Is it Ethical to Eat Meat?

Is it Ethical to Eat Meat?

THINKING THURSDAY: SOMETHING TO PONDER IN THE WORLD OF FOOD AND FARMING.

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Have you heard? The New York Times is calling all carnivores to tell them why we believe it is ethical to eat meat.

Since this is a topic front and center in my mind nearly every day and I planned to discuss it with you anyway,  how about right now?

The stingy 600 word limit was a real hardship for a chatty girl like myself; hopefully Word’s word count tool is accurate!   I sent my blood, sweat and tears off into the electronic sunset, and from there, who knows?

Weigh in with your opinions in the comments below, but do play nice. I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on the matter.

So, here it is; my big New York Times minute:

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This question of whether it is ethical to eat meat cannot be deeply understood by anyone with clean hands.

My point?  A formal decree from above is not coming. Fancy panel of judges or no, there isn’t a single right answer to this dilemma.  Like death itself, we each have to wrestle this contradiction alone. The real ethical question?

Will we humble ourselves by taking a ruthlessly honest look at the toll our lives extract from others? My guess is we’d rather shield ourselves from introspection with dueling data, finger-pointing and clever bumper-sticker retorts.

Nature has an uncomplicated relationship with death. Nobody, two-legged or four is spared. We try hard to find a loophole, and Nature humors us. But she never lets us hide from her truth for long.

To Nature, death is just part of life. Creatures are born, creatures die.  The dead feed the living and the living eventually become the dead. Nature builds in harsh but perfect circles, not the logjams and cul-de-sacs we construct to avoid uncomfortable truths.

Remember the scene in the movie Cold Mountain where the old lady kills the goat?  The loving kindness the Goat-lady gave that trusting goat as she pierced its heart is a stunning moment.  Is it cruel betrayal or the heartfelt kindness of a true shepherd?  That goat didn’t suffer one bit, but sweetly laid down its head in eternal sleep, feeling safe in the trusted shelter of the Goat-lady’s lap.

Somehow, the intentionality of the Goat-Lady’s act really jams our brains. The abrupt killing contradicts the peaceful mercy of that death. The dichotomy rocks our certainty. We’d rather cover our eyes.

I raise cattle with love and tenderness, and I admit I cry every time I deliver one to slaughter. I don’t like slick words like “harvested” or “processed”. I prefer the unvarnished facts. A cow was killed because I decided it would be so. I won’t shirk my sadness or culpability with a perky elevator speech selling the rightness of my decision.

My beautiful, one-and-a-half-inch thick piece of well-raised beef is carefully cooked: rare with a perfectly browned crust.  I eat my steak mindfully with gratitude and pleasure. That steak is meaningful to me. I appreciate its full, bittersweet cost and I don’t waste a single scrap.  It’s delicious.

Recently, I plowed a field so I could plant some Monsanto-free organic vegetables.  A commendable act most Vegans would agree.  In doing so, I disturbed nests of bunnies and a home some peace-loving groundhogs have enjoyed for some time.  It was traumatic for those little creatures, and the hawks that trawl my pastures were elated. Thanks to my vegetables, there was a new all you can eat buffet in town. I didn’t kill anything myself, but I knew creatures would be living there. They live everywhere. Ethical?

We need to step away from our computers, books and chattering brains and deepen our understanding of Nature’s ways.  Only by maintaining a distant, academic understanding of Nature can you believe in the moral superiority of tofu.

When someone comes up with a real, actionable plan to free the animals, not rely on industrial foods and feed the soil in a sustainable way, my mind is open. Today, the most ethical thing I can do is provide a joyful, carefree life for my meat.

In this way, and only this way, I say yes.  It is ethical to eat meat. Life is grand, messy, confusing business.  I accept my assignment of hands-on, eyes-open, deliberate participation.

That’s as ethical as it gets.

in which we smile: an ode to joy

in which we smile: an ode to joy

How can you be grumpy in the face of this much joy?

I admit I was in a bit of a hurry this morning and not pleased about this everlasting mud. I was rushing to get the hay delivered while the ground was at least a tiny bit frozen.

Despite my hurry, I couldn’t help but stop and appreciate this little pleasure.

