Farming is an exercise in dualism. Farmers live in two worlds at the same time. They work in one of the oldest professions in the world using the most modern of high technology like GPS guided combines worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Growers utilize state of the art genetic modification to change plant characteristics while searching the far corners of the world for ancient “Heirloom” plants with valuable forgotten properties of taste or color. They take millions of dollars in investment and literally bury it in the ground like “Jack and the Beanstalk” hoping it will “magically” turn into more millions of dollars. I fully understand that this “magic” involves more millions of dollars of experience/ expertise, years of genetic manipulation and/or modification, chemical/ fertilizer application, and mechanical investment.
Some of the more literal “magic ” is the dependence on the biological nature of Agriculture. Biology is the basis on which all of Agriculture production rests. Plants and animals have to GROW. They have to survive disease. They have to withstand adverse weather. They have to take in food and water and, through the act of metabolism, turn that food into valuable end products like, meat, milk, eggs, plant growth, and plant production of fruit and seeds. The plan is that you start with something small and grow it into something more over the course of time. Grow the plants, grow the animals, grow the farm, grow the investment. This investment is NOT just money. The investment is also the Farmer’s land, labor, time, emotions, blood, sweat, tears, heart, and very Soul!
Baby farm animals are very cute. They are easy to love. There is nothing like having a curly-headed little calf licking and sucking on your fingers when you are bucket feeding. (Their tongues are very rough and raspy.) I mean exactly what I said. Farmers actually “love” their livestock. We care about them. We care what happens to them. They are not just numbers in a ledger.The Horrendous Atlas Blizzard in South Dakota two weeks ago left ranchers devastated over the financial and emotional loss of up to 100,000 head of livestock. News stories spoke of the pain of ranchers losing animals they had invested their lives in, not just their money.
The dualism comes in the fact that these animals were not destined to live out their lives on a pasture and die of old age surrounded by their “GrandCalves” like a Disney movie. Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney movies. Livestock are not pets. We love them and we care for them knowing the whole time that their purpose is to end up being consumed in some fashion. Most cute curly-headed little calves are destined to end up in someone’s hamburger or taco or on a plate in a steakhouse. Livestock are to be treated “humanely” NOT “humanly”. Calves, lambs, chicks, and piglets etc., etc. are not people. We treat them well and we care for them physically and often emotionally but they are produce. Nor are they pets. Pets reward us with emotional benefits beyond what stock does. Pets are not human, either. I would not marry a pet. I would not bequeath my inheritance to a pet. I would not place the welfare of a pet above the welfare of a human.
A field full of 10 foot tall corn waving in the breeze is an awe-inspiring sight. Six months later that same crop would be nothing but a field of tangled worthless stalks and weeds if not harvested. Apply that same thinking to a field full of livestock. That is wastage. This is a Judeo-Christian outlook but I also consider it to be the practical outlook. Mankind has the moral imperative to husband the resources of this world in such a way as to promote the welfare of humankind. That welfare comes above the welfare of livestock and crops. Our welfare is best served by the best possible care and nurturing of the resources placed within our purview. The better we treat them, within reason, the better we are rewarded.
I understand that other life philosophies feel that all life is sacred and should be treated the same. Man has to eat to survive. Man has the capacity to alter his environment in such a way to better utilize the plants and animals placed on this Earth with us to increase our welfare. Curly-headed calves are beautiful in their way. They are also hamburger. Keep it in mind.