Ethical Beef, Part 4: The Pleasure of Raising Livestock on a Cattle Ranch

Raising livestock on a cattle ranch brings a different set of rewards than can be found anywhere else.

  • Raising Livestock on a Cattle Ranch
    Raising Livestock and living on a cattle ranch provides ranch hands with the delight of being tied together with nature and the environment.
    Photo by Fotolia/Kadmy
  • Defending Beef
    In “Defending Beef,” environmental lawyer and vegetarian Nicolette Hahn Niman debunks popular myths about meat consumption, arguing that, when done properly, the earth benefits from the production of meat from cattle and other livestock.
    Cover courtesy Chelsea Green Publishing

  • Raising Livestock on a Cattle Ranch
  • Defending Beef

Is eating meat ethically wrong or right? In Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production, environmental lawyer Nicolette Hahn Niman aggregates the research and personal insight to explain how eating meat is beneficial for humans and for the planet, stating that there is a need for meat to be produced the right way. This excerpt, which details the enjoyment an individual can experience from working and living on a cattle ranch, is from the section, “Final Analysis: Why Eat Animals?”

Buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Defending Beef.

The Pleasure of Raising Livestock on a Cattle Ranch

Still, I initially had some uneasiness about moving to a cattle ranch. Although I supported it in principle, I wasn’t sure I’d be comfortable living day after day in the midst of an active operation. Would I find it upsetting to be surrounded by animals I knew would one day be sent to slaughter? And even more to the point, would it make me feel guilty to know that our living came from their deaths? I figured I’d keep myself at arm’s length to avoid any potential discomfort.

What happened instead was just the opposite. For exercise and to take in the area’s natural beauty, I took long walks nearly every day through our land. Almost by accident, I began regularly spending time in the company of our cattle. I saw our mother cows ambling as they ate, socializing with their sister herd members, congregating around the water trough, calling their babies, licking one another’s necks. I watched calves frolicking in the grass, racing around after one another at twilight, running to their mothers for a long, warm drink of milk. I saw the bulls and cows nuzzling each other in courtship before and after mating. It was easy to see that the lives of these animals were well worth living. The more I meandered our meadows, the more I sat on our fences observing, the more I valued and appreciated what was happening in my midst. Everywhere I looked I saw animals living well and well-cared-for land.

After a few months, I told Bill I wanted to learn to do everything on the ranch. This surprised him a bit (he, too, had expected his vegetarian wife to want to keep some distance from ranching operations), but he readily agreed. Soon I became the wide-eyed, unskilled, displaced city-dweller ranch hand, helping him and our ranch manager with whatever needed to be done each day. Occasionally, this involved fixing a fence or a water trough (although my role was usually tantamount to holding the tools). In the dry season, it meant bringing our cattle some hay. Daily, it meant taking my pocket-sized notebook and walking or riding on horseback through the herd, making sure each animal was healthy and accounted for. Over time, I came to know each herd member individually, learned some things, and was given more responsibility.



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