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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sacrificial Cows



Last week I discovered that I was going to have to write a vivid scene centering on the sacrifice of a bull.

Now, I'm all for writers writing what they know, but I'm a vegetarian who's never stepped foot on a real farm. Or a slaughterhouse (although I used to live near one). Meat is something my husband buys in nice, clean, cellophaned packages.

Hmmm...

So first I sketched out the scene, realizing that I needed to know more about cow anatomy to make sure I was being accurate. Do cows have carotid arteries that gush like humans? (Also not something I've seen in real life, thank goodness.) Do they struggle after their throats are cut? How long does it take them to bleed out? And how in the heck do you restrain a bull before you kill it?

All questions I never knew I needed to answer.

So I went to ask my biology/anatomy teacher-friend. She answered the basics (yes, cows have carotid arteries, in case you're wondering) and said she'd talk to someone who had worked with cows for a graduate study.

Then I decided to google cow sacrifices to see what I could find. And what did I find?

YOUTUBE!

It was like winning the jackpot in Vegas! Okay, not really, but whatever. Do you have any idea how many cow sacrifice cell phone videos are on YouTube? Take my word for it- a lot. And I watched plenty of them, mostly from Pakistan and Ghana. It definitely gives me an appreciation for the rows of meat at the grocery store. And I'm quite happy that I didn't have to actually go sacrifice any cows to do my research.


Have you had to do any crazy internet research for your writing? Anything really out there? (I dare you to beat cow sacrifices.)

31 comments:

Amalia T. said...

Haha! Okay, maybe I shouldn't laugh at Cow Sacrifice. I actually used the Iliad as source information on sacrifices in Helen. I figure Homer probably can be relied on for that much, since the Iliad preserved traditions and beliefs for the Greeks. I can't think of anything really absurd that I've had to research though!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Amalia- I'm all about primary sources. Not that Homer was actually at Troy, but still. I've got shelves of books on Egypt that are invaluable, but none of them detailed a cow sacrifice. :)

Bane of Anubis said...

Aztec sacrifices -- auto-sacrifices -- though no youtube clips.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Bane- Okay, fine. The Aztec sacrifices beat cow sacrifices. I think it would go against YouTube's code of ethics to post someone ripping another human's beating heart out. Leave it to you to beat me!

Bane of Anubis said...

I strive to excel :) -- seriously, though, the Aztecs were some wicked crazy folks.

Al said...

Ummm the methods used by SS death squads to execute their victims.
Some of those guys literally despatched thousands of people each. The favoured method was a single bullet to the back of the neck.
Thank goodness the available film is old, grainy and black and white. Shudder.

J. L. Jackson said...

I'll be researching the same thing here shortly as well. I am afraid what it will look like on You Tube.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Cows most definitely have carotids. And, depending on whether or not you want to kill it, or just ingest the blood without permanent damage to the animal, you can actually puncture it without lasting harm and it will spurt. (Yes, some people drink cow blood on a regular basis.)

Slaughterhouse cow-killing isn't much like ritualistic cow-killing. It's usually done with a high-voltage stungun-type gizmo or a piston rod to the head. It's messy and imprecise, but hey... no lead in the food like pesky bullets might leave. (Yes, that's sarcasm.)

Unlike ritual sacrifice, most industrial slaughterhouses don't like dealing with bulls. Too many males in that close a space around females makes for some nasty territorial issues and becomes a danger to the workers. They will, of course, kill a bull sent for slaughter, but most of them are steers.

(And speaking of ripping out beating hearts... there are places in this world where someone's "final exam" for certain regional martial arts mastery involves going on one one with a live bull the man is supposed to divest of its heart.)

Aubrie said...

You tube can be a great tool for research! I'm a vegetarian as well. I've been one all my life because both of my parents are vegetarians. :)

Disgruntled Bear said...

Love your blog! I just nominated you for a beautiful blogger award on mine. Take care!

Gary Corby said...

Well I'm still living down my post on how to kill someone by anal impalement. To this day "anal impalement" is the most common google search to my blog.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My novels always involve tons of research. But since I loooove doing research, that's fine with me.

You're a lot braver than me, searching for answers about cow sacrifices. But then again, if you weren't a vegetarian before, you would be one now. ;)

Great post!

Libbie H. said...

I haven't researched anything that could beat cow sacrifice. That's pretty awesome (in terms of out-there research, that is.) Gary wins for anal impalement, though. Wow.

