Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Silent Scream of the Lambs

Silent Scream of the Lambs

© 2005 Ross Williams

I love animals. I've had animals all my life, with few exceptions. I collected cats when I was a kid, growing up in upstate New York across the road from a dairy farm. Cats would wander in, emaciated, hang around for the bowls of milk I'd give them, and then wander off days or weeks later. Once one wandered in, emaciated and car-bit, mangled and ripped open with various gooey parts of its insides hanging out, and I gave it its last bowl of milk. Every day for three years. It had two litters of kittens – small litters, since it's innards were compromised. It died, young for a cat, but old for a cat that had been splattered on the road a few years before.

We usually had dogs. I grew up with a black cocker named Pinky. Then a setter-lab mix – lab personality on a setter frame – named Killer. Or Casey. Or Dog. Depends on who you asked. Dog would smile every time he saw someone new. Or someone old. He was indiscriminate that way. All dogs smile with their butts, but this one also smiled with his face. To someone timid around dogs, particularly large dogs, and who doesn't understand the very keen relationship that a dog's ass has with its current temperament, the mere sight of a dog pulling up its lip and baring its teeth means that it's snarling and will soon take a chunk out of someone's leg. Doesn't matter that the dog's tail is flapping like mad and knocking over half the furniture.

Then I became an adult and spent several years as an apartment-dwelling troglodyte. No animals allowed. Besides, I'm allergic to most animals, and I can't have them inside too long. Particularly cats. Then I became a man of property, with a wife who believed that animals are fine – in a zoo. So no animals still. But then I became a man of larger property, in rural southern Illinois, and cats started wandering in again. We quickly collected two. My wife declared that these big bruising cats were scaring the children – who were busy chasing the kitties around trying to play with them. My wife declared this bit of mother's intuition while cringing in a corner of the garage, eyes wide and face pale, trying to find footholds in the wall to climb straight up it.

I confessed to my wife that, seeing as there's all this property which needs to be mowed at least once a week and it takes a week and a half to mow it, that I'd like to get sheep. I was serious. One thing led to another, which led to even more others, and this wife left. She's taken her pathological fear of animals with her. And, to her chagrin, the kids display my animal sense.

Soon thereafter, I fenced in the back half of my land, built a barn, and bought a horse. "Eat!" he was instructed. He nibbled. He tasted. He cribbed the willow trees, one to death, and I had to hire someone to come and hay the backyard. Or, rather, the pasture.

I collected new friends, and two of these friends gave me a dog for halloween. A cross between a terrier and a spaniel and a gyroscope. Came advertised from the pound as a "lab-mix". Addie might have been mixed in a laboratory, but there was no Labrador Retriever anywhere near this mutt's conception. But still, we called her an "apartment lab". And it became "we" because I married one of the friends who gave me this whirling dervish. My new wife came with a cat.

Now we were up to two cats – one for inside – a dog, and a horse who picked at his dinner. I still wanted sheep. We got another dog instead. An innocent trip to PetSmart to get fish[1] turned into adopting Kiki. A large, lab-shepard which made eye contact but had worn incisors from trying to chew through the small metal crate its owner's new husband insisted on placing it in. He should have married my ex-wife. After realizing that we weren't going to put her in a crate every night, the new dog was reasonably calm. Still preferred obeying my wife instead of me, though, probably because the last man she knew caged her.

That changed, somewhat, after she kebobed herself on some sharp object out in the dark one night. She managed to rip open her chest just as if she had a shirt-sized pocket that had been ripped off and was hanging by one side. The dog which made eye contact didn't make eye contact that night. She was embarrassed. We bundled her off to the emergency vet – where we'd been just a few weeks before with our outdoor cat who got mauled by a coyote or a neighbor's dog and was now in a cast on her mangled left front leg. A few dozen stitches and a soda straw later, this dog came home, blue daisy cone around her neck. Animals, like the car-splattered cat from a few decades earlier, will lick their wounds, and the daisy cone prevents them from doing so. Antibiotics now do the job of killing the germs that were once licked from infected gashes and sores. And to help the antibiotics, a soda straw was sewn into the pocket flap to drain the ick and goo out onto the laundry room floor. Yum.

Normally I would doctor my own animals for the semi-life-threatening injuries they all find themselves acquiring. Outdoor cats, in particular, have a remarkable capacity for getting mauled by other animals. Bigger cats, dogs, coyotes ... large birds who disapprove of a cat getting too hungry in the vicinity of its eggs. I've got iodine and peroxide and alcohol and eyedroppers for dispensing liquid medicine down reluctant throats. I've even got hypodermic needles and can inject my own animals with anything they might need. I'll just spread a towel on the counter, clean wounds, scrub animals with disinfectant and even though hissing and spitting and obviously in pain, they always allow me to do this. I have yet to get bitten, and I've never been clawed. But I don't set bones and I don't sew skin.

