Why I Let My Child Help Process Animals on the Homestead

Recently, I read a blog post condemning families who allow their children to help process animals. Saying it was disgusting and vile (probably written by someone who doesn’t even eat meat). I read another blog post a few days later, that even went as far as calling these parents insensitive and uneducated when they allow their kids to pose with their dad’s hunt of the day. From what I gathered, apparently I needed to prepare myself for my child to be an ax murderer when he grows up.

** I should tell you now, there are some graphic photos below in the rest of this post, and none of them are from a future ax murderer.
The blogs were riddled with photos of families who probably have no idea that they were the picking party for these bloggers’ posts. Talk about uneducated. I was (and still am) so tempted to email those photos to those unsuspecting families and say “can you believe this person you don’t even know used your kids photo as a beating bag?” I’m pretty sure they’d have some kind words to say to those bloggers, along with a lawyer.

We get that all the time though. We’re used to it. We get the “you’re really going to let him do that?” and the “oh my word, that’s not natural for a child his age”.

You know what’s not natural for a 5 year old boy? It’s not natural when he doesn’t have dirt under his fingernails. It’s not natural when he doesn’t know where his food comes from. It’s not natural when he is forced to sit and play video games or watch tv all day…inside…with no fresh air. It’s not natural when your child doesn’t understand life and how precious it is before the age of 5. Well, it’s not natural for my child, and that’s the beauty of it. My child doesn’t have to be like everyone else.

I’d like to address it publicly, because quite honestly, I’m tired of having to deal with it. Here are the facts…the real ones, not the googled ones, or from the bloggers who have no experience in homesteading and real life.

Here are the reasons we choose to allow our son to help with harvesting animals on our homestead:

  • It teaches him the circle of life. Such a cliche, I know. But it’s true. It teaches him that animals were put here for our entertainment and love, but also to provide for our family. And when done properly, and constantly handled in a loving way, there’s absolutely nothing unnatural or insensitive about it. It teaches him the importance of respecting animals, from beginning to end.
  • It teaches him that food doesn’t come from a grocery store. And that it doesn’t have to be overly processed and full of chemicals. Dinosaur shaped spongy chicken nuggets aren’t the normal. Homemade, crunchy, tender fried in lard nuggets are.
  • It teaches him to be independent and disciplined. I’m not just talking about a 5 year old, I’m talking about preparing him for the rest of his life. He has to take instructions and heed to them, otherwise the entire process is messed up. He has to listen intently, and then act. He has to discipline himself so that he doesn’t rush through it.
  • It teaches him self-sufficiency. Should an EMP bomb go off or a natural disaster occur where there’s nothing on grocery store shelves because they’ve all been looted, my child will never ever feel anxious or upset about not knowing where his next meal is coming from. In fact, he’ll be the first one to say, “let’s go squirrel hunting”. He will never, ever, be dependent on a grocery store aisle.
  • It teaches him the art of manliness. Because it has been lost in our nation. Too often our boys are taught to be like girls. They are taught that they should want to grow up and get an office job, because that will pay more and they can live a luxurious lifestyle. They are taught to find women who are independent and career minded. And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with any of that.  But they are taught that if they have rough hands and dirty shoes, that they are worthless. No, not my son. The sad reality is that my son will be taking care of those people and would give them the shirt off of his back if he had to. My son will know how to take care of his family, whether he has a job or not. My son will know how to be independent, self sufficient, rough hands and all. My son won’t be pressured into believing that he has to live a certain way and do things a certain way to be “worthy” of the economy, an education, or a woman. My son doesn’t have to do everything your kid does — that’s the beauty of having the freed to raise our children differently.
  • It teaches him what the original “normal” was, and still is for many. Do you realize how many kids this is normal for outside of the United States? Do you realize how many children under the age of 10 years old go out, kill animals for food, bring it home and process it themselves while their mothers clean the dirt hut floor and their fathers are either no where to be found or off working in the garden? Please tell me again, how kids don’t understand “life and death”? No, YOUR kid may not understand life and death, but those kids and my kid, they fully understand it. Which brings me to my last point that the other bloggers tried to turn around and say “we knew nothing about”…
  • It teaches him the true meaning of life and death. From beginning to end, he is walked through the process. We cuddle our meat rabbits before harvesting them. We pet our roosters and thank them for their service while they were here, before harvesting them. While the initial shock of blood and flailing is “cool” to a little boy, it quickly becomes serious and solemn. He understands that this animal will never return to us, ever. He knows when and when he shouldn’t kill an animal. He knows what happens when an animal dies. And most of all, he knows it can never be compared to a human life. He has not been, nor will he ever be, desensitized and sheltered from death. Because whether we like it or not, it happens every single day. And whether you want to admit it or just suppress this simple fact, death is a natural thing.

Since the age of his existence, we have included our son in any and all things when it comes to learning about life, especially where his food comes from and anything homestead related. There were many times at the age of 3 when he helped Mountain Man skin a deer. By the age of four, he knew when hunting season was. And now at the age of five, he cannot wait to put dinner on our table.

You see, it starts with the parents. Certainly, there are parents who abuse the right to hunt and/or kill animals, and lack the skills to properly educate their children about it. But please, don’t stick us all in that category.

If you were to ask my son what happens when daddy kills a deer, he would say something like this…

“Daddy shoots the deer, and after he finds it, he thanks it for its sacrifice for our family. He thanks God for the meals that it will give us. Then he comes home and we get to turn it into dinner. But I don’t get to use his cool knife because he says it’s too sharp for me. One day I’ll be big enough to hunt with daddy, and then I can come home and you can be happy that I got a deer too!”

When asked what the difference is between killing for food and killing for sport, he would respond…

“We’re only allowed to kill chickens and animals if we are going to eat them, or if they are sick. But if they are sick, we don’t eat them, because they’ll make you fart and stuff.”

Spoken like a true little redneck boy. No shame…

But most of all, when he is asked what should be killed and what shouldn’t be killed, he always answers with big bulging eyes..

“Oh mom, you KNOW we should never kill people…why do you even ask that when you already know the answer.”

He’s right. Why do people ask stupid questions when they should already know the answer? Shouldn’t that be something we teach our kids? Why has society become so desensitized to death, some might ask? Because we refuse to accept it….we refuse to teach it….

Our son helps us process animals because he enjoys it. He gets excited about helping, being productive, knowing where his food comes from. He gets excited for dinner, and you can see it when he says, “oh boy, is that the rabbit I helped with?” He gets excited because he feels accomplished. He gets excited because he knows the importance of being independent and knowing how to provide for his family. He gets excited because he knows a skill, something that most of his generation will never have. He gets excited because it’s just something that we do here — we get excited, because all of that hard work is finally paying off.

Listen, we all have different opinions and different ways of parenting. I don’t condemn families who eat overly processed food from the grocery store, or who force their children to wear skinny jeans. I am proud of the parents raising their kids to be sophisticated men and women who want to be lawyers and doctors, and I so honor them for raising them that way. All of our friends and family choose to raise their kids differently, whether like us, or not like us. I don’t judge them, and I never once condemn them — they have awesome kids, and they are awesome parents, and that’s just what works for them. But, I only expect the same level of respect in return. Just because your child isn’t on the same level as mine with certain things (and mine isn’t on the same level as yours on certain things), doesn’t mean I’m a bad parent or have bad parenting skills. And that doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent either. We just parent differently, and guess what, that’s ok too….end of discussion.

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