I write often about life on a farm and at times I receive questions about how I am able to raise and then butcher the inhabitants here on Happy Earth Farm. It is a very good question and one that I asked myself before beginning this journey.
Steve and I care for hundreds of chickens, tens of turkeys, and a handful of cows and a bunch of other critters throughout the year. On the most basic of levels, it is our job to make certain that all of their needs are met, that their living conditions are suitable, and that they are safe from predators. That is the bare minimum of our responsibilities to any animal that resides here. But what about the more human side of being a farmer?
There is a delicate balance here on the farm. Attachment is tricky business. We have two pets: a Great Dane named Rebel and a barn cat named Dusty. Where do the other critters on the farm fit in on an emotional level? I had to reconcile my dilemma of how to open my heart up to farm animals, with the understanding that they are NOT pets and therefore only temporary members of this farm.
Yes, the cows all have names even though people I know caution that this is unwise. I take countless photos of turkeys and spend hours interacting with chickens, all the while laughing at their shenanigans. I talk to all the animals here on the farm. I make up stories about what is going on within the herd or flock. I worry about them when weather is moving in. I watch clock when I am playing tennis and see darkness approaching because I am mentally noting which of them are still out and not safely put up for the night.
You see, Steve and I decided long ago to take a human approach to raising these animals. We feel that showing them affection and forming emotional bonds with every animal is the best way to show our gratitude for the nourishment they will provide countless others. We believe that giving these animals a small piece of our hearts allows them to experience a life they would have never had in most other situations.
Our philosophy is simple: a short life, full of comfort, compassion and joy is better than being raised in the commercial farm setting where there is no human touch, no laughter, no photo ops. All the evidence I need is a quick trip out to the pasture where I know that as soon as Steve and I step over the fence, Thunder, Bullseye and Fighter will race over to nudge our legs until we give their heads a good scratch.