|Killing the Cow
June 2003 -- Hera
Just about every festival here -- from weddings to funerals -- involve killing, butchering, cooking, and eating a buffalo or two. After four days of commiserating, talking, drinking, planning, presenting gifts (see our presentation of Southern Comfort) to the consuelu de katuas -- goats, buffalo, cows, teis (locally woven sarongs), money -- the Hera folks were ready to finish their Kore Metan with a flourish. In the morning, with very little ceremony, several young men dragged one buffalo into the clearing in front of Mark's front door. Before I could even get my camera, they had killed the buffalo (picture 1). They turned him over, exposing all the blood -- it wasn't a very clean kill (pictures 2 and 3). Not a minute passed before they dragged a cow out and set him up for the same fate. There is very little concern shown for the comfort of the animal. The killing stroke may actually be several stabs with a sword into the back of the animal, and did produce some wailing from the cow before the sword found the heart. Furthermore, the animal's legs and horns are tied in such a fashion as to contort it's body, causing it to fall on it's face and exposing it's back to the sword-wielder.
When the cow and buffalo were in their final moments of life, a woman brought a basket with seeds and cloth inside, and placed this on the animals' foreheads. A young brave man tested to see if the animal was dead by poking it's eye. Every man around the cows, and particularly the woman with the small basket, showed much caution when approaching each animal until well after it was certain they were dead -- perhaps violent death kicks have found a soft target in the past.
Throughout the entire process, I was moved by how immediate, connected to people's lives the event was. Butchering a cow was not some isolated event, far away in a distant slaughterhouse. People young and old were witness to the event: here, people know where their food comes from.