She’s one happy heifer with a busy schedule full of running, jumping & discovering

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Our newest little one hasn’t seen the hay delivery yet.  In fact, she hasn’t seen anything before and each discovery seems to be a new delight for this playful and happy-natured girl.

Now you see her…xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxNow you don’t.  Pretty quick….

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Inspector Honey at work. did You think she was going to mind her own business?

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Only the hardest heart would not be lifted…

in which we give thanks for everyday riches

in which we give thanks for everyday riches

A while ago I stumbled across this Estonian proverb.  It struck me as oh-so-true and I have thought about it often since:

Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.

 

This morning, I am satisfied. I have everything I need if just for today.

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My pre-dawn breakfast: Farm fresh eggs, carefully basted, served on top of toasted, hearty homemade bread spread with rich, yellow butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows.  The thick-shelled brown eggs were laid a couple of days ago by the neighbor’s chickens, yolks bright and firm.

Sprinkled on top, a tiny bit of Parmesan Reggiano. The cheese mixed with the runny yolks is a thick, delicious sauce with the perfect amount of rich saltiness.

Full, satisfied and ever so grateful. How much richer can I be?  What little pleasures made your day a little bit nicer?

 

in which we decide we like it

in which we decide we like it

We changed our minds. Forget sunny & balmy, it’s cold! Now we want IN!

A couple of months ago I moved the pregnant Ladies to the newly fenced front pasture where they could enjoy the last of the not yet grazed grass. Lucky for us, every one of the pastures has both high and low land so each pasture has plenty of well-drained high ground for the wet messy times when the creeks are overflowing.

Which apparently these days can be anytime, all year-long.

While our winter weather remained so balmy and mild, the Ladies had little interest in the adjoining barn other than the usual cow-riosity. Did you know how nosy cows are? Neither did I, but let me tell you, cats have nothing on cows when it comes to curiosity.

All summer, we have been slowly working on the barn. I didn’t really give this building much credit or thought at first. No architectural beauty, it was rough & ready with a floor piled high with black, rich composted manure from years of cows sheltering inside.

Our barn, warts & all this summer.  She’s still not beautiful on the outside, but everyone knows real beauty is on the inside…

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Private rooms, fluffy beds, shelter overhead…

But, the beams were solid, half had a new roof and it adjoins the front pasture and hayfield in a convenient way. Not having the budget for anything better, we were grateful to have it, warts and all.

We tarped the roof to keep the leaks at bay, cleaned out all the old lumber and partitions, and shoveled out the foot of manure and spread it on the garden to be. Amazingly, the entire floor was poured concrete!

We built partitions and hung gates to create a couple of private stalls for calving and I brought fresh hay in for bedding.  I had been counting on Bling’s help to shake out the hay – shaking a thousand pound round bale into a fluffy bed is no easy task, and Bling has a real talent for the job.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvuieKmt3DI?rel=0&w=420&h=315]

But alas.

xxxxxx     Bling looked…….. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx and looked…..

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The Ladies were somewhat interested in the activity – they like to watch people work – but the warm days and what’s left of the fresh grass kept them busy outside.  No help, no bites. A few curious sniffs, a couple of gatherings in front, but nobody seems interested in taking up residence.

Well, oh my, what a difference a day makes! Dropped temperatures, harsh winds and snow is making this humble structure look like the Taj Mahal! Even wild Miss Sass decided inside is the place to be!

Our little Angus visitor, Miss Sass

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Can’t judge a book by its cover – this week, this is the most beautiful barn I’ve ever seen!

And I can sleep knowing the Ladies are dry and warm.

in which the brook babbles merrily

in which the brook babbles merrily

How many ways can a brook babble? Moving water is an endless source of fascination whatever the tone of voice.

One of the things I love more and more about the farm are the running streams. The water is cool and clear and gives shelter and nourishment to tons of wildlife and the Ladies.

The sound is soothing and happy and can surprisingly be heard from the spot that soon will be home. I always loved the sound of running water from my bedroom window….

Beautiful Zay by the pond

in which we come bearing gifts

in which we come bearing gifts

It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags! Come on, you know it, perfectly said by the King of Christmas Grinchiness himself, Dr. Seuss.