The dog healed, but the casted cat kept jumping around, refusing to let her bones heal. It took the vet threatening to amputate before she settled down. That, and being confined in a much smaller room with nothing to climb on. ...and then we got sheep.

Amazingly, the farmers in the area who hay their own fields and feed their cattle and horses with it all winter and spring do not want to come hay me, even if they get half my hay for free, even if I pay them. My two acre pasture is too small for them and I'm too far out of the way ... all of a quarter mile down the road. Plus, they don't want to risk running over a thirty-foot weeping willow or any of a dozen ten-foot pines or maples with their mower or rake.

Or something.

So I needed sheep. All the books said that sheep could be contained with electric fence. My horse was fenced with electric[2]. So I restrung the fence with electric at the recommended heights, and my wife and I went off down the road to a farm that had a few cloven-hoofed lawn mowers we could buy. I bought three yearling ewes. These are girl sheep, more than a year old, who've never been bred. That is, they're still virgins. And no, virgin wool doesn’t mean the wool from a virgin.

The farmer sold us three ewes, and said they'd be fine going ten miles down the road in the back of my pickup truck. ...with their feet bound with electrical tape. ... and sliding around every time I turned a corner or came to a stop. He's sold dozens over the years like this. He said.

We got home with our mowers, I backed into the barn, opened the corral gate, unwound each ewe in turn and pitched them into their new home. The smallest ewe, who we've named Lambchop[3], went trot, trot, trotting out of the barn, into the pasture, and unbeknownst to me, did a nosedive through the electric fence – which was turned on.[4] I closed the gate behind me, came out of the barn satisfied with a job well done, and heard my wife hollering "There's a sheep loose!"

I looked up, and my tiny, whirling dervish dog was racing around the yard after a fluffy cotton ball, and trying to nip its ears. Apparently somewhere back in her mutterly genes was a great-great grandparent of a border collie. So dervish herded the ewe in all kinds of directions, and even several directions at once, and it wasn't until the ewe exhausted herself, face-first in a pile of junk in my neighbor's barn, that she stopped running. I angrily tromped into the barn next door, unceremoniously grabbed the sheep by two fistfuls of fleece and carried her back home to my barn. My wife opened the gate, I pitched her in, and followed her out into the pasture where she bounded through the fence once more. Dervish-dog herded her around the house, and – still being worn from her first Great Escape[5] – she hid, face-first, in a holly bush within seconds. Brilliant animals that sheep are, if they can't see us, we can't see them, and it was only by luck that every time she hid her face from me I managed to grab her. Apparently.

This time, my wife stood in the pasture door of the barn with the lab-shepard on a leash. Kiki is imposing. She would only have wanted to sniff the sheep[6], the animal equivalent of a howdy over the back fence, but the sheep didn't know that. I grabbed some two-by-fours, my cordless drill and some drywall screws and nailed the damned critters into the barn. The next day I went to the farm supply store, bought a few hundred yards of mesh field fence, and we spent the next week and a half refencing the refenced fence. The horse was put out that his spot in the barn was taken over by these annoying little fluff balls; the sheep were annoyed that they had been taken out of their idyllic pasture with 45 of their closest cousins and placed into this strange barn where they had moldy, year-old hay to eat and the occasional fistful of crabgrass yanked from a flower bed; and I was annoyed at having to refence for the second time in a month. Two acres is not an awful lot to fence in, compared to the open ranges of the west, but it's still a pain in the ass.

A few months later, we bought a registered yearling ram fresh from the 4H show circuit. His name is Homer. I can't describe how pleased he was to find himself instantly married to three sheepy-chicks.[7] And the next spring we were blessed with lambs. ...which started popping out a week after the large animal vet came to inspect the ewes and declared "They aren't pregnant." He's the only large animal vet in town, so I haven't switched vets.

The deal I made with myself when I started this enterprise was that girl lambs were going to be kept for breeding, while boy lambs would be kept for gracing a dinner plate. All three lambs were boys. They were named Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Breakfast was born last, a few weeks after Lunch and Dinner. Breakfast didn't make it much beyond, well, breakfast. It was born on a cold, windy Sunday in late April, and didn't move very much. The other two lambs were up and wobbling within a half hour; Breakfast wasn't. So that afternoon, my wife and I chased Breakfast's mother, Lambchop[8], around the pasture until we wore her out, while my son held the lamb and kept it warm and out of the wind in the barn. The ewe, bigger than when I manhandled it the previous summer, took both my wife and I to carry it. The two, ewe and lamb, were locked in the barn, given straw and hay and water, and the opportunity to get the lamb healthy enough to survive until slaughter.

