Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dilemma



by Laura Crum

Warning: this post is not horse related (though it is about livestock) and may be upsetting for some. If you don’t eat meat and are repulsed at the thought of eating animals for food, please click on the little “x” now.

I have an ongoing dilemma. I’d like to lay it out there and see what others think. It bothers me at some level all the time, and I can’t come up with a solution that works for me. Here’s the problem.

I do eat meat. My young son, a very slender child, loves meat, and I think he needs it for his overall health. My husband enjoys meat. We are a meat eating family. Not being totally in denial, I accept the fact that eating meat means I support the slaughter of animals. But because I care about animals, and I want to eat healthy meat, and I own a sixty acre pasture in the foothills, I decided to start raising my own grass fed beef.

By “raising” I do not mean that I am breeding cattle. I mean that I am buying “used up” Corriente roping steers that would otherwise be going directly to the sale and on to be slaughtered, and turning them out on my pasture for several years. When they are somewhere between five and seven years old, we “harvest” them.

Sounds pretty, put like that. But what we are really doing is killing them and eating their meat. And I just can’t feel solidly okay with it.

I know all the reasons to support what I am doing. I did not bring these cattle into the world, and if I did not buy them and give them several years of retirement in my pasture, their end would come definitely come much sooner and be FAR less pleasant. And I do ensure that their end is painless. They are not hauled anywhere. When the time comes, they are shot by a professional ranch killer while they stand there grazing. One minute alive, the next gone. No hauling, no feedlot, no disruption, no suffering. Its very important to me that I am giving these steers a good life and a peaceful end.

I also know that when I buy beef in the market, the average age that steer lived to be is eighteen months. Contrast that to my cattle, who live to be five to seven years old. Beef you buy in the market comes from cattle that are penned up in crowded dry lots for months and fed corn. My cattle live their last years turned out, eating only grass. Corrientes are well adapted to this as a breed, and rarely need supplemental hay, but when they do, we feed them. They are never allowed to get thin. We take good care of them and give them a healthy life. In return they give us healthy meat. As a family, we thank the steer for the gift he gave us every time we eat his meat. I tell my son that we gave the steer a good life and now the steer is helping us to have a good life.

That’s what I tell myself. That’s what I tell my son. And I believe it. But look at the photo below.

This is the steer whose meat I am currently eating. He was a nice, easy to get along with critter—I choose the steers that I “retire” very carefully. They are selected not just because they are well made, but also for the attitude. I buy them from the proprietor of our local practice roping when he deems that their days as a roping steer are done. Those who have been good, cooperative roping steers (and believe me, some steers throw in with being roped, just like some horses throw in with being ridden), get the call. We called this speckled steer “Roany” and he was a pleasant animal-- easy to gather from the pasture and move from here to there. Its hard for me to look at his photo and not feel sad that we killed him, despite all the logic behind what I am doing.

The steer would die eventually, of course. If I kept him until he died of old age (very impractical) he would simply be faced with aches and pains, overgrown feet, and other maladies which I would be unable to treat, and his flesh would be of no use when I would finally have to kill him out of mercy. The end result would be much the same for him. Just a few years in the future. Of course, I would not have bought him and given him three peaceful years on my pasture had I not had a purpose. That purpose being healthy, humanely raised meat for my family. And yet, I still wonder if I’m doing the right thing.

So I’m stumped. I don’t think its better to buy my meat at the market. That distances you from the process, sure, but you’re actually supporting something that is MUCH less humane than what I am doing. The only answer seems to be to become vegetarian, and, for a variety of reasons, I’m not ready to go there yet. But still…

Here is next year’s uhmm, “candidate”. Or victim. Or however you want to phrase it. He is happily running around the pasture as I type, and has been for the past three years. But eventually it will be June, when it is his turn. I always dread that time, when we schedule “the day”.

