Rancho Cappuccino Case Study: Is It Fair? Part 3

| 3/6/2012 3:50:09 PM

The plowed acre where the crop farmer grows grain and vegetables displaces millions of living things. There are all kinds of studies and estimates of insect populations, but the most conservative of them indicate that tens of millions of individual insects live on an acre of prairie or forest, significantly fewer if that land is cultivated and only a fraction survive if it is plowed, fertilized and sprayed with pesticides and herbicides.

A lot of people would like to believe in a myth of innocence, a myth in which human beings, if they are sufficiently enlightened, do not contribute to the painful deaths of other creatures. That is a wholly unrealistic vision, of course and indulges a cartoonish understanding of the natural world. If a hunter hadn’t eaten Bambi’s mom, something else surely would have.

I respect the discipline imposed by a vegan lifestyle. Like any rigorous exercise it demonstrates a commitment to an ideal, and that’s admirable.

But I’ve chosen to exercise my own compassion through active engagement with the natural world as a gardener and a farmer. I don’t feel my lifestyle is any less fair to our fellow creatures than the lifestyles of my vegan friends in town.

If it is slavery to be consumed by other creatures then we are all slaves to that aspect of nature. Predators, bacteria and viruses victimize us all and, eventually, we are all consumed.

Questions of fairness – toward animals and people – do help us make decisions on the farm every day. Like most people who raise sheep and goats I used to castrate our rams and bucks within a few days of birth. The surgery was unpleasant and, presumably, painful for the animals. So I tried leaving them intact and separating them before they were fertile, at about four months of age. That worked fine. They miss their moms for about a day or so, then seem perfectly happy in the “boy’s club.” And some customers – Africans and people from the Middle East – prefer them that way. A happy accident.

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