Status: 28.11.2023, 20:30 PM
By: Josef Ametsbichler
With a shot from the bolt gun that blows away the hair on his head, the butcher stuns the cow on the farm in Stroblberg (municipality of Baiern). © Stefan Roßmann
Meat consumption requires animals to die for it. This often happens under stress and agony. Farm slaughter is one way to save them a lot of it. We were there the first time.
Baiern – Balsamico uses the last minutes of her life to try to escape. The cow trots through a gap in the circle of her guards and makes off across the yard. It's an excursion that gives her only a short reprieve. Soon, the rope wrapped around the tractor front loader keeps her head straight. She tugs at it silently. The butcher starts at the intersection between eyes and horns. With the dry bang of the propellant, Balsamico, six years old, drives a 14-centimeter-long steel bolt through the top of his skull into his brain. The cow collapses as if struck by lightning. A gush of urine testifies to the yielding sphincter.
First farm slaughter in Bavaria: Supervised by the veterinary office and veterinarian
"He did a good job," Katrin Goller-Englberger will say about the butcher afterwards. She is the head of the Ebersberg Veterinary Office, the top veterinarian in the Ebersberg district. On this day, on the farm of the Neuner family in Stroblberg (municipality of Baiern), the office takes a close look to see if everything fits. Next to her is Michael Viktor, a veterinarian of many years, who carries out the prescribed live and meat inspection at balsamic vinegar slaughter. "The trick is to do it hands-free," he says of the bolt shot and bleeding out in the open, right in front of his home stable.
It's not over yet. Balsamic vinegar is not dead yet. The butcher has 60 seconds after the anesthetic shot to make the so-called bleeding incision in the carotid artery. Otherwise, there is a risk that the animal will wake up, suffer unnecessary torment. It takes about 40 seconds for the cow's motionless body, attached to the tractor's front loader with a hoof, to be pulled up and dangling over a plastic tub provided.
Before an animal can be eaten, it must die. And dying is not pretty.
This scene, which takes place on the organic farm in Stroblberg, is not for the faint of heart. The fear of the cow that doesn't know what's happening to her. The shot that takes her unconscious. "When it comes down to it, they notice it," says farmer Leonhard Neuner about balsamic vinegar's last revolt. And yet every meat-eater accepts such an event, even if most people suppress it well: before an animal can be eaten, it must die. And dying is not pretty.
The butcher stabs. He pulls the knife through. A glaring red gush bursts out of the throat. The blood pours into the tub. A cow's body holds a good 40 litres. Touching the staring eye with your finger does not produce a blink. The motionless animal is also unconscious. At one point, a hoof twitches reflexively. After a minute, the blood flow subsides to dripping. The heart has stopped beating. Balsamic vinegar is dead.
After the fatal cut: the butcher's hand, behind it the bleeding cow's carcass. © Stefan Roßmann
It's always been hard for me.
Barbara Neuner, farmer's wife.
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The tension of the bystanders drops. They did not let the cow out of their sight and hoped that this first farm slaughter on the estate in Stroblberg would go as smoothly as a slaughter can go. Farmer Barbara Neuner says: "It's always been hard for me." Of the 30 dairy cows that supply the farm's own dairy, the farming couple knows each one by name. Each has its own character. Nevertheless, each one ends up at the slaughterhouse, in the sense of full utilization. Neuner's husband Leonhard says: "I'm doing much better with the procedure because I know that everything went well."
Farm slaughter saves the stress of transport and slaughterhouse
A winch pulls the cow's body into a trailer made of bright stainless steel. In it, balsamic vinegar makes its last journey to the cutting plant, of which she no longer notices. This is one of the main reasons why the Neuners dared to slaughter the farm. Otherwise, cattle often have to endure a journey of several hours to the slaughterhouse. The stress outside their familiar surroundings, the feeling of being cooped up and crammed together – an experience of fear compared to which Balsamico's attempt to escape seems harmless.
(By the way: Everything from the region is now available in our regular Ebersberg newsletter.)
Instead of under the glaring industrial light, between white tiles, rubber coats and stainless steel, balsamic vinegar died at home. It was over quickly. So far, only individual butchers have practiced "slaughtering close to the farm", as it is called in official German, with a mobile slaughter unit. At the same time, it is considered to be less stressful and more animal-welfare-friendly than anything else that our society has developed in terms of techniques to transport farm animals from this world to the hereafter while maintaining their edibility. Because one thing is socially predetermined: whether steak, schnitzel or burgers; whether Flügerl, Haxerl or Ripperl. Whether fried, smoked or boiled, meat must always be available everywhere. The customer wants it.
Eco-model region Glonn: Farm slaughter to set a precedent
"I am grateful that this opportunity exists," says Goller-Englberger, head of the veterinary office, about the farm slaughter. She has a few comments on the proper disposal of the escaping animal blood and the leading of the cow to the slaughterhouse, but nothing that would stand in the way of a permit for the family farm. "We'd like to keep an eye on that," she says about the fact that each of them is subject to registration so that the district office can carry out unannounced checks.
Barbara and Leonhard Neuner watch the stainless steel trailer as it sails off into the November rain with balsamic vinegar's body on board. In the medium term, together with other farmers from the area, they plan to purchase such a mobile slaughter box on a permanent basis, probably for a low five-digit euro amount. Several cattle farmers have already shown interest. It is a project of the newly founded and certified eco-model region Glonn, which is committed to animal welfare, organic agriculture and regional value creation. Farm or pasture slaughter is a matter close to the heart of the farming family. Leonhard Neuner says: "Dying affects us all, and we have to make the best of it."
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