I am still struggling with this process, even though I have been doing it for seven years, and logically believe it is the right thing to do, if I want to eat meat. I am giving the cattle a gift, in exchange for what they give me. They have a healthy, relatively long life; we eat their healthy meat. I don’t believe what I am doing is wrong. In my heart, I ask permission of the steers, and I think they are OK with it, if that doesn’t sound too new-agey. But it still makes me sad. I have moments of wanting to give up doing it, just to escape the emotional burden. But how is that a better, more responsible choice, unless I then become a vegetarian? And even then, by making that choice, I deprive a few cattle, who already exist, of the possibility of some happy, peaceful years in my pasture. Don’t you suppose that these steers would prefer I continued eating meat?

Even now, as the roping season comes to a close, I am contemplating buying a nice brindle steer who has been a solid citizen all year long. If I do, instead of going to the sale and on to slaughter, he will be hauled to my pasture to live for three or four years with the other steers that are currently there. What a good deal for him. But eventually the day will come and I will feel sad and somewhat guilty, despite everything I just told you.

As I said to begin with, the whole thing puzzles me and I'm still not in a place that feels completely right. Any thoughts?

31 comments:

Kate said...

I don't think there is any easy answer to this. I think, thought, that if you're going to eat meat, doing it the way you do it is the best way - or buying your meat from others who treat and "harvest" their animals as humanely as possible. Mass produced meat is unhealthy for the human (antibiotics, hormones, etc.), unhealthy and inhumane (in my opinion) for the animal and bad for the environment - both in terms of the waste and the huge skew in our farming towards corn, which is one of the most wasteful crops in terms of use of petrochemicals that there is.

I wrestle with this too, and we do have access to meat from a small farm that treats its animals well. I avoid buying supermarket beef - and pork and chicken as well - whenever possible. I've found it's actually not more expensive to buy directly from a small producer, and even if it were somewhat more expensive it would be worth it - and we try not to eat meat everyday for our health anyway.

Dreaming said...

This reminds me of an Escher tessellation, or a Mobius strip. It certainly presents a puzzle that seems, even after a lot of consideration, to have no answer. It can be seen from different angles and looks different and it is just so difficult to get your head around it.
I have no answer. We have thought about raising miniature cattle or hair sheep and culling them. We haven't gotten beyond the thinking stage. My son has already said I wouldn't be able to have any of them butchered.
It will be interesting to see what others say.

summersmom said...

You have to remember that what it all comes down to is your humanity. I think anyone would feel guilty about an animal dying, even if it is humanely done and it serves a good purpose. You are honoring their service to humans as a roping steer by retiring them to your pastures, and then again you honor them with your guilt over their service to your family. You may never feel completely right about it, but you should be secure in the fact that you have done right by these animals in every way you can. Each time you eat or prepare a meal, do you thank the steer that gave its meat? Perhaps that might help you feel a bit better :)

Laura Crum said...

summersmom--We do thank the steer every time we eat his meat. I think that's important.

Kate and Dreaming--It is a real puzzle for me, as I wrote in the post. All this time and I still can't find the "right" answer.

Funder said...

Does it help any to realize that animals die even when you eat a vegetarian diet? Anything that comes from a field directly or indirectly killed wild animals, either directly by combines or indirectly by habitat destruction / hunting the critters that eat the crops. It's an imperfect world, and you're definitely making one of the most ethical food choices.

Angelia Almos/Angie Derek said...

We had family friends growing up who bought a pig once a year from the county fair 4-H show. Lot of the same reasons you listed, but the main one was most of the animals were loved and doted over by their child caregivers until brought to the show/auction. The money went to the kids and the animals lived a happy life. I always thought it was a cool idea if you didn't have the resources to raise your own animals.

jenj said...

I've done the same thing, but since I have much less land, I raise chickens.

It's horrible to kill them. It makes me sick to my stomach. I contemplate it for days before, and weeks after the deed. Every time I pull one out of the freezer to eat, I am sad. I went through a time where I couldn't eat chicken - the though of doing so made me a little ill. You're right, it's a hard, hard choice.

In a way I envy those folks who buy their meat in the grocery store, wrapped in little foam packages. They can pretend it's not an animal. They can pretend that something didn't have to die for them to eat dinner. They can pretend it was healthy, lived a good life, and had a quick death (which, if it was factory farmed, couldn't be further from the truth). Ignorance never sounded so good.