The next day, I stopped at the farm store on my way home from work and bought instant colostrum and more lamb-feeding supplies. The lamb had hardly moved all day, the ewe was distraught, and the other sheep were milling about in sheeply concern. I bundled Breakfast into the house, wrapped in my fake-fleece lined denim jacket, mixed the colostrum, filled a bottle and tried getting it to nurse. It didn't. It died on the kitchen table about an hour later, still wrapped in my coat. Lambs cry, by the way.

I laid it out in the barn to let Lambchop sniff it and understand it was dead, and buried it way in the back of the pasture the next day after work. It was weeks before the ewe stopped bleating for it.

Raising sheep entails doing much that is annoying and distasteful, to both the sheep and the people raising them. Most people would naturally suspect the smell to be the biggest annoyance. And I've got to admit, sheep shit does have a distinct odor that's taken a while to get used to. But I spent most of my childhood living across the road from a dairy farm that pastured horses. Cow and horse shit smells like home. Horse shit, as a matter of fact, once you get beyond its initial fresh-poop stage, dries out and has a sweetly fecund aroma. Sheep shit smells rancid and even though the little pellets dry out rapidly, it reconstitutes quite well in rain, piss or spilled bucket water and regains the fresh poop rancidity. But the smell isn't really too bad once you get used to it, and shoveling shit out of the barn becomes annoying only for the shoveling.

What's difficult is the actual interaction with non-pet animals. Unless you've raised them as pets, they tend to not trust humans which make dealing with them difficult. I've had to wrestle lambs away from their mothers in order to band their tails. Lambs come with tails damned near as long as they are. If you don't cut tails off when they're young, they'll poop all over their own tails, the poop collect flies in the summer, which then breed maggots, which infect the hind ends of the lambs, and they will get sick and die. And sick sheep seldom survive. That's a favorite phrase among sheep familiars – the Four Esses: sick sheep seldom survive[9]. So you bob their tails.

There's two methods of doing this. First, a cold chisel and a small sledge hammer[10] – the old school method. Gotta get through the bone and cartilage on the first whack, otherwise you're just mangling the tail, causing more pain and probably inviting infection. The second method is to take a castrating bander and band the tail an inch or so from its butt. The band will cut off the circulation to the tail, and the tail will die and fall off. I banded the tails. One of the lambs' tails fell off in the barn and I gave it to my son to look at and hold. His reaction to it, once he found out what it was, was to toss it immediately to the ground, wipe his hands furiously on his pants, and say, "Eeeeewwwww!! Da-a-a-a-a-a-ad!!!"

No matter which way you bob the lambs' tails, they don't like it, they bleat in fear, and their mothers are panic-stricken. I had my wife helping me hold the lambs and warn me if mom tried circling me. You never want to turn your back on a frightened sheep. They have hard heads[11] and they aren’t reluctant to use them. And once you band or bludgeon the tail, you need to give the lamb a tetanus shot. These critters live, literally, in the dirt. So does tetanus. And open wounds and dirt are a dangerous mix. I've given animals injections before, and had no problem poking the lambs after I banded them. I just didn't know where to stick them. Dogs and cats are normally injected in the scruff of the neck, or back along the waist, where you can grab lots of loose skin. But I had to look in the book to find where to inject a sheep. The answer is: in the granny-flab behind their front leg. So I did.

Five minutes after I turned the lambs and their mothers out, my wife informed me that the lambs were flopping over. Sure enough, they were. They'd bounce for two or three steps – young lambs don't do anything as prosaic as walk, they either bound, or they hop, or they prance, or they bounce – and then keel over on their sides. Their mothers would kick them and head butt them to get them up: “quit fooling around there on the ground, get up and stop lollygagging.” They'd get up, shake like a wet dog, take a few more hops, and hit the dirt. I did a quick check of the book and a paragraph after it says where to inject a sheep, it says, "please note... if you're going to inject a lamb, make sure that the stuff you inject them with is body temperature. Cold liquid injected into a lamb can cause lameness..."

...temporary lameness, it turns out. Amusing lameness, in retrospect, as well. A half hour later they were back to bounding all over the pasture. So, next time, I'll get the tetanus antitoxin out of the fridge a few hours before I do the banding. Live and learn.

