Sunday, August 10, 2008

“Life and Death on the Farm, Part 1” I have to start this blog with an apology, an unpromising beginning, I grant you. I’ve started and stared at it for a few days and it hasn’t really gelled as a piece of writing but, as I promised “Life and Death on the Farm” at the end of the last blog, far be it for me to change subject. Anyway, such as it is, here goes, my sub-standard existential blog …

YIN : A particularly urgent commotion from the chickens was followed by a tomcat running past with one of our young chicks in its mouth. I gave chase but was well and truly outrun. It was sad to see. I suppose it’s inevitable that if we keep as many animals as we do, we’re going to lose some from time to time but, when it happens, it always leaves me with a heavy heart. No, it wasn’t the pain of losing some old retainer of a family Labrador or a tragedy in terms of any number of more serious problems people encounter in life but it was sad to see such a young thing prematurely taken. I do become a bit reflective whenever we lose an animal, which is rarely, thankfully.

YANG : Perhaps, precisely because we are exposed to the shadow of death (oops, a bit over-dramatic) our animals engender within us such a happy feeling of life. Seeing how far a chicken will range and what interests them. Watching a sheep licking clean its fully-wooled newborn lamb. Having Alpine goatlings climbing all over our backs when trying to bottle-feed them. And the difference in our cat, who arrived as a bag of bones of a barn cat only interested in finding something edible but is now a well-fed cat who plays, hunting shadows and patting inert objects around just so she can chase them.

I sympathise with farmers who lose larger animals, as it must be so much harder to see it suffering and come to terms with such a loss. Our dairy-farming friend Yves, with a herd of forty huge Holsteins, has inevitably lost cows and he is always really upset about it. And how much worse to have your farm hit by an epidemic.

At the time of the last foot-and-mouth epidemic in England, I remember hearing on the TV news a comment from a naïve vegetarian who was dismissing the suggestion that farmers might be suffering emotionally from losing their animals because, “they’re all going for slaughter anyway”. That really is missing the point by a country mile but serves as a good introduction to “Life and Death on the Farm, Part 2” where I’ll explain our about approach to humanely slaughtering animals for food.

Picture credit for foot-and-mouth pics, Cumbria 2001