But we know the reality, and I decided that I could not foist the responsibility of an animal's life - and death - off on someone else. If I want to eat meat, I either have to suck it up and deal with the realization that something had to die, or I don't eat the meat.

It SHOULD be hard to kill something. It SHOULD be disturbing to do so. You SHOULD mourn the animal - or at least give thanks that it gave it's life so you could eat. If killing gets easy or fun... well, that's even more disturbing to think about than what we're currently discussing.

So yeah, being a thinking, informed, moral carnivore sucks. I don't think there is a "right" answer - only the answer that each of us are the most comfortable with. It's funny, I'm not a religious person, but every time I eat meat now, I give thanks to the animal that died. I guess in my own way that's how I deal with it - appreciate it as much as I can.

TBDancer said...

There are farms that have free-range chickens and grass fed beef and pork and people buy shares in the animals and pick up their share after the "harvest." One such ranch near me (Mojave Desert, Southern California) sells out their shares every year. They have so much room for beef, pork and chickens, so the shares are limited.

Personally, I could not raise my own meat or poultry because I would name everyone and I don't want to know that "tonight I'm eating George" or "Cynthia" or "Sally Jean." I do not want to know the name(s) of the animals raised at the farm, either -- they name their critters, too but don't have the problem I do with that. Silly, but I know myself.

I think if we treat our food animals humanely and permit them to live well and live like animals rather than caged up, we are being "good stewards." That makes the "harvest" more palatable (pun intended) to me.

Laura Crum said...

Funder--Wow--your comment really rang a bell for me. I have always thought of vegetarianism as the "do no harm" approach, but you are so right. We have a large vegetable garden on our property and this is the only area on the property where we trap and kill gophers--because if we didn't, we wouldn't have any vegetables. I am not someone who takes life lightly (as I guess the post shows) and I won't kill critters who muck about in the more ornamental part of the garden, even if they kill my plants. But if we want to grow our own vegetables--and we do--we have to kill the gophers that invade that space. And, obviously, this logic applies to the vegetables we buy. Thank you so much for pointing this out to me. It doesn't make killing the steers any easier, but it does make me feel less guilty that I'm not a "saintly" vegetarian.

Yes, it is an imperfect world...and I am trying to make ethical choices. Perhaps its best just to acknowledge that.

Laura Crum said...

Angelia--To be honest, I could never stand to watch the 4-H auction. The kids leading their much loved animals into the ring to be sold for slaughter, the tears...this is not something I want to be involved with. We don't make pets of the steers, and though I am sad to kill them, it is not the heartbreak it would be if they trusted us in the way the horses do.

jenj--It sounds like you and I are on the same page. Those are my thoughts, pretty much exactly.

TBDancer--Yes, buying meat from a small farm that raises it humanely is a great option. That way you don't have to be personally responsible for the killing. I would do that, except I own this pasture and I have an opportunity to give some of these roping steers a good retirement and it just seems that logically, its win/win. Except that my emotions get all tangled up.

Once Upon an Equine said...

I think a lot of us who eat meat, but love animals, have similar thoughts and feelings. Just last night as my husband and I were driving home from an errand, we passed a cattle ranch that had a sign in the pasture that advertised natural beef - place your order now. And right behind the sign was a herd of lovely cattle, peacefully grazing. I kind of cringed and thought to myself, "I really should become vegetarian." But I do think meat has a healthy place in our diets. And I also believe that some animals are on this earth to provide a food source for other animals, including humans. But I also think most of us eat way too much meat. For those of us who choose to eat meat, for our health and out of respect for the animals, I think we should eat less meat. But my thoughts will still go back and forth about the issue because, like you, I'm sensitive and love animals.

I think it is admirable that you are giving your cattle a good life and ensuring they die quickly and peacefully without the stress of mass production through a feedlot and slaughter plant. The latter is what bothers me the most about eating meat. I don't want the animals to be scared or suffer at the end.