I didn't castrate the lambs this time. They're going to fill someone's freezer before they can use their mountain oysters anyway, so why add indignity to the indignity? I'll learn to do that next.

But sheep don't like anything you do to them. Their fleece is hot and scratchy, and they spend uncommon amounts of time scraping up against fence posts and corral rails and maple tree trunks scratching and rubbing. How would you like wearing woolen skivvies over every inch of your body, that you couldn't take off, and that probably had bugs and critters crawling around inside and underneath? You'd do the same. Yet you try to help sheep out and get the scratchy wool off them before it turns hot, and they don't like that either.

I hired a shearer to come give them a haircut, and you'd think, from their reaction, that I was having them killed. All of them, at that moment, instead of just select ones at a later date.

They also don't like me coming out to fill up their water pail – the pail that one or more of them has graciously deposited turds into. They don't like me cleaning out their dirty turdy water pail. They don’t like me shoveling their shit out of their barn so they won’t have to lay down on their dried out turds or, worse yet, their fresh ones. They don't like me walking around the pasture checking on the condition of their salad-on-the-hoof – they eye me suspiciously and stamp their petulant little feet the whole time. They don't even like me leaning over the corral fence and saying "Good morning, sheepy people." About the only thing they like me to do is to get into the grain bin and scoop some sweet grain mix into their trough – which they also fill, from time to time, with sheep shit. Only one of the ewes will stick her head into the trough while I'm anywhere close.

The horse doesn't much mind me doing anything, except cinching up the saddle. He was perfectly content to wander around the pasture, thankyouverymuch, and he had other plans for the afternoon than for me to park my fat ass on his back and yank his mouth this way and that. And sometimes when I try to lead him into the barn for some reason or other he’ll rear and whinny, but not often.

But sheep are a different story. They're skittish, easily frightened and more mob-mentality brainless than a crowd of undergrad war protesters. I've seen diary cows – they're more docile and manipulable than sheep – but they don't like much of anything either, although they appreciate being milked. Horses are compliant and like the attention we give them, but unless they're trained to within an inch of their lives, they act like they'd prefer doing anything other than what we're making them do – even though they usually do it.

That's the basic reality of livestock. We humans are getting them, making them, do things they don't want to do just because we can make them do it. Whether it's lining up to be herded into this feed lot, or getting cornered to have tails hacked off, ears pierced with tags, fleece shorn, hooves trimmed, saddles cinched and bits shoved into mouths, forced into pens, wings clipped, eggs collected or just getting generally disturbed by the two-legged brutes with opposable thumbs and tools, they don't like it. They aren't pets. They instinctively know they aren't pets. They don't like us manhandling them.

Even our pets don't like being manhandled. Photograph me with my cat on the counter while I'm trying to wash out some of her wounds, and you could easily mistake the cat, hissing and spitting and in all manner of odd contortions, for being tortured by a sadist.

A castrating tool in the hand of a bestial pervert, with a lamb in the other hand, is a sick sex toy. The manipulations required to get sheep shorn can easily be seen as cruel ovine bullying.

Animal husbandry, the process of using animals for the betterment, and not uncommonly the diet, of the human race is full of activities that causes animals discomfort, often causes pain, and frequently causes death. While you can get a scrambled egg and butter for your toast without killing the chicken or the cow, you can't get a side of bacon by performing outpatient surgery on the pig. The pig bought the farm – which most certainly concerned the pig greatly for that portion of its existence in which it knew it its existence was in peril. Which probably wasn’t for long. But up until that time, and unbeknownst to it, it's whole life was predicated on its future as food, and included us making the poor little porker do exactly what we mean old humans wanted it to do every day of its doomed life. That's just the way the ham gets canned. Sorry.

There's more or less several billion people on our planet, and all wanting to eat is my guess. What does anyone plan on feeding them? Soy protein capsules and gruel only go so far, and someone, multiple someones if I understand humans well at all, are eventually – like within a few minutes of starting their tofu diet – going to take a knife to the throat of the first animal smaller than himself, and roast up a leg for dinner. And then one by one, or one million by one million, the rest of the human race is going to ask if Leg of Smaller Animal is on the menu. And then they’ll order it anyway. Here we are back at the doorstep of animal husbandry, trying to feed our faces with dishes that make the soy protein capsules and gruel tolerable.

