Once weekly slaughter day at Slagerij Vandewalle, the only butcher shop in the Flemish part of Belgium that slaughters its own cows, sheep, and pigs. They raise their own sheep and work with farmers who raise cattle and pigs to their specifications. The Vande Walle family has been in the meat business since at least 1777 when the town records show a butcher named Pieter Vande Walle getting married. They have had the town’s butcher shop since 1856, and current owner Ruben Vande Walle says it would be virtually impossible for a newcomer to get in this business with all the permits required.
On an average slaughter day, they process 5-6 cows, 15 sheep, 20-25 pigs, which two men do. The cows and sheep are killed instantaneously by a pneumatic shot to the head, and the pigs are electrocuted with pinchers. I witnessed no stress on the animals, and they appeared to have no sense that they were about to be killed. Ruben sells his meat for about 15% - 20% more than supermarkets and has to have a government inspector on site on slaughter days. Butchers in this photo: Barnard Bourgois 67 yo, started working in abattoirs at 15, now 24 years in at Vande Walle. He shares the work wordlessly with Pieter Vervaecke, 35yo.
- ©2023 George Steinmetz
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