Rancho Cappuccino Case Study: Is It Fair to the Livestock?

| 2/28/2012 3:50:00 PM

Tags: Beautiful and Abundant, Queries, Case Studies, Rancho Cappuccino, Fairness, Bryan Welch,

After a recent talk I gave in San Francisco, a man raised his hand and asked me how I could distinguish between “human slavery and animal slavery.”

Now there’s a provocative question.

I think we’re as humane as any livestock farmer can be. Our animals live natural lives in a clean place. They are well fed. We handle them as gently as possible, and as seldom as possible. We allow all our calves to stay with their mothers until they wean naturally, rather than separating them young so the cows will breed again sooner. We keep a bull so our animals don’t need to be trucked around or confined in a squeeze chute to be artificially inseminated. In fact, our cattle go their whole lives without being roped, run through a squeeze chute or hauled, at least until they are sold or slaughtered. We choose our slaughterhouses in part based on their humane treatment of the animals they kill. We look for facilities that handle the animals gently and take care not to traumatize them unnecessarily. There’s a surprisingly wide variety in the habits of people who handle livestock in close quarters all day. Some people are rough with them. Others take a lot of care with the animal’s feelings.

We don’t brand our animals or tag their ears. Because they have ample room, clean water and because we don’t haul in replacement stock very often, we virtually never require a veterinarian, so the animals don’t have to go through the disturbing experience of being confined and handled. Most livestock hates to be confined in small spaces or handled by human beings. I believe a lot of farmers cause problems during their birthing seasons by watching their animals too closely and upsetting the mothers’ sense of security. Imagine a human mother trying to give birth while being monitored, much less handled, by a predatory species.

Most importantly, our animals are never alone. Cattle, sheep, goats, mules, donkeys, chickens, turkeys and dogs are all social creatures that crave, most of all, the companionship of their own kind. In particular, they are happiest in the herd, flock or pack where they live in a stable social order. So we do our best never to keep any of these animals alone.

The cat’s another story, of course. He seems to like his luxurious solitude.

8/5/2013 2:35:16 AM

This article was so riddled with strawman arguments, it is difficult to engage in a true debate. Regardless, it is nice that the author actually gives these issues thought (and feelings).

spencer lo
10/3/2012 8:21:01 PM

Hi Bryan, you are clearly a thoughtful and reflective farmer. I encourage you to read the following which attempts to address your central ethical questions head on: http://animalblawg.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/whats-wrong-with-happy-meat/

bryan welch
3/6/2012 11:37:12 PM

Yes, one of the things that we find most enriching about the experience is the profound sadness we feel at the deaths of the animals. Although the Vegan doesn't usually feel that, their consumption displaces and kills animals, too. I think that sense of awareness is valuable, how ever you sustain yourself.

bryan welch
3/6/2012 11:32:48 PM

Thanks, Annie.

bryan welch
3/6/2012 11:31:23 PM

Thanks a lot, Ronald. Nice of you to say.

bryan welch
3/6/2012 11:31:00 PM

We butcher in the early winter before we start feeding hay. They are all 100-percent grass-fed mouflon/katahdin crosses, and that's how big they are at that time of year, more or less. Some of them might be 120 lbs, down to 80. And we think the meat's terrific.

janet cruz
3/2/2012 12:34:17 AM

I have recently become a mostly vegan due to the overwhelming evidence that eating more than a minimum of animal protein is the cause of our epidemic of disease in the U.S. (Read "The China Study". Factory farming of animals is a travesty on animal nature, but humane free range animal husbandry does not demean the animals. I always remember the statement by one old Swede that, if he is to be reincarnated, he would like to come back as one of his neighbors cows, because they were so pampered. My family raises free range grass fed beef, and consider that the young ones who are sacrificed for meat are the price paid for a long luxurious life protected from preditors and starvation. They would not exist except for animal husbandry.

t brandt
3/1/2012 10:11:24 PM

BTW- excellent article, Bryan. Thanks... The web of life is complex and many urbanites tend to forget where their food comes from and, therefore, to not appreciate it like they might... It's interesting to note that the Plaines Indians, after killing a buffalo, would utter a prayer, thanking the animal for sacrificing it's life that they and their family might survive. Sounds like a tradition worth keeping.

t brandt
3/1/2012 9:59:32 PM

Because veganism is a religion, I will not try to dissuade you from your philosphy, but what makes you think plants that you maim or kill to eat don't feel the pain too?... Your take on unnatural slavery of animals is weak in itself (can I assume you know that Bambi doesn't really speak English to the other animals in the woods?) , it would also apply to plants, unless you're apt to cavort thru the woods collecting only naturally growing & reproducing species of plants for food.... While it is possible to remain healthy on a vegan diet, it is only possible for most vegans in developed countries to exercise their choice by relying very heavily on energy dependent transportion & storage technology for their food. ,,,Farming, of animals or plants, is a commensal relationship: we give them a safe, secure supply of space, food & water. They give us nutrients. It's just like the relationship we each enjoy with the E.coli in our bowels- or do you consider them slaves too?

annie bennett
3/1/2012 8:55:07 PM

This is a well written article and my only wish would be that all others treat their livestock like you. We all develop a full set of teeth in our mouths, some of which are incisors. I believe these to be meat tearing teeth, not just made for berries and lentils. Could I live without meat.? Yes, but for now I will buy from people like you, and concentrate on neglect, and research, and the myriad of other ways that animals suffer needlessly

jocelyn durston
3/1/2012 5:22:54 PM

As someone who has recently made the transition to veganism and who lives on a farm that houses animals that some farm members eat, I've wrestled with this topic too. However, the following two reasons are big ones that I feel are in need of reflection (and that helped me make the vegan choice): 1. Humans don't need to consume animal products to live a healthy life. We have enough resources and information now to get all the nutrients (and delicious flavour!) we need from a vegan diet. At least this is the case in developed, westernized countries (and in underdeveloped countries, most of the poor don't get access to meat anyways). As such, is it moral to take the life of or unnaturally confine an animal when we are not dependent on them for survival? Point 2: The large majority of the animal products humans consume are bred and grown specifically for human consumption and use. Therefore, comparing human consumption of animals with the circle of life that takes place among wildlife is weak. The coyotes don't contain and breed chickens and lambs so that they have an ongoing supply of them. Wild mammal, fish and bird populations reproduce naturally and their numbers are determined by the natural balance of things in their habitat. Your argument would be stronger if you were only referring to wild animals that you went out and hunted, but the human step of creating a cycle of reproduction purely for human gain does demean animal life to a level of slavery that is not found in nature. I encourage readers to honestly and openly consider these points and see if they can still find within themselves ethical justifications for consuming animals (particularly farmed ones). Thanks for the article. An important topic for sure!

steve wallace
3/1/2012 4:58:12 PM

but why are you butchering them at 80lbs,they are only half grown

ronald schweigert
3/1/2012 4:53:19 PM

What a GREAT article! It touches on what I have thought and felt on this subject for my entire life, and never really resolved. So it's good to read someone else's fine prose elucidating his take on the big picture of it all.

beavis green
3/1/2012 4:35:31 PM

"... until they are sold or slaughtered." = slavery

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