“I’m just an animal lover so I could never do that,” the lady at the library told me. In fact, she’s not the only one who has said this to me when the conversation about my line of work inevitably turns to the death of animals. I grit my teeth because I know they don’t know how what they just said cuts me like a knife. They’re implying that because, once a quarter, I can load up a couple of cows and several pigs and bring them to the processor or even dispense with a chicken myself, that I am made of stone. That I can just toss animals aside and don’t give their death a second thought. In fact, I probably give more thought to their LIFE as well as their death than anyone I’ve ever had this conversation with.
Death is definitely the hardest part of life on a farm. It beats out shoveling manure, heavy lifting and hours and hours of fence work. I’ve never spent a sleepless night worrying about how I’m going to lift those 50-pound bags of grain the next day, but I have spent many worrying about a horse recovering from colic, a pig with scours or an anemic goat. I’ve sacrificed my own night’s sleep nursing these animals back to good health, or sadly, sometimes keeping them company and making sure they are warm in their final hours. I don’t, however, mourn or worry about animals we send to the processor. I celebrate them. I give them a final pet on the neck and thank them for providing us with entertainment in life and nourishment in death.
Each time our family eats meat, we are thankful for the lives of the animals that provided that meat to us. Because we are so acutely aware that meat = animals, we are careful to eat less of it and make the most out of each pound. If you love animals more than I do, I’d encourage you to do the same.