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Squeamish About Slaughter

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Everyone loves chicken nuggets, but no one wants to know how they're made.
Most citizens, in most places of the world, are used to purchasing meat products neatly packaged by a vendor. They enjoy these products with little thought that they were once a living animal.

When these folks are faced with the gruesome reality of how a farm animal is converted into their meal, they will be disturbed or disgusted. If they are given the opportunity to witness it happen, they will be thoroughly traumatized. And if they are given the responsibility to perform the deed themselves, they will make an effort to shirk their assignment. The choice of converting to vegetarianism, if they haven't already, will definitely be considered.

There are a multitude of ways a character can find themselves in this situation. Common examples include visiting a relative's old-style farm, or students learning about nutrition and the food chain. A gag that shows up on occasion is when a Cloudcuckoolander tries to slaughter an animal in a blatantly inappropriate venue or public space, such as a family party.

If kids are around, you can expect them to bond with the animal and refuse to part with it as it has become their pet. This can result in Adopt the Food.

In most cases, the actual killing of the animal is avoided, (or at least not shown) as this is typically a comedy or drama trope used in works that aren't dark enough to portray the actual slaying of an animal.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Silver Spoon: One of the realities that Yugo Hachiken has to accept when he decides to enroll in an agricultural-vocational high school is that the animals used for the practicums are sometimes slaughtered for meat. The first time he encounters this is when a third-year student nonchalantly beheads a chicken right in front of him in order to make smoked chicken as thanks for Hachiken and a couple of his friends helping him catch the chickens that got loose. Then Hachiken gets quickly attached to a runt pig he names Butadon despite knowing that he's destined for the slaughterhouse once he's three months old. The first sign that he's accepting this reality is when he's staying with Aki's family during summer break and her grandfather accidentally kills a deer while driving his truck. When he decides to take advantage of the situation for free meat, he offers Hachiken the chance to butcher it while being guided through the process; after a few minutes of hesitation and blindfolding the dead deer, he decides to do so. Another sign that he accepts this reality is when he decides to buy the meat that Butadon will be turned into.

    Comic Books 
  • In Archie Comics, Mr. Weatherbee wins a turkey for a Christmas dinner in a contest. He's surprised to learn that the turkey is alive, and named "Julius". The students joke that Mr. Weatherbee is too soft-hearted to kill Julius, Veronica even offering to hire a professional to do it, but Weatherbee insists that he can handle it, even pointing out that he grew up on a farm. When Christmas Day rolls around, Betty and Veronica peek into Weatherbee's window and, sure enough, a very much alive Julius is sitting at the table, lovingly nuzzling Weatherbee as he eats his Christmas dinner of hamburgers.
  • Bone; early in volume 3, Gran'ma Ben tasks Fone and Phoney with rounding up some chickens for dinner, which includes chopping off their heads and soaking them in warm water to remove their feathers. The two are already wavering at this before Gran'ma Ben tells them to just Neck Snap the chickens before going at them with the hatchet, after which they faint dead away. Gran'ma Ben goes off to do it herself while grumbling about "city boys".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Subverted in A Perfect Getaway. Cydney and Cliff appear to be unnerved by Nick and Gina nonchalantly butchering a goat Nick hunted. However, it is soon revealed that Cliff and Cyd are a pair of Serial Killers who have done MUCH worse things to other humans.
  • In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, one of the secrets locked in Area 51 that the public is not ready to see is a tape entitled, "How Sausage Is Made".
  • In Rush Hour 2, Carter is asking for directions on the streets of Hong Kong. He tries to ask a woman running a butcher stall but due to the language barrier she thinks he's asking about buying a chicken. When Carter tries to say no, she offers to butcher the bird for him. He has to take her cleaver away and buy the chicken just to stop her.

  • The Animorphs series examines this trope from an unusual angle, as it involves a group of human kids who have the power to transform into various kinds of animals. When the team morphs into cows to infiltrate a slaughterhouse in book 28, Ax meditates at length on the horrors they witness firsthand. In the end, though, everyone still goes out for burgers, because hey, meat tastes awesome! The book in question was actually ghostwritten by a vegan author, who intended to end it with the human characters becoming vegans. K. A. Applegate disapproved of this, and, declaring herself to be Armed with Canon, wrote in the aforementioned ending with the cast eating burgers.
  • In the James Herriot book It Shouldn't Happen To A Vet, a truck driver regularly rears a pig in his garden for family consumption. Unfortunately, he tends to form an emotional bond with the pig and ends up crying for three days straight when the time comes to kill it. At one point, a visitor observes Kit sobbing his eyes out while his wife and daughter busily chopping the animal up.
  • In Monica Furlong's book Juniper, the titular character is tasked with killing the pig she and her teacher Euny had been raising for food, and to whom Juniper had become attached. Despite many protests, Juniper eventually complies with the order... and botches the kill strike, causing what is by far the story's bloodiest, most violent scene.
  • In Rachel Flynn's Koala Hills series, a gentle schoolteacher inadvertently traumatizes her students when she tells them the story of her first pet. She grew up on a farm, you see, and there were always a few orphaned lambs that needed to be bottle-fed to survive. When they matured- well, there is a reason her family invariably named them all "Lamb Chop".
    "Now, don't be like that, Kirsty. Where did you think meat came from?"
  • Downplayed in the first Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard book, when the titular character, Sam, and Hearthstone have to help Thor slaughter his two goats that resurrect every day as long as the bones aren’t broken and put back in their pelts by the next sunrise in order for them all to have a meal. Magnus finds the whole process pretty gross, but the great smell of the sizzling goat meat and his extreme hunger quickly helps him get over it.
  • In The Stand, Mother Abigail needs to feed a large group of survivors and asks two of the men to take her to a neighboring farm that has a fattened pig. They help her butcher it but end up too squeamish to eat dinner.
  • The Devil's Dictionary: His definition of Carnivorous suggests that Bierce might feel this way (not surprising if so, as he'd been in some of the bloodiest Civil War battles, and is widely thought to have suffered PTSD as a result).
    Carnivorous, adj. Addicted to the cruelty of devouring the timorous vegetarian, his heirs and assigns.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm is a Reincarnate in Another World story in which a bookworm from modern-day Japan dies and regains awareness as the five year old daughter of a poor family in a Medieval European Fantasy. This happens in late autumn, when the family is in the middle of stocking up on meat for the winter. This results in the protagonist being brought along to places where animals are being slaughtered and butchered in plain sight for the first time and responding with Faint in Shock. She gets used to it to an extent later on.
  • The protagonist of Silence of the Lambs and its film adaptation was traumatized as a child when she was staying on a farm and heard screaming one night, which turned out to the the sound of lambs being slaughtered, and she tried to rescue the lambs by setting them free.