Francesca Prescott said...

Wow, Laura, I considered writing a post on a similar subject recently, but you beat me to it. Mine would have been very different of course, as I don't live in a place where I can keep livestock. I recently went through something that totally changed my eating habits. In late August, I signed up at a yoga centre about fifteen minutes from where I live. It's a really nice centre, very blissy and incensy, and I love it (although I've not managed to go as often as I'd like to). But...the first day I went to a yoga class, it was early in the morning, and I parked my car in the car park across the road, where everyone has to park. And the car park was quite full, so I had to drive around to find a place and ended up on the far side where, when I pulled into a space and looked up, I found myself face to face with a "cow" (I guess I should say "beef") hanging upside down by one foot. Next to it stood another scared looking cow (beef, whatever) waiting for it's fate. Yes, there's a small slaughterhouse right across the road from the yoga centre. It's a big, horrendous killing centre, but still, the smell of death hangs in the air and there's a chilling vibe. Anyway, the sight really upset me, but I went to yoga, got all blissed out and namastaeish, and afterwards, as I walked back to the car I prayed the two animals would be gone. They were, but what replaced them was even worse. As I shuffled closer to my car, hardly daring to look up, I saw a mama cow with two babies waiting to be killed. And one of the babies looked at me and said "maaaaaaaa" and I shuddered and said to it "I'm sooo sorry" and sent it lots of love and courage, and drove away feeling sick to my stomach. Since then I can't eat meat at all. I can still eat chicken and fish, which is totally hypocritical of me, I know, but I guess I've not seen a chicken being killed right in front of me, and tell myself that as I only buy free range chicken its not so bad. Fish? I'm a hypocrite there, too, as when I did fly fishing lessons in Colorado this summer the only fish I caught I couldn't wait to throw back (but I got a thrill out of catching it).

What's crazy is that I've always been a big fan of meat; one of my favourite dishes was "steak tartare" which is...cringe...raw finely chopped beef. Since that vision outside yoga I couldn't possibly eat it again, which is nuts as of course, over the years, I've seen loads of programs on TV about slaughterhouses, and horrendous details about where our meat comes from. But that moment before the yoga class made it personal, and even when I cook chicken or fish now (and I still cook meat for my family) I am more conscious of "honoring my food". When my son recently didn't finish a fish dish I'd made, I told him to think about the sacrifice the fish had made, and to honour that fish. He looked at me funny, but he definitely got where I was coming from.

I don't think I could raise animals and slaughter them; I'd also give them names and then think I was eating Daisy and Jo and Charles-Henri. But I think what you do is commendable and very brave. You're giving those animals a wonderful few years and honouring them on your plate. It's a tough thing, though, and I get you. Bless you, Laura! Lots of love.

kel said...

Being a retired 4-H leader and parent of very active 4-Her's... I have to chime in here. First, 4-H is about way more than raising a pig, lamb or steer and selling it at auction. IMHO... these are not pets, they are livestock raised for the purpose of human consumption. If you can't get your head around that or that point across to your child, then that part of the program may not be for you. It annoys me to see kids going into the show ring with their steers, pigs and lambs - tears streaming down there faces because I KNOW that 90% (especially the teenage girls - talk about playing to the crowd) of them are doing it because they think it is going to get them more money. Plain and simple. With that said... a 9 year old with a meat rabbit... probably isn't thinking about the money, they have become genuinely attached to the animal because some well meaning parent has allowed them to keep the bunny in their bedroom and make it a pet. I have had individuals tell me that the 4-her's are only in it for the money - well I love to point out that if you shovel pig crap and feed twice a day for months - during the winter, you spend money to vaccinate & worm and you work with your animal - shouldn't you get paid for the product. Heck yes, it is about presenting a usable prduct for compensation. But 4-H teaches public speaking, accounting, work ethic, citizenship skills and a myrid of other life skills. The livestock auction is just a small part of the process. We have raised cattle and pigs for years. I love pigs. They are smart, have great personalities and are very clean animals. And home grown pork is the best to eat - taste and health wise. I am sure that I will get railed for this, but it doesn't bother me a bit to harvest the product. I raise these animals for a purpose and I am not wasteful about it. I feed them well and take good care of them during the life they have. For me it is no different than picking fruit from a tree or vegy's from the garden.
I had a conversation with a friend's teenage daughter the other day. She was contemplating refraining from eating meat because she was concerned that an animal had to die for her to eat. I asked her if she was going to quit wearing her leather boots and coat. Is she going to seek out only shampoos, make up, soaps and other products that did not include animal by product. Nope - she was only going to give up meat because that was easy and eased her conscience. For me... it doesn't work that way. How can you be upset over eating meat while you are sitting there wearing leather boots?

Laura Crum said...

Once Upon--We can all choose to end factory farming by buying our meat only from small independent farms that treat the animals in humane and healthy ways. And I agree that we mostly eat too much meat. I eat more beef than I would choose, because I raise it--though I believe grass fed beef is much better for us than corn fed beef. Lately I have been swapping with my neighbor, who is a fisherman, so I am eating more fish and he is getting some beef. I love barter.

Francesca--I hear you. That's why I posted the photos of the steers. Its not the same as looking a little calf in the eye, as you did, but I thought it might helpto show how personal the whole deal is. You might not see it when you buy your packaged steak at the market, but some unique individual, just like my speckled steer and my red steer, died to produce that steak. It really is a hard thing to come to grips with, and yet its reality. I would not mind giving up beef, personally, but as I say, I don't think the roping steers would find that a good choice on my part. No one would give them those happy years of retirement. It surely is a two-edged sword.

Laura Crum said...

Well, kel, those are good points. I have never done 4-H and I'm sure it has value that I don't know about. I myself would not choose to let a child raise an animal as a pet and then sell it for slaughter. I had no idea anyone ever faked the tears. Believe me, had I ever been persuaded to do this as a child, my tears would have been very real.

I am very careful not to make pets out of the cattle we eat. They have names simply so we can identify them. They are not tame enough to be either caught or petted. I treat them well and I want what is good for them, but I try not to get too close to them emotionally--for obvious reasons. My young son does not cry when they are "harvested", though we have certainly had some long talks about it.

If you don't have qualms killing an animal, I guess you are lucky. I have gone over it many times, as I explain in the post, and I think I am doing an ethical thing. It still makes me feel sad.

Funder said...

I'm curious, Laura, did you grow up in a farming family? Do you think your son could sell one of the steers? I mean, he's growing up viscerally knowing that cute steers -> steak. I wonder if he would have an easier time with a 4H auction.

Laura Crum said...

Funder--Yes, I grew up in a ranch family. We raised our own beef. As a child I watched the steers get butchered. I was OK with it. However, when we had a bottle calf that I grew attached to, I was devastated when she was sent to the sale.

To answer your question--I think my son is Ok with the way we raise our beef because I have been very careful to help us keep an emotional distance from the steers--the pasture is three hours from our home and they are checked on by my friend who splits the beef with me--so we do not have day to day interactions with them, which helps, only occasional visits--but I do not think my kid would be Ok with us having a farm animal here that was "tame" and then us selling it for slaughter. He is, for instance, very attached to the banty chickens we have here and very sad when one is killed by the bobcat..etc. As I said before, I would not choose to have a child treat an animal like a pet (tame it, be affectionate with it) and then sell it for slaughter. From my point of view, that would be devastating...or simply teach hard heartedness.

The steers that I have are way too wild to run through a 4-H sale (at least based on what I have seen--all the cattle looked pretty docile). To tell the truth, this just isn't something I am interested in, but if my son expressed an interest, I would support him in that.

OK, now I am curious. Was the point of your question that you think it would be good for my son to sell a steer in a 4-H auction? I'm fine with that being your opinion, but I'm pretty sure I don't agree.

What I do think is good for my son is to know (and to see) that we are trying to give the steers a good life and a peaceful death--that we take good care of them in exchange for the gift they give us.

Funder said...

Interesting!

No, I don't think it'd be good for him to sell livestock at 4H - or bad for him for that matter. I was just curious, based on the strength of your reaction to 4H auctions, if you grew up (sub)urban and what you thought your kid's reaction to 4H auctions would be.

I was in 4H as a kid, but we didn't raise livestock - we were very rural but didn't have the infrastructure for anything more complicated than chickens. I remember seeing the shows/auctions and I don't remember any tears or freakouts... but who knows, it was many moons ago. :)

Laura Crum said...

Funder--Yeah, I guess it touches a nerve with me. I really do have a very hard time when I have to set the day to "harvest" another steer.

My uncle, who is a very tough old bird, can still remember his tears when a lamb that he had raised like a pet (as a young boy) was killed for meat--which was his parents intended use for it all along. One night at the table his father revealed that they were eating "Willy" and my uncle ran from the room unable to take another bite. I sometimes think that my uncle's lack of compassion toward his horses and other critters is partly a result of that sort of experience in his childhood. It was toughen up and get hard hearted or have your heart broken over and over again. I don't want that to happen to my son.

My goal with my son has been to create a space where we understand what we are doing with the steers and why we are doing it--its no surprise when I say, "Lets thank the roan steer for the gift he gave us,"--my kid knows whose meat he's eating. But at the same time I do try to prevent any of us getting overly attached to the cattle.

As I said in the post, it isn't easy for me--perhaps that's just my weakness.

kel said...

being the smart ass that I can be.... You know I can get all black and white here right? the flies you killed last summer... they could have been somebody's pet and I doubt seriously you mourned over them. How about spiders... mice and rats? I am just playing devils advocate (wink) Because I really don't want to work today and this is way more fun.
I think as a nation we eat way to much meat and we are the most wasteful population in the world. And for the most part we are one of the most uneducated group of meat eaters there is. The quality of our supermarket beef & pork is gross and Americans just keep buying it because it is cheap. That is what I love about growing my own. I not only can control what they eat but how they are processed. If I am going to take an animal to slaughter, I want the entire animal used. I have huge issues with hunters that just kill for the thrill.

Laura...I am kind of surprised that you aren't familiar with the 4-H program. Up here in the Northstate a lot of homeschoolers use 4-H as a school activity. They have public speaking groups, dog obidence, cooking, crafting, record book keeping, hiking and bicycling groups, etc. They all have to participate at monthly meetings, learn Roberts Rules, hold an office, give presentations, do community service projects and keep accurate records of time and money spent on the project. As far as I have seen it compliments homeschooling very nicely.

Laura Crum said...

kel--Yeah I kill flies. And I don't mourn. Does this make me a hypocrite? I kill ticks and fleas, too. Spiders I carry outside--unless they're black widows. I'm afraid I really have a hard time killing rats and mice and insist on trapping them alive and releasing them (I had a pet rat as a child and loved her). Ok, maybe my actions don't make much sense.

I'm not against 4-H. I just participate in lots of activities with my kid and don't feel the need for more structure. We go to a formal class twice a week with other homeschoolers (through the public school system) and he takes many other "outside" lessons (music, karate, a science lab). I like doing the livestock stuff my way. To tell the truth I'm not drawn to 4H, for a variety of reasons--too much organization, rules, politics...etc, but I don't mean to run it down. I'm sure its a good fit for many.

kel said...

Laura - it doesn't make you anything but human. :) I have no problem calling the butcher but I can't get through a Hallmark commerical without tearing up. Go figure. And as for the spiders and rodents... that is why I got me a husband...

I think as with anything 4-H is what you make of it and I know for a fact it varies by club and location. It was a good program for us, but isn't a good fit for everyone. You are providing your son with a "real" life and teaching him to be a good person - that is what is important.

Bionic Vapour Girl said...

Hello,

I am new to your blog but I really commend you on this post. I have been a vegetarian for 9 years, I don't drink milk or eat eggs for the most part either but I am not strict enough to call myself a vegan.

My problem with eating meat, drinking milk and eating eggs is the industry. We have evolved as such that we eat meat and vegetables. I am not saying at all that we shouldn't eat meat. The problem is how the livestock and the poultry are treated. Factory farms, feedlots etc. are not only harmful to the environment but they are are extremely unkind and unfair to the animals.

If I could be guaranteed that the animal products I was eating came from a sustainable, environmental and ethically sound source I would eat meat and other animal products.

I believe in giving animals the chance to live a natural life and to be treated kindly and with respect.

I think what you're doing is a great thing and I have a great deal of respect for you that you can go out and kill an animal to eat it. A lot of people can't seem to truly grasp how meat is 'made'.

My advice to you is to live a healthy life. Only eat meat maybe 3 times a week and be vegetarian the rest, after all that is our intended diet from evolution. Then you are not taking more than what is yours.

For gods sake, don't name the cattle. That must be torture.

Breathe said...

I think a great deal of the native approach to this. To honor each life, to acknowledge its sacrifice, to do all you cn to be merciful and swift.

I often prefer venison, because I reason they only have one bad day. But of course deer are killed by other predators. Do we think of those predators as cruel? Would we have them starve?

It is a circle, what comes to us should be gathered with as much respect for the life as possible. I think you've taken it as far as one can along those lines, as far as you can without choosing to give up meat.

Personally I don't eat pork, because I've met too many clever pigs. For me it would be like eating a dog.

I doubt I could eat an animal I lived with, frankly. It's just too much to contemplate. I'd have to barter for someone else
's cow, which is ridiculous, really. But I know where my line is, and it's bright and clear.

I'm glad my grandparents raised cotton.

Laura Crum said...

Thanks kel.

BVG--Welcome and thanks. The cattle have sketchy names just so we can refer to them, as in, "Red got out--we need to put him back in." As I mentioned, they live in a pasture that's three hours away, so we don't live with them, and I try to keep an emotional distance from them, while still making sure that they have a good life.

Breathe--I don't mind eating venison, but I feel the difference between me and a hunter is I am giving the cattle something in exchange for the gift they give me. I give them several happy years in a beautiful pasture. And my cattle don't really have a bad day. Or even a bad moment. One minute there, the next gone.

Shanster said...

I'm 100% with JenJ on this one. "It SHOULD be hard to kill something. It SHOULD be disturbing to do so. You SHOULD mourn the animal - or at least give thanks that it gave it's life so you could eat. If killing gets easy or fun... well, that's even more disturbing to think about than what we're currently discussing."

I will always eat meat... we butchered one of our bottle raised goats once and ate him. Yes, it was extremely hard and yes I felt very sad. However, I knew he had a great life up to the end and that is important.

Laura Crum said...

Shanster--I know I'm giving the steers a good life, but I still feel sad to kill them. I guess that's the answer. I ought to feel sad. I should get over wishing that I didn't feel sad.

I just made a deal to buy two more nice steers, as the roping season comes to an end. I think those two steers are going to be pretty happy that I still eat meat.

AareneX said...

Laura, I think your solution to meat-eating is admirable, and I wish I had the room to house an extra steer in my pasture to do likewise. I'm afraid Jim's mare Hana would die of the vapours if I even suggested bringing in some kind of cow. Sigh.

Laura Crum said...

Thanks Aarene. I know housing a steer probably isn't practical for you--but most horses get used to cattle pretty quickly, if they are pastured near them. Of course, I wouldn't know about Arabs (just teasing).

Linda said...

I'm a meat eater, but the ongoing joke at our house is that if we buy a cow and raise it ourselves (which, in theory we would LOVE to do) I'll get attached to it and we'll end up having a pet cow from now to eternity. Is it hypocritical? Yes. But I don't like to have relationships with my food. :/

In your case, however, bon appetit!

Laura Crum said...

Linda--I actually did that once--bought a cow to train my young horses on and ended up keeping her until she was old. Trust me, I experience the urge to keep every one of these steers as a pet. I just know it totally would be a mistake--partly because I did it once. Also, by "harvesting" one, I get to give yet another one a few happy years.