We are meat eaters. Period. That's not going to change. Time was, not too long ago, in fact, that most families in this country lived on farms. Had to if you wanted to eat. Most families in the world still do live on farms. Grocery stores don't exist in most of the world as we know them, and only exist here and now because we have large-scale farms – "factory farms", in the lexicon of the hyper-enlightened, who use the term pejoratively – growing and herding food in large enough quantities that it frees Americans, by the hundreds of million, from the daily drudgery of farming for themselves. Those millions can now go on to be investment bankers, office workers, college professors and other jobs doing all the rest of the technological whizbangery that makes modern civilization so ... so modern.

But some people have forgotten what is required for us to live like this, of escaping basic subsistence. Or they don't care. In either case, they are trying to force us to stop doing what it takes to survive, as a human race, as the civilization we have become. And they tell us that the way we treat animals is cruel.

Well, frankly, duh. Can't eat it if we don't kill it. Killing is pretty much, by definition, cruel. So is raising something to be killed. I, myself, am a scoundrel. And proud to be, in fact. I am currently raising two lambs – now more or less fully grown – only to have their throats slit in around a month and a half, and chopped up into stew meat. For profit, no less. I would be a three-time scoundrel, but one of the future-foods died on my kitchen table – ironically. Which undoubtedly indicts me further by the fact that I wanted the poor thing to live only so I could profit by its more mature and fattened death at a time of my choosing rather than Mother Nature’s.

Shame on me, the bastard that I am.

Humans do not treat future food this way for our amusement. It does not give us sadistic pleasure to inform our livestock, "Y'know Bessie, this time next month, you'll be under plastic in a couple hundred packages at Safeway..." No satisfaction from that at all.

Now to be sure, there's a few people in this world who do enjoy hurting animals for the sake of hurting animals. But largely they do so privately, by themselves, in secret, because what they do is, even to those of us who hurt animals for profit, indefensibly despicable. I'll hurt animals by banding their tails and nuts to make them die and fall off, or by scrubbing out their wounds; I'll annoy the hell out of them by shoving tubes full of medicine down their throats to worm them or disinfect them, and cinching saddles to their backs and shoving rusty bits of metal into their mouths so I can force them to go where I want them to go, and kick them in their sides to make them move as fast as I want them to move. I'll pay someone to force them to stand still while he pesters them by trimming hooves, and someone else to frighten them to death by cutting off their hair. And I will pay to have some of my animals hurt to the point of death just to feed someone else – for my financial gain.

I will gladly do these things, but it gives me no jollies.

Those who fret and fume over such things are going to say, “Oh, well, you’re excused, because you’re a small producer of animal flesh, and you have a personal relationship with your animals before you mercilessly end their lives.”

That’s a rationalization? I have them killed for godsake. I conspired to have them killed, months even before they were born. I treat them as food while they’re living, calculatedly depriving them of antibiotics that might prolong their lives if they weren’t going to die just so I can advertise them as organic and charge more per pound. They are almost exclusively pasture-fed, which means less fat, which means more money per pound. And over the last month or so of their lives, they’ve going to get grain to quickly add a few pounds to their frames and change the taste of their meat … so that I can get more money per pound and there’ll be a few more pounds to get money for.

I’m a bastard through and through! And I’m not ashamed.

The difference between me and the factory farmer, to the animals we husband, is bupkus. They will still die, and they will still be pestered, annoyed and hurt pretty much every day of their existence until they do. But to the hyper-enlightened, the fact that I have only a few animals to which I am cruel means that I have a relationship with those animals. I’ve named them, after all. Except for my ram, which came named when I bought him, the ewes were named after sheep-as-food: Racko lamb, Leggo lamb and Lambchop. Their offspring were cruelly[12] named Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. I can guarantee that the ewes had no names when I bought them from the farmer – he was a bastard too – and were selected only because they weighed less than the others. I was paying by the pound, cynical bastard me.

But yet, there’s still this rationalization of ersatz nobility that is attached to us small-scale animal torturers which is denied to the factory farmers. The mass-producers of dead animal carcasses number their livestock – which is impersonal, and so much less dignified than me naming mine Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner[13]. Factory farmers attach these number-names to their livestock by means of ear tags or inner lip tattoos – which is painful and cruel according to the exhortations of those who not uncommonly have pierced ears, tongues, navels and whatever else, not to mention various indelible “body art” that is so in vogue today, as they grouse their way to uber-sincere social credibility.

Or else the factory farmer keeps track of his livestock by means of penning them in tight quarters, so they can hardly move, and all they are able to do is eat and poop, and sometimes lay eggs, until they are mature enough and fat enough to get in a truck and go off to stand in line to get their heads lopped.

