Reuniting with Eric Shelley

At the end of the summer we took a lovely road trip to visit Eric Shelley at his farm in Cobleskill, New York.

Me Eric Duke Cow

We started our day with Eric (and son Duke in tow) taking us to see the cow & calf herd. We hadn’t seen these animals for over a year so it was amazing to see that the calves we met before are now full-grown cows nursing their own calves. It was quite the contrast to recently being at the Cornell University Dairy Barn where the cows are all in a barn without their calves. Of course the main distinction is that those were dairy cows at Cornell and Eric’s herd is raised for meat, not milk. Nonetheless, it is impossible to make a judgment about the animals’ collective happiness. They all seemed content to us.

Calf Nursing

While in the pasture with the cows, Eric introduced us to Audrey the cow! He sent us pictures of her last year and said that if it was a male they would call him David and if it was a female they would name her Audrey. So, Audrey got to meet Audrey and it was quite the honor!

Audrey Meets Audrey

We didn’t really hit it off at first since I was wearing perfume and she acted like I smelled repulsive and sneezed when she smelled my hand. Eric explained to us that scents like perfumes are unnatural and unpleasant to them and if I had more of a pasture/barn type of smell she would have not been as suspicious. Audrey and Audrey were able to stay on neutral terms and accept each other’s differences.

Closeup Audrey Cow

One thing that absolutely amazed us was how fearless Duke was around these majestic animals. At not much over four years old, he is as big as one of their heads and yet reached out to them as friends. But never without Daddy’s hand attached. Eric explained to us that as docile as they can appear, they are still prey animals with a “flight zone” and will react quickly to any perceived threat by collectively running to avoid that threat — not considering that one of us might be in the trajectory of their fleeing.

Duke with Cow

After visiting with the cow-calf herd and meeting Audrey, Eric took us to his barn to see the new additions to his animal family — pigs!  We loved watching Duke playing with the pigs like they were puppies! At such a young age Duke has been able to embrace the contradiction of loving and caring for what you know you will kill for your food.

Duke with Pigs

Eric’s older son, Beau, was also fascinating to watch as he interacted with the animals. He was only four in October of 2011 when he watched an on-farm slaughter of a lamb with us — his first experience of slaughter. He has grown so much in the past three years, yet he is affectionate as ever with all of the animals on the farm. It was really heart-warming to see him with one of his Aunt Cindi’s dairy goats.

Beau with Goat

One thing that we’ve always enjoyed about visiting Eric at his farm is the vast array of fresh meats and produce. It was a lovely end-of-summer day and we got to have lunch together with his family at a picnic table outside. Eric served us his famous recipe of chorizo along with freshly harvested vegetables and other homemade delights.

Me Cindy Beau Luch

At the end of the day we were able to sit with Eric and reflect on how far Farm and Red Moon has come over the past four years. We would not be where we are now with the film or been able to experience what we experienced about animal agriculture and slaughter had it not been for Eric’s generosity and willingness to educate us.

Me Eric Outside Interview

We are always honored to visit Eric’s farm as it is a place where animals are cared for with the highest standards of husbandry and stewardship. Yet it is bittersweet because we know these animals will die prematurely to be our food. But what is important – and what we have found in making this film – is that the animals should be treated as humanely as possible while alive, and to be killed as humanely as possible when slaughtered. Eric lives this and teaches this. And we can see this reflected in his sons.

Observing a Halal Slaughter in Oman

At a farm in Ghala, I watched a halal slaughter of a goat by a farmer and his son.

On the first day of January, 2013, I was honored to be invited to the beautiful farm of Mr. Hilal O. Al Siyabi, in Ghala, Oman. It is situated among gorgeous date trees.

Image (Audrey Kali witnesses halal on-farm slaughter)

It is also amazingly irrigated by the hot mineral springs of adjacent mountains. The water travels through irrigation channels throughout the farm.

Image (Audrey Kali witnesses halal on-farm slaughter)

Of course, I relished the opportunity to put my feet in the warm, flowing water!

Image (Audrey Kali witnesses halal on-farm slaughter)

It was truly an education to witness how this resource of water is managed in this arid country. Hilal eloquently explained how the water is dispersed and shared among the villagers.

Image (Audrey Kali witnesses halal on-farm slaughter)

Hilal was also kind enough to let me observe the halal slaughter of a goat on his farm. Mr. Nasser Issa Al Auofy and his son, Moosa Nasser Al Auofy, were patient as they explained each step of the halal process to me. As they spoke only Arabic, and I, only English, a family friend who was fluent in both languages was happy to translate for me. I was very impressed with how gently they handled this goat and proceeded with reverence. Here Nasser is showing me where he is going to cut the neck of the goat.

Image (Audrey Kali witnesses halal on-farm slaughter)

As is commanded in Islam, he sharpened the knife away from the eyes of the goat, and gave the goat water to drink. He put the goat on the ground in the direction of Mecca, and spoke the name of Allah. After the blood had drained out, he prayed while washing the blood from the neck. The prayer said that “we bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger.”

Image (Audrey Kali witnesses halal on-farm slaughter)

After the head was removed, Nasser hung the goat up and proceeded to peel off the skin.  Moosa worked on removing the horns from the head.

Image (Audrey Kali witnesses halal on-farm slaughter)

As most parts of the animal are eaten and it is important for all of the blood to be removed, Nasser showed me how he assured that all of the blood is removed from the lungs. He blew into them while making small cuts into them.

Image (Audrey Kali witnesses halal on-farm slaughter)

After the evisceration was complete, it was time to wash the goat with water.  In Isalm, the right hand is considered to be more blessed, so Nasser was sure to wash the carcass with water, only using his right hand. After this was complete, Nasser cut the goat into sections for cooking, and placed them in the green bowl.