    Live-Action TV 
  • During the Parks department's annual BBQ in Parks and Recreation, Ron decides to slaughter and cook a live pig in the middle of the public park where the event is being held, to the dismay of the attendees, passersby, and everyone else involved. He doesn't get to slaughter it there, though, because a passing policeman tells him it would violate a number of health codes.
  • When the butcher of the Greens & Grains wins two live cows in a poker game in Ten Items Or Less, the employees are aghast at the manager's plan to hold a promotional slaughter in the store. He proceeds with the plan nonetheless, which involves sleeping with an inspector from the US Department of Agriculture to obtain the permits necessary to legally turn the animals into food.
  • In The Golden Girls, a chicken Rose is petsitting goes missing at the same time that Sophia's sister Angela is visiting. When Angela lets slip that the chicken she cooked for dinner is from "the garage" where Rose kept the chicken, the girls are disgusted at the thought of eating someone's beloved pet. It turns out the chicken had escaped from its cage, and Angela was referring to the freezer in the garage.
  • When the group visits Cindy's relatives' farm in Three's Company, Mr. Furley is tasked with killing a chicken for their dinner. He isn't able to work up the courage to do it and encourages the mostly flightless bird to fly away to freedom.
  • Schitt's Creek: David and Patrick are offered a deep discount at a posh wedding venue, but as they are about to leave, they hear a horrible sound coming from the nearby farm. The manager explains that the farm processes their pork on that day of the month, which is why it is discounted for weddings. David, Patrick, Stevie and Alexis are apalled, and David rejects the venue. Later, Patrick refuses pork at dinner and even the food-obsessed David says he'll have to have some later.
  • In Taxi, the male cabbies go camping in the mountains and end up starving and snowbound. By luck, a wild turkey wanders into their cabin. The cabbies decide that they should give thanks for their good fortune and Reverend Jim winds into a stirring eulogy for the soon-to-be-deceased bird, whom he names "Tom". By the end, the cabbies are all crying so much that they let it go.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Boyle has bought a live Thanksgiving Turkey which he is going to slaughter in the apartment bathtub, then cook for Thanksgiving dinner. Half the guests are vehemently opposed to this, and Boyle points out the hypocrisy, but Gina at least is fully aware of it.
    Boyle: How is this any different than eating a turkey that's been killed in a factory?
    Gina: Because I don't have to see that. It's called "living in denial", you moron.
    • Gina goes so far as to name the turkey Nikolaj (the name of Boyle's son) in an effort to put him off the idea too.
    Santiago: The apartment will run red with the blood of Nikolaj!
    Boyle: Please stop calling him that.
  • In Our Flag Means Death, there's a flashback to Stede's childhood, where his father tries to make him more manly by slaughtering a rabbit in front of him with the blood spraying onto Stede's face. Shockingly, this only makes him more squeamish about blood and death, and it takes him most of the first season to get used to the violence of his new pirate lifestyle.

  • This is lampshaded by a quote in Mencius:
    So is the superior man affected towards animals, that, having seen them alive, he cannot bear to see them die; having heard their dying cries, he cannot bear to eat their flesh. Therefore he keeps away from his slaughter-house and cook-room.
    Mencius: Liang Hui Wang I

    Video Games 
  • Yakuza 0: Kiryu wins a contest at the local bowling alley. The advertised prize was a turkey dinner, but the bowling alley ordered a live chicken by mistake. The bowling alley attendant, who grew up on a poultry farm, offers to slaughter and cook the chicken as an apology. Instead, Kiryu adopts the chicken, names it "Nugget", and makes it a manager at his real estate office.
  • The RuneScape quest "Bringing Home the Bacon" centers around a farmer's discovery of pigs as an edible food source. The player character is quite uncomfortable with the idea of slaughtering pigs for food.
  • Return Of The Obra Dinn: During "A Bitter Cold", one crew member throws up as a cow is slaughtered on the orlop deck. The others involved seem quite amused by this ("Never been on a farm, Charlie?").

    Western Animation