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Sunday, May 4, 2014
EASTER - FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Easter, in the Italian American Tradition, includes Lamb - young Sheep between 3-4 months old - as part of dinner. Meat is roasted expertly by my Aunt. However, as a vegetarian, I have not eaten lamb in over 25 years. I remember when I ate meat - my Aunt cooked it really really well! Everyone else in the family looks forward to it. We all look forward to any meal by my Aunt - she is an excellent cook! I wanted to do something really special for her - so I sought to acquire the lamb for this Easter. Afterall, I live in dairy country, and raising animals for slaughter is common throughout the land. The first two farmers offered lamb meat butchered and sold at farmers markets. slaughtered. packaged and frozen by USDA certified houses. I placed an order - but later realized these animals were not the "lamb" stage my Aunt preferred for Easter. Upon a referral from a friend, I procured a lamb under 4 months.
The farmers raised lamb for sale in Brooklyn, NY- nearly 200 - for just this holiday. Sheep, like goats, are bred in the fall and birth in Jan or Feb. They had 2 lambs unsold for not meeting the 40lb requirement. A $100 price tag - the lamb was slaughtered ($30) and readied for Easter dinner. I have many conflicts with slaughtering animals. One is that they are living breathing animals - mammals - like us. Nowadays, people cherish their dogs & cats. These same people may fail to realize that cattle - sheep, goats, cows - are every bit as feeling and loving creatures. Meat/ animal consumption in modern society is on a scale never before imagined! People dine on meat for every meal without giving a thought to the creature on their plate. Population growth is in the trillions. The multiple of that by number of animals consumed - is trillions of animals each year. On our farm, we provide an ideal forever home for rescued hound dogs. We rescued wild horses - 2 mustangs - and keep all our horses for their lifespan. We would never think of trading or selling one of them as the herd becomes a family. They call for each other when just one of them moves out of eyeshot. We care for barn cats that have come from all over the countryside - goats - for dairy - but could not bring ourselves to kill the kids. Cattle are required to give birth for the production of milk. Now we have 22 goats - up from 5 originally. Dairy and egg industries have so much slaughter as part of production that few people realize what is involved. Most hens are given one year of production before sent to slaughterhouses. Most cows are given 4-5 years of milking and all of their offspring - male are killed - and females move into the production cycle. With so much killing involved in seemingly live animal operations - the consumption of these foods feeds into the slaughter system. I have not eaten meat for over 25 years. The reason - I can't reconcile taking a life for food. The choices outside of meat are too plentiful, and they include dairy & seafood. I am not vegan. But I care very much where and how my dairy, eggs and seafood are procured. I tried dairy on the farm. I consume too little for it to be worthwhile and feed all the animals. The increase from 5 animals to 22 animals happened in the span of 2010-2013. Only three years of dairying and that is how many animals were produced! Shocking even to me. Multiply all the milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products seen on the shelves in every dairy case across the U.S. and you can only begin to imagine the number of animals slaughtered each year for that production to take place. How about all the eggs and chicken pieces on the supermarket shelves? How many birds are slaughtered each year? We have a great movement which calls producers out for the way animals are raised and held in production. Are the cages big enough for them to turn around? Are the animals grass fed - enjoying outdoor grazing the little time they are given on earth? How are they slaughtered? Is the commute to the slaughterhouse stressful? Is the lineup for slaughter humane? Part of the movement has to become lowering consumption of these animals. Since I wanted to do something special for my Aunt. My life philosophy had to be put on hold. Knowing the animals to be slaughtered were out on grass, well cared for, and even well slaughtered, is very important and little consolation for the act of killing animals.
Our farrier said to me - " God does not care what you put in your mouth - all he cares about is what comes out" ie. what are your words - are they hurtful or evil?
I am spiritual and believe his point about what we say being important. The less hurtful we are in life the better. But for that that includes the slaughter of animals - as far as I am concerned - it is hurtful. I see the pain and feeling in invertebrate, fish, and poultry or fowl, birds. Mammals feel and love even more!
I've cared for animals my whole life - they really are all caring and feeling creatures. They have family and friendly interactions - within the herd and with humans. Having seen the internal organs of dead animals - their organs - including the heart - looks and acts like ours. I am happy with my food choices and I do not judge others for what they choose to consume. I consider my procurement of the "Easter lamb" both a loving/ and unloving act.
We grow sustainably, preserve open spaces & ecosystems, care for animals, support the arts, facilitate local products & economies. A large part of our work is philanthropic, our Horse, Hound, & Farm Rescue's mission is adopting hound dogs, wild horses, and supporting other family farms. We work in concert with wildlife preservation, artistic creations, and horticultural traditions. We were awarded a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant in 2005.