Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Old MacDonald Had A Farm …

E I E I O …

I passed a good deal of my childhood on my grandfather’s Midwestern hobby farms. He had the usual assortment of critters: horses, cows, pigs, geese, ducks, chickens, and sheep. Snakes, turtles, deer, quail, and pheasants populated the woodlands and fields surrounding the farm. There was always something to see and do, and I had a million questions. My grandfather eagerly schooled me in the ways of nature and I hung on every word.

After a typical idyllic afternoon on the farm, my grandfather and I drove his Scout back home where he would prepare our main course for dinner: steak. While he grilled outside, the very young me sat down to write nearby.

“What are you working on?” he asked.

“I’m writing to Congress and the President.”

He chuckled. “What for?”

I explained that I’d read something in my Ranger Rick magazine about people killing cows for food. I was furious at grown-ups for their callousness and I intended to stop them through legislation. My grandfather stepped away from his grill.

Poor man. Some adults dread having the sex talk with children; others the drugs talk. In my family, it would be any kind of discussion with me that involved the demise of animals.

That’s when I learned that the juicy steaks I’d looked forward to eating had once roamed the farm with the bovine herd I loved. I had no idea.

I put down my pen. I could no longer complain about slaughterhouses since I was as much a murderer. I stepped down from my soapbox.

This moment in my history surfaced because it’s National Farm Animals Awareness Week. Unlike National Chicken Month, this celebration originated with the Humane Society of the United States and promotes the animals themselves rather than the consumption of them.

I’m honoring the occasion by reading The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them by Wayne Pacelle. He’s the HSUS President and explains some of the legislation his organization has been working on to change agribusiness. I’ll no doubt reference this book in future posts. For now, I’d prefer to share a short anecdote about the emotions of cows:

“[Rosamund Young] has absolutely no doubt that cows feel all the major emotions that humans do. … “How about surprise?” I asked, remembering that some philosophers claim that animals cannot feel surprise because they cannot anticipate the future. “Well,” she said, “how about this? My Welsh black cow had six black calves, and then one day she produced a pure white calf (she had been mated with a Charolais bull). She came round to our door and stared at us with a look that was easy to read: ‘Are you sure it’s mine?’”
The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

[Pics of calves from the Farm Sanctuary.]

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