The fact that the people who cruelly cage chickens grants others the idle time to complain about those who cage chickens doesn’t seem to enter the little minds of the complainers. You dislike factory farm-raised chickens, then quit complaining and do something about it. Go to your local farm store some spring, buy a boxful of baby chicks, and turn them loose in your back yard. They’ll eat your bugs and fertilizer your lawn with high-quality chicken shit – not that you’ll have much of a lawn left after they’re done pecking and scratching their way through it. You’ll find you also have wonderfully supportive neighbors on the governing council of the subdivision’s Homeowner’s Association who will unanimously grant you an exemption from the cares of abiding by the Covenants and Restrictions on your title deed. Every time you want to give a lunch of chicken tenders to your petulant and whiny children, why just run out to the back yard, grab the first six chickens you can find, lop their heads off with the hedge shears, pluck and gut them on the patio, and part them out, taking a single slice of meat from each breast[14], dip them in bread crumbs and deep fry the suckers. Who doesn’t have four hours to indulge the whims of the over-indulged modern American child?

Zoning restrictions? What are they?

The only reason we have groups of animal welfarists running around like headless chickens whining about the caged chickens about to lose their heads is that they themselves don’t have to go to the time and trouble of raising their own chickens. Subsistence farming is an eighteen hour per day job – just ask anyone from sub-Saharan Africa, or the poorer parts of rural China … or some really old person in America who grew up that way.

If you want your food to be found in a grocery store, then the cost of that is having factory farms. If you can’t abide the thought of factory farms, then the cost of that is raising your own. That is the choice. It is not possible to raise 30,000 chickens on a dozen acres of disappearing farm land and have them still be “free range”.[15] It’s hard enough to walk across the yard with a dozen chickens flapping and squawking at your feet. Try it with 30,000. Do you know what the shit from 30,000 chickens looks like? And do you know that 30,000 chickens isn’t within a stone’s throw of being a significant digit in our nation’s annual chicken consumption?

Which of America’s roughly 300 million people are you willing to let starve in order to eliminate the blight of factory farms? I’ll let you in on a little secret: raising plump, meaty chickens is expensive unless mass-produced. Fifty years ago it was trivially easy to spot a home-raised chicken: they subsisted on bugs and weeds. They were scrawny and their meat was stringy and tough. Want a chicken to feed your family of four? Gotta be grain-fed and that’s gotta be done factory-style unless you want the price of chicken to be similar to Kobe beef. And then who will starve? It won’t be the self-righteous middle class suburbanites complaining about factory farms. It won’t be the factory farmers or their corporate suppliers, either – those millionaire bastards. Ain’t many demographic groups left to choose from…

It is popular today for the hyper-enlightened to fertilize their subdivision yards with pre-bagged chicken manure. Chicken manure is so much more natural than chemical fertilizers, which makes it better for the environment. But not one of the people who laud chicken manure knows where it comes from – specifically. They certainly know that in general it comes from the back ends of chickens. Here’s a hint: small-scale animal husbanders like me do not follow our chickens around with teeny little pooper-scoopers. Those bags of expensive chicken manure you smugly purchase are a by-product of the factory farms that keeps its chickens in cramped little cages, only allowing them to eat and poop.

You’re a bastard too, you factory farm enabler, you.

Some people like pork. Now I’m used to animal shit, both the smell of it and the texture of it when I get it on my hands and shoes. But pig shit is disgusting. I wouldn’t go near it for anything. My guess is most people who like pork – or sausage, or bacon, or ham – wouldn’t go near it either. So how do you plan to get your pork fix? I plan on allowing the big pork producers to raise pigs and not complain about how they do it. I like my bacon crisp, if you don’t mind.

Some people like beef. Cows require huge amounts of forage to grow from cute[16] little[17] dewy-eyed calves into steak-bearing steer. You got a couple acres to devote to getting a freezer full of burgers? I do, but we’re not talking about me. I’d have no problem with it. We eat cows in this country, and by the boatload. But we’re subdividing the land they used to graze in favor of strip malls and homeowners’ associations. So that means cows are living on smaller and smaller plots of land, with fewer and fewer ranchers raising them. And this means factory farms for cows, a lack of personal relationship between the farmer and your future food, and heightened anxiety for the poor heifer. Aw, ain’t that a shame!

Other people like veal – baby cow, never allowed to mature into full cowhood, and indeed barely allowed to move. In order to get velvety-tender meat, the calf isn’t allowed to exercise. This means it’s put on a short leash. Or in a cage. Somewhat like we do with our pet dogs. But it’s cruel to do with calves what we do with dogs, because … because it is. It’s different, entirely. Completely. The calves watch TV and read magazines, they know that there’s more to life than being tied up, unable to buff up their shoulders and flanks. Oh, but the calves instinctively want to move and romp around their pasture, and it’s cruel to prevent that. And my sheep instinctively want to graze my neighbors’ soybean field, but the cruel fence prevents that.[18] The coyotes who live near me instinctively want to graze on my sheep … darn that cruel fence of mine. My horse would instinctively like to wander around and find the horses who live up the road, but there’s that cruel fence that cruel old me put up again. My wife’s cat would instinctively like to raid the bird feeder and prepare for same by sharpening his claws on the furniture, but she cruelly had him declawed and won’t let him outside. And the dervish dog would instinctively like to catch and gnaw on most animals but I cruelly holler at her for chasing anything but rabbits.

And some people like foie gras. …don’t ask me why. Foie gras is fattened goose and duck livers. You get fattened goose and duck livers by having fat geese and ducks. But you don’t get fat geese and ducks the same way you get fat Americans: geese don’t eat cheezy doodles and ducks won’t sit in front of the television eight hours a day. We get fat geese and ducks by force feeding them for a few weeks before killing them.

Force feeding fowl requires annoying them. They don’t like having a tube stuffed into their gullet and being squirted full of grain to the top of their neck. Why … why, they get fat and waddle around[19], and they, omigish, wheeze when they’re fat!

…and my sheep don’t like me banding their tails, they won’t like me banding their balls, they don’t like me chasing them around so I can do either. It’s stressful. Their adrenaline pumps in great gobs of fight or flight instinctiveness. Ditto when the shearer comes over with his dog to chase them around the pasture so he can barber them.

We are brutes to animals, and to the animals we brutalize there is no difference in the human purpose behind the brutality. My sheep have no comprehension that I’m cutting their tails off for their own good. To them it is grade-A sheepy terror, the stuff of bucolic nightmares. My sheep have no comprehension that I’m having them sheared for their own good. To them it is only more torture. Being bound with electrical tape to slide around a moving truck bed. Chased all over creation by a crazed yappy-dog and an angry man in leather gloves. Torture.

Is it torture to the ducks to have a metal tube stuffed down their throat? force fed? made fat to waddle and wheeze? and only to make their livers tasty to Frogs and Frog-wanna-bes?


But I’m given a pass when I torture my animals, and the factory farm in California which mass-fattens ducks by the thousand so they can get $30 or more per pound for fat duck liver is not. They are picketed; they are catcalled; they are invaded by self-righteous mobs of amateur videographers[20] who break in during the dead of night and catch glimpses of fat, wheezing ducks waddling around. Some ducks are even, sadly, ill. Awww. When you have a few thousand of any kind of life form in any one place, some of them are going to be under the weather at any given point. Put even twenty-five children in a classroom and three of them will have sniffles.

Will some of the ill ducks die from their illness? Yet another duh. That happens. Again, you put a few thousand anything in a group, some of them are going to be ill, and a few of them will die from it. Go to any hospital in any small town in America sometime, and ask how many otherwise young people have died in the past month from some stupid thing or another. Hell, I had only seven sheep and one of them died. One that was destined to die for my financial benefit, no less.

Videos which purport to demonstrate mankind’s intolerable cruelty toward our future-food to convince the masses of farm-ignorant Americans to cluck disapprovingly at the stress and annoyance we put animals through – and for the purpose of criminalizing that stress and annoyance – are, quite literally, propaganda. This stress and annoyance must be done in order to keep food on our plates. It doesn’t matter that you, personally, can do without certain foods. If you think it does, then you are declaring yourself to be king, your opinions to be facts, and your whims to be laws.[21]

We can either have a few people do these cruel things so that millions won’t have to and can, instead, go to college and get good jobs in an office that pays mega-bucks, so they can afford to move to the suburbs and acquire the leisure time that gives them the opportunity to get outraged about the people who feed them. Or we can have these same millions raising their own food, thus ruining their chances of going to college and getting the mega-buck job in the office and the suburban lifestyle that accompanies it, … and they won’t have the time to worry about whether their food is happy about being dinner, and how it’s treated until then.

Videos of “cruel” treatment of foie gras in the making was acquired by criminal trespass, and has objectivity which is, at best, dubious and might be, at worst, staged and dishonest. In either case, they represent, for the animal welfare ideologues, the same sort of blunt-instrument manipulation of our emotions that any of the films in health class provided us. Want to see the dangers of promiscuous sex? Watch this movie. Want to see the horrors of drug addiction? Film to follow.