One of these days, preferably after I've got a backlist of several books in print, I'm going to write a novel about Harry Houdini. It has to wait until I've established my career because it's going to be LONG. I continue to research all kinds of insane things for that one, including how one might safely hide lock pics *ahem* IN ONE'S PERSON around the turn of the last century.

At some point down the line, I plan on writing a novel about Caligula. That ought to provide endless hours of entertaining research.

Bethany Mattingly said...

I don't have anything as interesting as cow sacrifices, but the middle ages texts I need for research are often so dry and complicated to comprehend that it seems like I'll never get through them without drying out my own thoughts.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Ha ha ha. You win, Stephanie! I've never had to research anything weird yet. You never know, though. :-)

L. T. Host said...

*Cringe*-- even for the greater good, I couldn't watch that. You have way steelier guts than I, Supreme Dictatress. :)

The silliest research I've done so far has to be on amoebas. I'll leave it at that, but that was kind of crazy.

Susan R. Mills said...

That is great! Who would have thought you could find cow sacrifices on Youtube?

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I can't beat cow sacrifices and I find the thought that there are examples on Youtube somewhat shudder-inducing. That said, I'm pleased you found the information you needed. Good for you for doing the research. I worry about how many searches I do finding out about untraceable poisons. It can't look good.

L.T. Elliot said...

I think I'll take your word for it on this one. I prefer to think that my hamburger comes from a magic fairy.

Cynthia Reese said...

Nope, can't top cow sacrifices. I'm reminded of a neighbor who had a particularly handsome cow. I asked her what the cow's name was, and she said, "T-Bone."

"Really?" I asked.

"Yeah, we name all our cows what they're going to end up as."

Sorry, but I just couldn't eat anything I NAMED.

roxy said...

You are so funny, Stephanie. I don't think I've ever researched anything as dramatic as cow sacrifice. You go girl. I need to increase the excitement level in my story lines because relationship books look dull now.

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

You might enjoy reading Julie Powell's book Cleaving. There are a lot of scenes about cows and cutting them up - good imagery.

Jenna Wallace said...

Nope, no research to rival bovine dispatchment (all of my research was staid stuff on Regency housekeeping and Royal Acadmey painting). One of my WIPs is set on a cruise and I am trying to convince my husband that it would be research to go on one ourselves. I'll take that over killing a cow.

Lorel Clayton said...

YouTube can be so helpful--and so creepy.

Thank goodness there's no smell-o-vision yet!

Jackee said...

Whatever did writers do for research before the internet???

I'm doing a lot of research on Hitler right now and am slightly afraid I'll get labeled as a Neo-Nazi. I've even scared a few goodreads friends with my book choices. But I don't think that even comes close to topping cow sacrifices! :o)

Natalie said...

Wow Stephanie, that is dedication to the craft. I'm not sure anything could induce me to watch YouTube cow sacrifice videos! I did do a little research on steel mill accidents though--that was kind of gross.

Elana Johnson said...

Wow. All I can say is wow. I don't do a lot of research, but I have a funny story about a friend. I won't share it here, but it's hilarious!

Lola Sharp said...

Oh, I'm in research hell right now. legalese and privacy act laws. Ewww. I wish I could YouTube my research.
I think I would prefer cow sacrifices.
BUT, your cow sacrifices are way more unique than mine. And you win in the gross dept.
Who knew there'd be lots of vid on cow sacrifices??

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I have an award for you on my blog. I wasn't sure when you were posting next, so I figured I'd tell you today. :)

Voidwalker said...

I'm planning on setting up a tour for a cryogenic center here in AZ, where they freeze heads/brains of people. The hope is that one day they'll have the technology to revive them. Maybe I'll get to see a frozen guy, maybe not... it's still pretty creepy, but I need it for my novel "Cold Memories."

P.S. If you want more information about cow/animal sacrificing, you could definitely look into the Christian section of the bookstore for temple life of Jerusalem. They'll likely have hordes of information on the specifics of how sacrifices were to take place. The Bible is pretty detailed too.

VR Barkowski said...

You've got me beat with the cow, Stephanie, but I have used YouTube.

With my last book I had to research the Ordo Templi Orientis, and I really wasn't up to attending a Gnostic Mass by myself in a very dangerous part of town. I was able to get a sense of the ritual by watching a couple of vids on YouTube. Also the horrific murder which is at the heart of the book was based on a real German crime. The news footage was on YouTube. It was horrific even in German (which I don't speak). I was grateful I couldn't understand what they were saying - the images were bad enough.