Monday, December 14, 2009

A Quiet Barn

Well, the barn is silent. The grain bins are empty. The lights are off, the hay chaff is swept up, and the stall and henhouse floors are scraped clean.

There are no farm animals at The F.A.R.M.

This is the first winter since 2000 that we won’t be slogging through snow to the barn, lugging buckets of water or toting sacks of feed. This is the first time that we haven’t had some type of farm animal needing our attentions and keeping us close to home. At one time or another, we’ve had goats, chickens, turkeys, pigs and steers.

But not anymore!

The Buff Orpington laying hens and their two escorts have moved to the home of a kindly neighbor. She’d heard they were destined for the chopping block and quietly asked to rescue them from their fate. What can you say to that?

You can say, ‘Certainly, Marilyn. Of course you can rescue our flock.’ Danged things probably would have been tough, anyway!

And the steers got sent down the road on Thursday. Willie and Blue, two Holsteins with a penchant for tossing me into the pucker-brush with their horns—albeit, lovingly—will be coming back home to The F.A.R.M. on Saturday.

Minus the horns.

Farming is a hard row to hoe. I love animals. We eat meat. Those two precepts seem to be in conflict with each other. How can a woman who loves animals then turn around and kill them? Even worse, how can she EAT them? How inhumane! How dastardly!

Yup. I agree. That’s how it seems. And yet…

How many of us think about the actual, living animal when we pick up a package of hamburger from the grocery store cooler? How many of us pause to imagine the chicken whose breasts we are about to bake? Or the pig who provided the bacon that is sizzling in the pan?

If I was to hazard a guess, I would say, ‘Very few.’

However, I am NOT guessing when I tell you that most of the meat we buy in the supermarket comes from farm animals which were raised in less than comfortable conditions. Very few of them enjoyed their lives. Many never ran across a field or a barn yard, few had the opportunity to cock-a-doodle-do from a tree branch, or roll in soft grass warmed by the sun. Hardly any of them got their daily jollies by chasing down a country girl and flicking her aside with devilish glee. Some never felt the touch of a gentle hand, never had their backs scratched or their feathers smoothed or their tummies rubbed.

We give our farm animals a good life. While they are enjoying our Fresh Air and Room to Move, they are happy. Happy enough to cavort and play.

And as we are treating them with fondness and good humor, we are also trying not to become attached to them. Because we are humane humans, and it takes a little piece out of us each time we kill an animal, or send it away to be killed. We don’t like doing this. But we DO care about how an animal is treated. We DO care about giving them a good life. We also care about what goes into our bodies, and we know that our animals have not been fed growth hormones or an excess of chemical additives.

We aren’t vegetarians. Perhaps, some day, we will be. But until that day arrives, we are trying to do the responsible thing. The RIGHT thing. We are raising, loving, and then slaughtering the animals that feed this family.

At the very least, I am caring about the animals’ quality of life while they are on this earth. I won’t apologize.

But I will feel guilty, and I will feel sad.

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