The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

Feast of the Sacrifice

For the first time this holiday season, I killed dinner.

By Kai Nagata 25 Dec 2013 |

Kai Nagata is a contributing editor to The Tyee. Find his previous articles in The Tyee here.

Slaughtering turkeys, it turns out, can make you feel like a bit of a psychopath. That's because to do it well requires that the animal cooperate. So here I am, humming a reassuring ditty, cradling a shivering 35-pound feathered dinosaur like a baby. Walking past the plucking machine, I shield his eyes with my free hand. Then I roll the bird upside down and lower him head-first into a steel cone strapped to a pine tree.

I coax his head through the opening at the bottom and tell him to relax his neck. After a moment, he does. Then I open my knife and slash his throat. A fan of hot blood sprays up both my arms to the elbow as he kicks and thrashes against the cone. It pours out of him, bright red and bubbly, gurgles into a puddle at the base of the tree as I drop the knife and take hold of his scaly, shit-stained legs, saying aloud, "it's okay. It's okay, buddy. Let go. It's okay."

A month later, I'm walking quietly up a forest service road above Pemberton. The sun has just dipped behind the mountains, so I decide I'll go as far as the next switchback and then turn around for dinner. I'm not thinking about anything in particular when my feet stop on the gravel. Eyes scanning the bushes ahead, I recognize the silhouette of two ears, then the line of a deer's back. She's looking down the hill toward me, swivelling her ears.

Slowly, I reach across my body with my left hand and unshoulder my rifle. Sliding the safety catch forward with my thumb, I lift the scope to my eye. The doe steps forward. I squeeze the trigger. The shot is very, very loud. The deer crouches, then leaps forward, diving off the road and out of sight, crashing through the bushes. I hold that pose for 15 minutes, ears ringing, then load another bullet, pee on the ground, and dig out my headlamp.

Back on our friends' farm in the Okanagan, black storm clouds are swirling above the lake. The wind begins to lift the tarp we've stretched over the butchering station. Looking over at the fenced-in vegetable garden, I see beady eyes peering through holes the birds have pecked in the plastic sheet. Our hosts had put up a curtain, to spare the turkeys the sight of their siblings' naked bodies being gutted and tied in bags. Now it's too late. The ones left in the garden are agitated.

I rinse the blood off my hands with cold water from a garden hose, then sharpen my knife and go get another bird. My sister and I kill five, six, seven in a row, laying them on the grass, until the whole flock is dead. Each one dies differently. None of them want to go. One I cut too deeply and her head pops clean off, eyes blinking at me in panic as the body goes into convulsions. I kneel and hold my hands over her eyes, for her benefit or mine I'm not sure.

Red snow

On the road where I shot the deer, I walk up to the spot where she was standing. I look back. I realize it's only 30 yards to where I pulled the trigger. Sure enough, there's blood and hair on the bushes and snow. I kneel and pick up a spongy pink chunk of flesh. It's lung tissue, blown clear out of the body. I feel a wash of relief, knowing the shot landed where it should have.

Down the hill, I find a depression where she laid or fell. The snow is soaked with blood. A few yards further I find a streak of red, then slide marks, then suddenly the deer. Head back, eyes glowing, legs out, very warm. When I roll her over I hear a wet sucking sound, like an accordion full of blood. I slit open her belly, pull out the hot, greasy intestines, put the heart and liver in my pack, then drag the carcass back to camp on a rope. That night when I peel the skin off, the forensics confirm a clean shot through both lungs, the bullet punching baseball-sized holes through both sets of ribs and out the other side.

As we get ready for our family dinner this Christmas, I wonder which is better: to kill a domestic animal or a wild one for food? I don't know what that deer's life was like, but she got to roam the woods and I know her death was quick. Since then she's fed dozens of people, been worked into candles, hide, even a friend's regalia. The turkeys had a good life too: kept warm with heat lamps, protected from predators, fed every day from human hands. And when it came time to die, the same hands held the knife.

Either way, if you choose to eat meat, an animal's life must be sacrificed. This year I got to find out what it's like not to outsource the process. It's an experience I recommend. Merry Christmas.  [Tyee]

Read more: Food

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll