A friend of mine posted this image on her facebook page earlier today. It’s the new posters that the animal rights group, Mercy for Animals is selling to raise funds.
Now I don’t have the answer to this question. I have my opinion and I am sure the other side could argue against my thoughts quite easily. I think the only answer to this question is one that we each answer for ourselves. The reasons I choose to eat meat from a pig or cow but choose not to eat my dog or my horse even thought they are staples in other diets are my own reasons. They most likely won’t be the same as the next person’s thoughts and I am cool with that. But the point of this post isn’t to debate the question, I want to talk about the reaction I had to a friend of mine posting this….
First a little back story. My friend Sheri is an amazing woman with more compassion and heart than just about any person I know. We have known each other for about 7 years now and have traveled together and leaned on each other during difficult times. I met Sheri when I adopted a dog from the dog rescue organization she worked with. I soon got involved with the organization as well and over the course of 4 years fostered many, many dogs before they went on to their, hopefully, forever homes. When we first met I was not really a “farm” girl and she wasn’t a vegetarian. Over the years we have both shared some amazing highs, like finding the perfect family for a dog that truly deserved the best home ever. There have been lows, she was at our farm the night she noticed her dog was having suddenly showing very serious symptoms of the cancer that eventually took her life. We don’t share the same views on politics or religion and I am ok with that. I am all about personal choice, including the choice to become vegetarian or even vegan. But to be honest when Sheri told me a while ago that she was choosing to exclude meat and eventually easing into a close to vegan diet, I was hurt a little.
I respect and admire my friend very much. The thought that she could possibly think that I wasn’t caring for the animals entrusted to me stings. At the same time I have avoided the conversation about her new diet choices because I didn’t really want to offend her and the right time to talk hasn’t really come around. Lately I have had the opportunity to spend a little more time with my friend. She has a litter of puppies at her house and one of them is reserved for us. While talking on a visit a few weeks ago Sheri said to me that she chose her diet because while she knew that I would never hurt or abuse my animals she couldn’t guarantee that the other farmers out there were like me. So she chose to eliminate the doubt about the welfare of the animals that produced meat and milk by forgoing animal products. While in theory that should make me feel better, she doesn’t think I am a horrible animal abuser, even though we are dairy farmers, it doesn’t. Instead I am sad and I feel like I have failed her.
It’s easy for someone to find information on the “horrors of factory farming”. Headlines scream out about the newest food atrocity every week. Food, Inc. is referenced as fact by many people. The side against farmers, against me, is loud and everywhere. Sometimes I just can’t help feeling like someone’s personal choice is also personal attack against me. I remember answering a question from Sheri several years ago about the calves we kept in hutches. She had always assumed that those calves were veal calves. I remember explaining to her that the calves we keep in hutches are not veal calves at all but are heifer calves that will be raised to join the milking herd. The other night the subject of veal came up again and I explained that very few calves are going to veal anymore because the veal market isn’t there anymore. That the majority of bull calves from dairy farms actually go on to become steers and are raised as beef animals. I couldn’t help but wonder, if my friend had came to me to ask about farming practices instead of taking what has been put out there by animal rights groups or other agenda driven people, would she still feel confident and comfortable eating meat and drinking milk? The veal questions are the only ones I can remember her ever asking me and I don’t understand how someone can make such a drastic decision without weighing all sides. Her post today struck a chord with me and in no small part because of the irony of someone who loves dogs so much supporting an organization that wants to end any kind of animal ownership, including dogs. But mostly because I want to answer her questions, or anyone else’s questions. I want to be a source of information, which is why I take the time to blog. But above all else I just want people to take the time to seek out information from the other side, the quieter side, the side out here in the country, the people that are here taking care of the animals.