A couple of weeks ago, I left a post on my Wellness Prepper’s Facebook page that is really the ‘middle’ of this story of mine. If you know me, you know that I am a lover of animals… I connect with them in ways that most people do not. That said, the evolution of my life (and my thought processes) will likely not make much sense without an explanation. Explanations can answer questions, open a can of worms, or do both. I don’t dread talking about this topic one on one, but writing to the masses who have no idea how much heart I put into caring for my animals is a scary thing indeed. So, that said, I ask you to read onward with a thoughtful mind.
I believe in doing the right thing and living my life transparently. I am what you see and strive to be the same person in all situations. There is no ‘work personality’, ‘farm personality’, ‘church personality’ etc. One of my strongest traits is that of a protector. If I see a wrong, I work towards making it right….. ESPECIALLY if I realize I may have inadvertantly been part of the problem thru lifestyle, ignorance, or social design. (This post is not about my ‘pharm’ life, but this trait has been the driving force behind my personal growth in holistic well care as kind of kismetic gift to those in my world who have struggled with health solutions because they were led to belive that only western medicine philosophy held the right answers).
Nope. This post is about my farm life, and all that it represents. We do a large amount of animal rescue, and have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars caring for those animals who otherwise would not be given a chance. We have foregone so much ‘free time’ that I can’t even imagine what it would be like NOT to have the beautiful responsibility of caring for all the unique lives God entrusted us. I cry (believe me, I CRY) every time we lose a life around here… my heart breaks. God patches it with His presence, and I move on. In farming, when an animal is involved, there is going to be death. Sometimes it is a natural death (common within our poultry flock…. we lose one every so often to natural causes), and sometimes it is a pre-ordained destiny. This is the case with the male offspring of our dairy cows.
Before you throw me under the bus (or tractor), please hear me out. I refuse to be an intentional hypocrit in my life, and strive to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. As a world, we cannot avoid meat products and byproducts. Unless you are the most concientious vegan on the planet, your daily life likely incorporates multiple beef byproducts in it:
- of course there is the obvious: meat, milk, and butter
- oleo (from fats) for margarine and shortening (NOT the same thing as butter)
- gelatin used in marshmellows, ice cream, chewing gum, and certain candies & food items
- leather….. but also the base product for felt and many other textiles
- the base ingredient for many ointments, lipsticks, face and hand creams
- the binder for asphalt, plaster, and certain types of insulation
- industrial lubricants and oils. Renderings are used in the production of chemicals, biodegradable detergents, pesticides, and flotation agents.
- buttons, piano keys, glues, fertilizer, and gelatin for photographic film, paper, wallpaper, sandpaper, and violin string.
- more than 100 medicines currently on the market, including bovine based insulin for diabetics.
So you see, some of these are daily use items we simply cannot avoid. Yes, I agree… there should be a vegan solution for all of them, and in some cases there are… but in many cases, there is not. I certainly respect those who live a vegan lifestyle, but the reality is….. nobody on this planet is fully vegan.
The second part of the equation is this…. if you are a carnivore, are you an educated one? Unless you are eating humanely raised meat, do you have any idea of the quality of life an animal leads from birth to death? For the vast majority, life is uncomfortable, unnatural, stressful, and without kindness. It is easier to block this from your mind, and so most people do. They prefer to pick up their packaged meat and blind themselves as to how it arrived at the store. Feedlot raised animals and Factory Farming are abhorrent practices that should be outlawed…. but they’re not.
I once was blind, but now I see.
I challenge you to click on the link above to learn the facts, and I believe you will understand the message I am trying to convey here. The vast majority of farm animals are treated as objects. Their lives have no value in the eyes of the beholder (unless you are talking about $/lb hanging weight). There is no appreciation for the life that is sacrificed so that the consumer can eat a hamburger or steak, and certainly not for the lesser things…. the glue, binder, ointments, etc.
This is NOT the case on our farm.
We can be part of the problem, and turn a blind eye, or we can be part of the solution, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. For in our discomfort, we are compassionate.
When a bull calf is born, we celebrate his healthy birth, but with a bit of sadness. One of the byproducts of our liquid gold (raw milk) sometimes is a bull calf. That bull calf will eventually be old enough, after living a well loved life, grazing without fear in our pasture, with no stress, plenty of space, and with a small herd. He will have plenty of natural forage to eat, fresh water to drink, and shelter from the elements. He will be able to enjoy the sunshine, and will play with his peers. Life will be good. Believe it or not, I begin praying for him and thanking God for his healthy birth, and for the sacrifice he will be made so that some of our friends can have healthy and safe meat (grass fed, nonGMO, hormone free, antibiotic free, chemical free). We have hand chosen the processor we use. He is one of the few animal welfare approved processsors in this area of Texas. The end comes without stress for him. As for me, I drive them myself. It is a rough trip, and I cannot say it is stress free for me, because still…. my heart breaks. I say prayers of thanksgiving the entire 140 miles round trip. Do I enjoy this aspect of farming? Heck no. But this is reality… not just for us, but for everyone. We don’t condone what Factory Farming does, so we provide a better way for a small handful of cattle over our lifetime. Like the starfish principle…. we are making a difference to the ones we raise this way.
People have asked me how we can do this, and I respond…. how could we not? We could put our heads in the sand and sell the calves and pretend we don’t know what happens to them. For the record, most dairy calves end up at the sale barn unless they are replacement heifers. They also end up in veal cages (the worst case scenario for a calf). Our calves stay with their mama’s and are dam raised (as opposed to removed from their mama and given powdered milk replacer instead of the good stuff….. another common practice). They stay with them for several months before they are weaned.
The average dairy cow lives a life of about 5 years before being culled (that’s a nice way of saying killed). Our granny cow (retired) Clementine is somewhere around the age of 15. We have two more that are 7+ years old, with a long life in front of them. They have time to recover from each birth and milking season before repeating the process.
Walking the talk is not easy, but it is the right thing to do. It has given me the true meaning of praying over our meals, and the sacrifices it took to get it there. Mealtime prayers frequently get overlooked or understated. Rote. Not in our home.
I doubt this process will ever get easy for me, and I honestly, I hope it never does. Discomfort ensures compassion and gratitude, something we all need more of.
Hugs and Love ~ liz