You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2012.
The Times’ ethical debate for a month or so has been about eating meat. Had to think it thru a while before throwing in my two cents’ worth, then decided that paying for access to their news stories is a reason not to give them my thinking for free.
It started with Mark Bittmann. In an article on confinement feeding operations, he felt he had to say, “And, vegan friends, I accept that killing animals is maltreatment per se.” Really Mark? Never mind if they had 4 sq ft of cage or 30 acres of pasture while alive? Doesn’t that weaken the argument against CAFO’s?
It was a preposterous statement, but it forced me to think about why. Thus: no animal lives forever. All life ends. Natural death is quite often neither swift, nor merciful.* Animals have no awareness of their own death, altho they grieve for lost members of their group, as four of my does are doing this morning.
Taking animals to processing, I have stayed to watch the kill. One, this much for them, to be sure that death is, indeed, immediate and painless (It is). Two, to keep processors aware that those who raise and consume the meat want to know what goes on. And three, to be able to tell consumers that I have done so, and to pass my assurance along to you.
What? No, you probably couldn’t. I care for them, then take them to their death, and make money from it, so I can. And no, it wasn’t easy, nor should it be. Anyone who finds killing animals easy probably should not be in it for a living.
And that’s the sealer to the argument about eating meat. Vegans, vegetarians, and all people of good conscience who raise these issues, and (I concede) have done much good in recent years to improve treatment of animals even in agribusiness: think for a minute. If ethical people are persuaded “that killing per se is wrong,” they will either give up meat, or turn their eyes away from what goes on. And what happens then? Uncaring people will keep eating meat, and producers will then have no incentive to treat animals well.
I am told that my habit of giving kids nicknames to handle them by is “personalizing” too much, and would make it harder to have them killed. So far it hasn’t: what it’s done is kept me mindful that they are so many individual lives, and that they are owed the best that we can do for them. If you can relate, well – these five were dropped off this AM:
With 4 sets of triplets to choose from, a little rocket science went into the decisions. E.g. Hyacinth had 2 girls and a boy, and the girls are sold, as soon as they’re weaned. The buck is the biggest of all 18, so he’d be a logical choice to process now. But – leaving the girls to nurse another few weeks won’t change their sale price, whereas keeping the buck with her would. But- she’s nursed all 3 heroically since January. So, he goes (and she gets a break) along with the larger of Jonquil’s 2 bucks, and of Columbine’s 3, and the two small does of Aggie’s, former quads who won’t grow into good breeders, leaving her one buck to feed out to a good size.
There. You are now a little closer to your food supply, and better informed about what it involves.
Three years ago my friend (and occasional barn/fence/tractor carpenter/mechanic) Steve announced, to everyone’s delight, that he had set up 2 beehives in his City yard. I’ve been following his learning process, progress and setbacks with the same concern he brings to mine with goats.
Bees have fascinated me since age 5. Mother handled all encounters with Nature alike: “You mustn’t get mad at the bee.” It was afraid of me, I had stepped on it, and it died from stinging – to a child’s mind, terribly unfair. Then the 1958 National Geographic with those incredible closeups. And one day in the woods, not long before my family left Columbia Station for Cleveland Heights, a sound like a tractor from the edge of a field where no tractor should be, and a swarm the size of a soccer ball weighting down a large maple limb.
In 1988 when I found the ravines here lined with Black Locust trees, heavy in Spring with creamcolored blossoms and honey fragrance, beehives were a logical thought. But something else always came first. The way horses and dogs accumulated was a caution. I resisted turning into one of those nut-job rural outfits with peacocks, llamas, potbellied pigs and a mud lawn. Goats were a sound investment for the terrain, but more lives to be responsible for.
4 years and 3 kidding seasons in, the goats are settled. Down to 3 horses and 2 dogs, the day’s rhythm is sustainable even in weather extremes. So early this Spring, when a stack of old hive boxes turned up in the cellar of an abandoned house nearby, it seemed like time to add 1 new species to my cares.
My old 3-bay Central Compost Facility moved to the barnyard, leaving a space down out of the wind, open to the East but shaded at midday by a dozen locust trees. Bees would have a clear flight path out over the valley to the ravine and pond. The spot gets early sunrise, never suffers in drought, and in locust bloom season, looks like a heavy snow.
“Everything will happen faster than you expect,” goes a maxim in technology. Who would have thought, after the sunny day I spent scraping and priming those old hives, that an excited call from Alaina would announce that they had captured a swarm in their yard, and that Steve would be bringing it the next day?
So a heavy (3 lb), vigorous colony settled into a loaner hive, till the paint dries on my recycles. Then, when these tireless urban beekeepers saw the potential in locust bloom, two more hives from their backyard arrived. One has a honey super, so there may even be some pale, delicate Spring honey to reward them for scrambling to make this happen. For me, reward enough, 3 or 4 times daily, to observe the coming and going, the colors of pollen, the change in sounds as they respond to a scout message, or settle for the night.
When the camera is back from repair, I’ll let you see the Bee Yard in its lovely setting. For now, some archive images of what the foragers have been finding. More about Steve & Alaina’s beekeeping in all its trials, successes and beauty, at http://pasztphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Bees/12270969_NqhDFb#!i=875419354&k=ZbC2b