Why I Farm

| 11/15/2006 12:00:00 AM

It's the most bittersweet of our seasons, late fall or early winter depending on the day and the weather. Tomorrow it might be 20 degrees and driving sleet or it might be 70 and sunny.

It's the time of year when we kill the animals — the cattle, sheep and goats — we will eat next year.

Just a few months ago they were the spirits of spring, filling the pastures with the joyful, bouncing exuberance of new life. In a few weeks their meat will be in my freezers, and my friends', on our tables and in our bodies.

People often ask, "How can you eat your own animals?" Sometimes it's a sincere question, meant to explore the emotions associated with raising your own meat. Often I think it's more of an accusation: "How can you be so callous?".

12/7/2009 10:43:51 AM

Thank you for your wonderful article! It echoes my sentiments exactly. I grew up on a farm and have been working hard to get back to one of my own. I think that it's very important to have a personal relationship with your food. It's a lot more meaningful to eat something that took work and sometimes heartache and joy to raise (or grow for that matter!) As for the people who choose not to eat meat; I respect their choice but it's not one I choose to make. I have no problem eating animals that I know had a good life.

3/30/2007 9:52:10 AM

I grew up on a farm and struggled with the killing of the animals every year for food but we did know that during their short time on this earth they had an awesome life....green pastures, good food, warm comfortable stalls. However everytime I drive by a farm with 1000 cattle sleeping in their own manure that hurts even more. So I do eat less meat so I can afford meat from animals who were treated with respect and love before they fed my family. http://www.smartspacestv.net/

3/15/2007 9:36:48 AM

Thanks for your comments. Indeed, I am aware that one can live a healthy life without consuming animal products. And I believe it’s an admirable, visible form of compassion. However, I don’t believe this absolves us of nature’s most fundamental reality: When we consume food, other creatures die to create that food. Any plowed field is a relatively sterile environment in which few animals can exist. Every acre of soybeans, corn, wheat or any other food farmed in normal ways is an acre stolen from the creatures who would live there otherwise – and they either are killed by the process or are never born since their theoretical parents fail to thrive for lack of habitat. A natural pasture, on the other hand, can be a rich wildlife habitat. My cattle, sheep and goats displace other large grazing animals, surely, but they leave plenty of habitat for smaller animals that, on my pastures, amount to hundreds of species. I’m also aware that a human being can theoretically survive on fewer acres of total land if we consume only vegetable products. I would argue, however, that a natural pasture is an example of humankind living in harmony with nature. And if two-thirds of my calories are produced on natural pasture carefully managed as wildlife habitat, then is my total impact on the animal world more or less egregious than a vegan diet dependent wholly on plowed-field agriculture? I don’t know the answer to that, and I’m not sure the answer can be fully described. At any rate, it’s complicated. So I have chosen to convert my grass into meat, and my animals into food. I don’t believe it’s a superior – nor an inferior – ethical choice when compared with vegetarianism or veganism. It was nice to hear from you. - Bryan

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