"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Friday, 29 May 2015

Driving livestock.

About a year ago I had a conversation with a lady (name withheld for obvious reasons) about the treatment of livestock. Now while she and I agreed for the most part on the ethics of keeping animals we did have one sticking point. She would never make her animals do anything they did not want to do! If she wanted her cow to come into the milking stall she would lure it in with a bucket of feed. If the cow did not want to come in, it didn't and that was the end of that. She claimed this was OK and she wished to respect the animals rights.
I suggested that it would one day be necessary to drive the animal for its own good, such as so it could receive veterinary help. She replied that if the cow ever needed help it would come willingly.

Now here I must disagree with the lady in the strongest terms. Although it may sometimes be distasteful I firmly believe that any animal in your care must learn to be driven and yarded when you need it to be so. Otherwise you will have an unruly animal that cannot be penned, wormed, milked or given medical care unless it particularly feels like it. And I can assure you that if the animal is in pain, that it will not.

Unfortunately this is exactly what happened. In short her cow had a difficult birth and desperately needed veterinary attention afterwards. The cow panicked and would not come to the lady when she offered it a bucket of feed. When She and the Vet tried to drive the animal (for the first time in its life) it not surprisingly panicked and became utterly uncontrollable. The end was one dead cow, shot from a distance, and a motherless calf. All due to the naieve stupidity of the owner. Needless to say she took it very poorly when I suggested the whole incident was her fault.

If you have livestock it becomes your responsibility to ensure all their needs are met and this means that sometimes they must be forced into situations they don't like. Hooves must be trimmed, worming mix dosed and fly spray applied for the direct health of the animal. A cow in milk must be milked either by her calf or yourself otherwise she will suffer horribly. Calves must be weaned and all animals must learn to go where I direct them and this is for their own good health and well being.This is the inevitable tradeoff that comes with keeping any animal in confinement.
So what is cruel? The lady in question believes that my methods are cruel and I likewise believe the same about her method of animal husbandry. But the end result is that our livestock are all happy and healthy. They have no fear of being driven or touched and as a result can receive help when it is needed. She cannot say the same.

1 comment:

  1. Well spoken Ulf.
    Cows are a herd animal and unfortunately for us small holders we might only have a couple and they don't understand us but do become pet like, no matter what we do, and so miss out on their association with heaps of their kind. So they need some direction. Even big herds, which have been domesticated also need some direction.