Sheep to Mutton

When we started our drive down the west coast of Greece, one of the first things I noticed was that there were sheep everywhere. Right beside the road, near the beach, anywhere and everywhere.

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Near Kardamyli we learned that there was no campsite, but that campers were allowed to park in the olive orchards. There were no facilities, but camping was free.

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Ours is the burgundy van in the background.

It was not unusual to see flocks of sheep being herded through the olive orchards on their way to the nearby beach to cool off.

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Each morning the owner of the land we were camping on passed through the orchard saying, “Kali mera,” (good morning) to everyone. We never knew his name so we referred to him as Mr. Kali Mera.

One day we were driving along the dirt road from the orchards to town, when we came upon Mr. Kali Mera walking to town, pushing a wheelbarrow in the heat. He had a heavy load in the wheelbarrow — a sheep with its legs tied together.

We slowed down and exchanged kali meras, and somehow we conveyed to him that we would give him and the sheep a lift in the van. He was happy to accept, but since we couldn’t fit the wheelbarrow in the van, he left it by the roadside. Mr. Kali Mera put the sheep on the floor while he sat on the bed.

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We drove slowly on the bumpy road glancing back now and then to check if Mr. Kali Mera was still in the van, as we were driving with the door open. More than once, we noticed him reaching down to pick something up and throw it out the door. You can guess what it was. I don’t think I need to spell it out.

We dropped Mr. Kali Mera off at the restaurant that he indicated, and continued on with our shopping in town.

Later that evening, we had come back into town for supper as we often did. Supper hour was always late in the evening when the heat had abated somewhat. We sat outside at one of several rustic tables in the open backyard of the restaurant, a string of light bulbs stretched from one side to the other overhead. Our table was near the back entrance of the building. A curtain hung in the doorway, so the patrons couldn’t look into the kitchen and back rooms.

At this point in my blog post, we have to go to a commercial break. I’ve deleted my original script from this point on as too graphic and upsetting, so I have to find another way to let you know that the sheep was killed right there behind the curtain. I was really shaken up. My supper remained on my plate. It was a rude awakening for me to be so close to how it works in the real world.

I hesitated about whether to post this account, but then I thought, why not. It’s how the world works. Not everything in it is pretty. Generally I try to post happy things, and I will from now on, but this is just the way it was. One of those hiccups in life. I apologize if I’ve upset anyone. My next post will be back to the usual kind of travel prattle and other things that might pop into my head.

28 thoughts on “Sheep to Mutton

  1. It has gotten so easy to think that meat for consumption is created on little plastic plates wrapped in cellophane behind a meat counter in a grocery store. Most folks really don’t want to think much beyond that, do they. Maybe that’s why wolves, and hunters, are not all that popular.

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  2. If people think meat or mutton just appears in the butcher shop.. bad news this does happen, more often than we would like to imagine… for us to eat something must die, such is life… but I do agree I don’t want to see it happen in the kitchen where I’m eating.. and maybe that is why I do not frequent places where they sell cray fish… being dunked alive direct into boiling water… no thanks.. have never eaten it and never will…

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    • I like to think I’m pretty sensible and down-to-earth, not in denial about where my food comes from, but like you and most other people, I don’t feel a need to experience it up close. It’s necessary and natural since thousands of years in the history of the development of mankind, but I don’t want it in my face, especially when I’m eating. I feel the same as you do about crayfish or crab and lobster. I don’t like to hear their claws scratching on the inside of the pot.

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    • They won’t be brutal from now on. My original post was better – more descriptive – but nobody really wants or needs to hear it in great detail. We’ll soon be leaving Greece. Just a couple more posts and we’re on to the next place.

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  3. that’s life. I often saw this during my stay in Libya for three years. It’s just usual. And when we want to eat meat – we first have to kill. I think ist’s just the way how people kill – but does it make us feel better?

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    • Thanks, Bente. Sheep and goats are very resourceful when it comes to finding food. They can live in harsh conditions. What amazed me was how they could tolerate the heat with their wool coats on. I think this is why they were taken to the ocean for a swim.

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  4. Its funny how we meat eaters have no problem eating meat until we witness an animal being killed to be eaten. You are right, that’s how the world works and it’s not against God or the law. Still, I understand why you couldn’t eat after.

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  5. I am glad that I didn´t have to witness this. That’s how mankind is – as long as we don´t see- or hear it it’s fine with us.
    I still eat meat and have quit thinking about the stories behind this “piece of meat.” But thanks for sharing this little story and the pics!

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  6. That was a very baaaa-d image you left behind for me. I can understand how upsetting that must have been. To make matters worse, to have given “Mr. Kali-mera” a ride to let him have his sheep slaughtered. I would feel sick for days. It is very unfortunate that the restaurant chose to kill that poor animal right there. How disturbing for all the patrons.

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    • As you can tell from this post from so many years ago, it’s not something I’ll ever forget. I guess it was just business as usual for the Greeks, but for us touristy wimps it was traumatic. Obviously they were waiting for the heat of the day to dissipate and they would have a fair bit of work ahead of them through the evening. The curtain blocked the view but not the sound. Other than that, I guess they thought no one would see or be upset. Whoah! Real life can be a shocker sometimes. And yes, I felt like an accomplice.

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  7. You are kinda squeamish, eh? I grew up on a farm, watched my mother butcher and pluck chickens, watched my father shoot the pig and then kept the flies off the carcass (suspended from the eaves of the barn) with a leafy branch while my father nad the neighbour helping him went in for lunch. I was about 5 years old at the time.

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  8. Oh Lord! I must say, I was shocked, but not upset. I figured when you said the sheep’s legs were tied that it wasn’t good for that sheep. However, I didn’t imagine it was going to happen right in front of you (or even behind a curtain). No need to apologize (to me anyway). As difficult as it is, this was the truth of your experience. Sometimes the truth just isn’t pretty. I don’t know how I would’ve recovered from that myself.

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    • I’m not crazy about mutton, and I’ll grant you that red meat is probably not good for us, but way back when our ancestors lived in caves they killed and ate mammals. I haven’t been able to shake that craving for a steak yet, but I don’t eat as much red meat as I once did. I think if I had to kill it myself I’d pass on it. Having said all that, you’re probably healthier than I am.

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    • Yes, I think all that wool floats them very well, but they don’t go in far; just enough to cool them off. The olive orchards where we camped are very close to the beach and it get really hot nearly every day. I wouldn’t want to be a sheep and have to wear a wool coat in that climate.

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