In Sissach near Basel, Austria, butchers from the town’s Rolf Haring shop revived a tradition of public pig slaughter over the last weekend in October. The tradition, known as Metzgete, stems from a time when many people kept pigs for their own consumption, fattening them up over the summer months in order to have meat to keep them going over winter when feeding a pig would not have been economically possible. Easily spoiled parts of the carcase are eaten first on the day, which include meat from the head, offal and blood.
Metzgete is still practised but the slaughter now usually takes place indoors rather than outside, but many older onlookers at the event clearly remembered seeing this happen in the town in their lifetime. Some younger residents also greeted the revival positively, mentioning a need to re-educate people about where food really comes from. Rolf Haring wanted to bring traditional humane slaughter methods to the public as this part of the process becomes more sanitized and kept away from the public.
Animal welfare group Schweizer Tierschutz were not totally opposed to the intentions behind Haring’s event, as they feel it is important to educate consumers about the realities of meat eating but believed that public slaughter was not the right way to go about it. Haring received death threats and comparisons to IS as people learned about the event, but despite protests and the threat of legal action to stop the Metzgete he went ahead, saying that the only thing he was nervous about was being watched by his former teacher.
On the day, Haring and a colleague set up in the town square and used a bolt gun to dispatch two pigs in front of the gathered crowd before dressing the carcase and cutting it up in a live butchery demonstration. Doing this meant people were able to really see the different parts of the animal and where each cut comes from, which was one of the educational aspects to the event.
In the UK this event would likely be received in a similar way, as we can see from the reactions to the Halloween display in a Hull shop. Frank Pullan Butchers displayed pumpkins adorned with pigs ears and a pigs head with a cleaver embedded in it as part of their decorations, a move which divided local residents. Some found it amusing and a clever way of bringing Halloween to the shop, while others saw it as distasteful and disrespectful. Perhaps the distance between the farm and the plate has created a society of consumers who prefer not to be confronted with this reality, and perhaps the cleaver was one step too far, but we can see for sure that the concept of animal slaughter sits uneasily even with meat eaters. Rolf Haring is brave to bring this reality back to the public and in time it may not be seen as such a controversial move.