I’m not much in the mood for cookie baking, gift wrapping or braving the crowds this year. I’m a Holiday Dropout I suppose, feeling more introspective than extroverted.  Nevertheless, whatever my whim, it’s always impossible for me to be untouched by the solemn wonder of the holiday season.

Most holidays, my enjoyment comes as much from my preparations as from the generosity I receive from others. While addressing Christmas cards, I am washed with fond thoughts of the person I am writing to. Preparing gifts of baked goods, wrapping holiday gifts and finishing them all with personalized tags makes me feel the same warm appreciation for the intended and gratitude for the people in my life.

This year, it’s a different sort of holiday due to my relatively homeless state; one that is broader in its scope of giving and receiving. Without a house of my own for the holiday, the usual activities are not so usual and feel odd and impossible.

But I’m far from homeless – while I have no actual house, I surely have a home.  And, since my home lives in the realm of imagination this year, so also do my thoughts of holiday giving.  The gifts I want to share this year are not ones found in shopping malls or grocery stores, but ones that have expanded the boundaries of my heart.

I find it often happens that serendipity plays its part in delivering the very message or salve you need in mundane, unexpected ways. This year I have been fortunate to have received many such synchronistic gifts just when I needed them most.

Here’s a few I’m happy to share with you; I hope they bring the same pleasure to you as they did to me. But I expect it’s possible that what’s magic to me may not say much to you. Or me either when I encounter it later at a different time and place in life.

That’s OK and as should be.  When the student is ready, the teacher appears, isn’t that how it goes?  You get the idea – if my gifts don’t speak to you, maybe they will remind you of synchronistic gifts of your own that meant much to you this year. And maybe you can pass those on too – someone you don’t know somewhere you’ve never been is waiting to hear from you.

I love this authentic and special holiday CD produced by Pat Humphrey with her daughters Lynn and Amy. These old carols are from around the world, and their angelic, ancient harmonies are so soothing to me I listen to them all year. Click the arrow below to begin listening or click on the title to visit The Rosa Minstrels site and listen to the whole CD.

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The internet is such a mixed blessing. It steals as much as it gives, but what it gives can be a delicate thread of human connection when your world rotates on a slightly different axis.  This heartwarming advent calendar from a complete stranger  Gloria Nicol at The Laundry Etc. in the UK made me feel much less Grinch-ey this  year. Click here to enjoy the calendar yourself – there’s still a few new surprises to come.  A photographer, writer, jam maker and shop keeper, you can visit Gloria here.

A Special Jewel of an Advent Calendar from Gloria Nicol of The Laundry Etc.

In sustainable farming circles, Wendell Berry is all that and more. Don’t take this the wrong way – I’m a huge Wendell Berry fan. But let’s not forget another old friend of the farmer, E.B. White. Not often mentioned in sustainable farming circles these days, E.B. White’s gifts rest in the realm of childlike (but far from child-ish) wonder and observation. His writing about his lovely and simple life in rural Maine in One Man’s Meat is a quiet joy that leaves you with tidbits you’ll be mulling over for a long time.

A gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy the reading first, plenty of rumination sure to follow...

I think it’s time to re-introduce real, old-fashioned mail. Written on paper, by hand, smudges and all.  This hand-made holiday card was just the balm I needed at a moment it meant the most.

The prayer-like and devotional quality of farm chores makes this card so true for me. Caring for the land and God's creatures is most certainly a way to kneel and kiss the ground...

The Digital Library of the Sketchbook Project is a bottomless source of fascination. Enter this rabbit hole at your own risk – you may be gone a while! I am so in love with this project and am blown away by the submissions. True gifts from the heart from not so ordinary people all over the world.  A live exhibit too: what a treat it would be to be able to spend a quiet afternoon with my nose tucked into the real pages – one of these days I’ll be there!  (Video of artist Lauren Nash and her very personal experience with the Sketchbook Project. Shows there’s a bit of magic for giver and receiver.)

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How do we find this stuff? Well, one way is by visiting our our friends at Sustainable Eats who host a wicked good blog hop called Simple Lives Thursday each week.

I hope the boundaries of your heart are expanded this holiday; after all isn’t that the true reason for the season?

The Merriest of Christmases from the Ladies of Auburn Meadow Farm