feeling that mantles my soul as I tuck into my buffalo burger. And my will forces are stronger than they have ever been in my life. And certainly, all of us need strong will powers, each one of us, to do our own part in making the necessary changes in this world.”
After this letter was published, I heard another story from a WAPF member. She grew up on a farm where they raised a few beef animals—all of them with names. Every fall the family had a solemn meeting around the kitchen table, in which they voted on which animal to kill for their supply of beef. They chose the animal by name, and always, without fail, that animal would be standing apart from the others the next morning, ready to go.
One final story, told to me by a dairy farmer in Holland: When their dairy cows get old and nonproductive, they take them out of the herd and arrange for a truck to pick them up to take them to the butcher. He has a special pen for these animals and always goes to them the night before to thank them for all the milk they have given and to bless them for their coming sacrifice. The next morning they walk peacefully into the truck.
Once he had put a cow in the special pen and said goodbye with his blessing. But the next morning, for some reason, the truck didn’t come. The animal—always peaceful up to this point—became wild, banging around in the pen, almost uncontrollable. This persisted until the truck finally came—she had been ready to go, and became upset when her opportunity for sacrifice didn’t occur.
These examples show us that animals are tied to human beings in profound and mysterious ways. Perhaps we are asking the wrong question—not “How dare we kill innocent animals for meat” but “How dare we refuse to honor the willingness of domesticated animals to sacrifice themselves for us?”
The Weston A. Price Foundation has over five hundred chapter leaders who help people find animal foods that have been humanely raised on pasture, and killed with respect. Consider becoming a member to support the work we do.