But that’s not quite it. It goes beyond the health class horror movies. The force-fed duck videos are the ideological equivalent of “Silent Scream”, the anti-abortion propaganda piece which claims to demonstrate the pain a fetus goes through when it is aborted. The force-fed duck video shows ducks being fat. Gosh. Whoda thunk? Some ducks – like all fat animals will – are wheezing. And it is claimed to be real and not staged, but one duck is seen “bleeding from its rear” and a rat is “gnawing” on the duck[22].

That last bit shows, by its nature, nothing more than animals being animals. Wild Kingdom or any of a hundred documentaries on Discovery Channel or Animal Planet will show much the same thing. A fat duck waddles into something sharp and injures himself; that’ll happen to animals even if they aren’t fat. I’ve got Kiki’s vet bills to prove it. Rats are scavengers and will go after anything they can get their scrubby little paws on. A fat and injured duck that can’t move fast enough to escape? fair game. That’s life on the farm, folks.

Undoubtedly, some of the hyper-enlightened whiners about factory farm methods are the militant vegetarians who don’t want people resorting to … to being people. Which is to say sitting high on the food chain. They want to compel, to force, the rest of us humans into being, essentially, two-legged cows. Or sheep, perhaps. Like they are, in any event.

But most of the people donning their bossy britches are undoubtedly meat eaters themselves, who simply – and sincerely – wish future-food animals to be treated nicely.[23] But what they don’t understand is that “nicely” means different things to different people. I believe I’m being nice to my sheep while I’m trying to hack their tails off; the guy who shoves a tube down a duck’s throat believes he’s being nice to the duck.

Nice, to suburbanites who have leisure time to fret, means individual attention given to food animals and laws which require same. Individual attention, to the large-scale farmer, means going out of business or reducing the scale of their business. Out of business or reduced business farms, to the grocery store, means less food on the shelves. Less food on the grocery shelves, to the suburbanite with leisure time to fret, means more expensive food. More expensive food, to the government, means that the citizens who just finished caterwauling to have laws passed making it harder to get huge amounts of food as efficiently as possible are now caterwauling for laws to make it easier.

It’s time to quit while we’re ahead. If you don’t like what humans do to the animals we eat and raise for the purpose of eating, then don’t look. If you want to look anyway, then don’t be surprised if what you see disgusts you. But to take your disgust and whine and carp that those who do the disgusting things must stop because it’s disgusting is, at the same time, to set yourself up as a dictator-wanna-be as well as asking that huge sections of the human race be starved to death. Those sections will mostly be the poor sections, in case it wasn’t obvious, and that will make the swell intention of treating animals nicely be yet another paving stone in the road to hell.

Enjoy your trip; I won’t be coming with you.
[1] Did I mention the wife's fish tank?
[2] The ex-wife had screaming hissy fits over that, too. Electric fences are notorious for killing children, according to her.
[3] to go with Racko and Leggo
[4] Surprisingly, the ewe wasn't fried as a child most certainly would have been
[5] Starring Steve McQueen and Lambchop
[6] Kiki, that is. My wife could already smell them well enough
[7] My daughter insists that marriage is necessary before having babies, and I’m not about to argue. Hence, the ram is married to the ewes
[8] what is it with her?
[9] say that ten times really fast
[10] this crushes the blood vessels, which inhibits bleeding. A bladed tool, say, an axe, would slice right through the blood vessels more or less cleanly and there will be much more bleeding.
[11] in more ways than one
[12] not to mention cynically
[13] and I couldn’t tell you which was which, except that Breakfast is buried in the ass end of the pasture
[14] freeze the rest; waste not want not
[15] I don’t see many suburban hyper-enlighteneds pooling their money to buy their subdivision and pay off $75million in mortgages just to knock it all down for a free-range chicken farm. I also don’t see too many municipal zoning boards rezoning residential districts with an assessed valuation in the hundreds of millions of dollars into agricultural with assessments in the tens of thousands of dollars, either.
[16] comparatively
[17] comparatively
[18] If my cruel fence didn’t, my cruel neighbors would cruelly shoot my instinctive sheep, and then instinctively sue me
[19] ducks waddle??! NO!! It can’t be!
[20] http://www.stopforcefeeding.com/
[21] Do you know what we call those kinds of people?
[22] I’ve seen it. It’s not all that impressive. My dog does worse to the bunnies she catches, and that is truly unappetizing.
[23] If you’re going to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite. – Winston Churchill


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