Omnivorous Complications & Oversimplified Thinking
Along with the rising interest in where our food comes from and how it’s grown, many people are educating themselves about how farm animals are treated. For the most part, I’d say it’s a good thing. Many of our food animals are raised in absolutely unacceptable conditions.
However one consequence of this raised-consciousness is a lot of all-or-nothing, non-sensical thinking. Unfortunately, it’s easy to have black and white opinions when your experience is strictly philosophical.
Now, I’ve had my own misgivings about our omnivorous nature. One of my first jobs was in the kitchen at McDonald’s, and it wasn’t long before I was off meat, doing rock-paper-sizzors with the other vegetarians to be able to work the bun station instead of the grill. Something about regularly coming home smelling like a Big Mac makes one question their meat-eating habits. I figured I’d had a hand in killing enough cows during my tenure at the grill station and didn’t eat any pork or beef for six years.
Since then I’ve returned to eating meat, and we have raised our own fowl for sometime. The first time I came home to find one of my chickens in the crockpot, I cried. I married a man who grew up hunting, and that combined with my experience raising my own protein (although I admit I’m still too squeamish to do the deed – I’ll get there) has changed my attitude towards meat in general, and I can now truly understand how complicated the issue is.
When Good Intentions Go Wrong : Why abolitionists and farm animal sanctuaries miss the point
Lots of folks look at the horror of industrial animal production and believe the answer is to not eat meat altogether. This is completely understandable and natural. I have a deep respect for people who choose to abstain from meat and animal products. However, the abolitionist vegan point of view is underpinned by a major misunderstanding of sustainable farming, and the nature of farm animals in general.
If we want to get rid of all the harmful trappings of industrial agriculture, farm animals, FOOD animals, are an essential component of a small-scale, sustainable, deep-organic, ecologically sane food system. A small, essentially closed-loop farm like we aspire to be, requires an on farm source of soil-nutrition. Animals serve this purpose with simplicity, elegance and grace. This is how nature functions, and how our farms should, too.
Our animals not only provide us with essential manure and nutrients for the soil, they turn the soil, break pest cycles, harvest sun energy via the pastures, store that energy in their bodies, provide supplemental protein like eggs, renovate our pastures, manage potentially invasive weeds, turn our waste products into food and beautiful manure.
Our animals are here BECAUSE WE EAT THEM. The heritage breeds of chickens we raise have been bred for over 100 years to elegantly meet the needs of farmers just like us. If we didn’t eat them, they wouldn’t exist. Putting them away on a farm animal sanctuary robs them of their purpose and turns what could be a productive, purposeful life into one of consumption only.
My chickens live a good life. They are loved and well-fed. They are allowed to express their chicken-ness, breathe fresh air, eat green grass, preen, scratch for bugs, take dust baths, enjoy the companionship of other chickens, sleep in the sun. When it comes time for them to grace our table, we will enjoy them having a full-understanding and deep respect for the life that was given in order to sustain ours.
Death is an Essential Part of Life
We are all meant to live and die. Even I will be lunch one day. My body will feed the worms and the soil I will have lovingly tended all my life. We can see death as cruel and grotesque or as perfectly elegant and unwasteful. I prefer the later.
This simple truth of life – that everyone dies so that someone else may live, is a difficult one for us to face in modern society, and by our not facing it, we have convinced ourself that it is not true. This basic misconception about the nature of life can only have a negative impact on both our own lives and the quality of life of those around us. We must come to terms with it before we will learn to truly respect and honour life as a whole.
A word from Joel Salatin on Compassion in Farming
Joel Salatin is one of our guiding-inspirations here at the farm. We have been fortunate enough to meet Joel on a couple of occasions and even lucked out and got to eat dinner with him at one conference.
If you have watched Joel on YouTube, I can tell you he is exactly like that in person. Some who aren’t so ah – evangelical? about their farming practices might find him over the top (and he kind of is) but if you are passionate about food and farming, you will find him one of the most uplifting, inspiring people you will ever meet. He has a can-do attitude and doesn’t mince his words. You know where you stand when you’re talking to Joel.