Saturday, June 16, 2007

Kindred spirits -- or not

Tomorrow I'll be giving a sermon at church. My theme is Aldo Leopold's quote,

[T]here are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.

So, I'll be talking about what you learn living on a farm. As I am preparing for this, my mind keeps hearing people say, "Well, that's great for you, but most people can't move to a farm" or "don't want to move to a farm," and so on. Remembering the articles I've read over the past few years about people who feed themselves from a 1/4 acre city lot, I wondered if I could find an article like that. So, I went to Google News -- and I found dozens of articles about such people -- all posted recently, as in the past few hours and days. I've been enjoying Barbara Kingsolver's new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle over the past couple weeks and feeling like I'm not so weird for wanting to grow my own food -- and thinking how cool it is that a best-selling author who could live anywhere and buy whatever food she wants has chosen to grow her own as much as possible. Now, I see that Barbara and I are not all that unusual!

Take for example, this family in Wroughton, England, who has their own vegetable garden, four chickens, and a duck to help feed their family fresh produce and eggs. Yes, ducks lay eggs, and yes, you can eat them. I am personally not fond of duck eggs because they have huge orange yolks, but my husband enjoys them.

And there is this family in Sydney, Australia, that has a very "green" house with solar panels, rainwater collection for drinking and washing, reclaimed wastewater, and chickens who lay the eggs for their family.

There is a couple that moved from Green Bay, Wisconsin, 12 years ago to a small farm where they now have multitudes of vegetable and flower gardens, an apple orchard, 40 chickens and a few other animals.

And all three of these stories have been published in the last 24 hours!

Another interesting pair of articles recently published started with Chicken Killing Day, an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about butchering chickens at a local sustainable farm that sells meats to local customers. In Readers aren't neutral about chicken killing, the newspaper printed readers' responses to the article, which included meat-eaters who were "disgusted, appalled, horrified" and so on that the newspaper had printed the article. Some were upset that the article was published in the food section. I have no problem with vegetarians who find the subject disturbing -- that's why they're vegetarians! I do have a problem with meat-eaters who are offended when someone mentions that they are eating a dead animal. What do they think they're eating? If they have a problem with eating a dead animal, then they should become a vegetarian. It's not that big a deal.

Our family became vegetarian in January 1989 after I read an article about factory farming. I couldn't live with the idea that my food choices were contributing to the suffering of an animal -- and I don't mean the killing. Killing a factory-farmed animal is just about the nicest thing that is ever done to them. It's their horrible life that's immoral. We did not move to the country with the intent to end 14 years of vegetarianism. But one day a hen was hit by a speeding 4-wheeler on the road in front of the house. It was not squashed, and after it had died in my arms, I said to my husband, "You know, this is perfectly good meat. It seems a shame to just bury her." We knew she'd lived a happy life up until that 4-wheeler came along, and she was healthy, so I pulled out one of my books that gave us instructions on how to butcher a chicken.

Then we realized that if we let the hens hatch their eggs, half of them will become roosters. We wound up with about 27 roosters and 40 hens, and since roosters only have one thing on their mind 24/7, and one rooster can "service" about 12-20 hens (according to my books), you can imagine that my poor hens were literally run ragged with less than a 2:1 hen-to-rooster ratio. Many of the hens no longer had feathers on their backs due to the constant mating. In addition to that, the roosters would frequently fight with each other.

We realized something had to be done, so we took all of the roosters except two, to the chicken processing plant in Arthur, and we came home with chicken in plastic packages, looking a lot like it did at the store -- except ours had longer legs and smaller breasts because they're all heritage breeds. There were also some dark pin feathers on our chicken because nature makes chickens in all different colors, not merely the white-feathered variety that is used in factory farming (which creates the nice pretty carcass in the store).

Today, I still don't eat commercially-raised meat. In fact, since I've been living out here, I have become even more adamant that factory farmed meat is unhealthy, inhumane, and unethical. When I receive chicken catalogs that offer to "protect" my investment by debeaking day-old chicks, I am reminded why I became a vegetarian 18 years ago.

So I have absolutely zero tolerance for meat eaters who don't want to know that they are eating dead animals. But I know that some people are content to go through life sleepwalking, and like most people who are in a deep sleep, they'll get really angry at anyone who tries to wake them.

1 comment:

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

How did the sermon go? Sounds like a good one. I don't think enough Christians want to hear what the Bible says about being good stewards of the earth and not destroying it -- which goes hand in glove with learning how the modern agricultural monolith operates.

Like you, I have no respect for those who can't face where their food comes from. Living in "feedlot country, USA" when I was a teenager convinced me to become a vegetarian, and although I eat eggs and milk, I won't buy eggs that aren't free-range or milk that's not free from growth hormone.

Keep on preachin'!

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