On Betraying Your Family
Yesterday, in the comments of An Affront to the Idea of Family, Brian wrote:
I understand your concern for those cows that were beat by that man and the unfortunate death of all the cows that died in the snow storm. As a dairy farmer I even had a hard time reading that. I love my cows and I don’t anyone touch them in that manner. I am always working for the best environment and the most comfortable situation for my cows, who I consider part of my family. You say that “Family Farms do not exist and that they don’t care about their animals.” That is not true. I work with my mom and dad twenty other caring individuals to provide the best, most comfortable place for my family members, all 2000 of them. Please talk to us before you start to accuse us of not taking care of our cows, and making what one farmer who is not right the truth of everyone else.
It’s a relief to hear that Brian disapproves. However, let’s deconstruct his language:
- “I love my cows . . . “
- “who I consider part of my family.”
- His family members total 2000.
- “Please talk to us before you start to accuse of of not taking care of our cows.”
How, I would ask Brian, does he define “love?” Does it include ownership of individuals (“our cows”)? Does he own the human members of his “family?” Does he control their reproduction, their food, when they eat, where they live, and how and when they will die? Does he really equate the cows with the human sentients in his family? Can the humans come and go as they please? Are the humans providing Brian with something he is profiting from (maybe hard work, he’d say), and when they stop he will kill them?
What does it mean to love and take care of someone and consider them part of your family? What does that look like?
Allow me to suggest an answer: It looks like Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary or Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary or Maple Farm Sanctuary or another place where animals are rescued from certain betrayal and death, often under the guise of “love” and “family.”
Above is Emily Fokker. I love her, I take care of her and she is part of my family. As such, I will not kill her for profit or when I no longer find her useful.
For more on the “love” animal farmers have for “their” animals, see also On Compassionate Carnivores and Betrayal.
I would have asked for the names of his family members, all 2000 of them…
Also, where can I buy his wife's breast milk? I know he has to kill the babies she has every year so I can drink her milk, but I haven't been weaned yet, and I don't plan on doing so any time soon. And anyway, who cares about her or their kids? I have high expectations regarding the amount of milk I can get on a daily basis also, so if she starts slacking off, I do hope he knows he will have to replace her with a younger woman who can meet my milk needs.
It's all good as long as it's part of being a member a loving family, isn't it?
Excellent response. Too many people claim that they love "their" nonhuman animals "like family." We need to call them out on it more often – thanks for outlining a terrific example!
Thanks for bringing Brian's post in your previous blog to our attention here, Mary.
Brian, I can see where you're coming from. You truly are concerned for the welfare of the individuals in your 2,000-strong family; I'm not being facetious in saying that.
But what you and other animal breeders are in the business of *not* comprehending is that their welfare is compromised, indeed nullified, the minute you treat sentient beings as property. They effectively have no rights.
That makes them your slaves. And even though you are clearly a benevolent slaveholder, you nonetheless cannot shake that label. You use the animals for your gain and they lose not only their freedom, but their babies and their milk and eventually their lives. All that sadness and pain and terror (which you admittedly try to lighten but which can never disappear by the very nature of your line of work) so that you can sell off the pieces of your family members' bodies to consumers who will never know them as feeling, thinking individuals the way you do. The consumer can be excused for that disconnect; you unfortunately cannot.
There are, understandably, very few farmers and ranchers who rise above their exploitive mentality. Yes, your decent, kind-hearted self wouldn't dream of breeding and trading and robbing and slaughter humans, but the fact that you violate nonhumans by breeding and trading and robbing and slaughtering them means you are holding society back from progressing beyond oppression of one group over another.
Not to mention that your 2,000 family members are innocently but seriously contributing to global warming. More than half of the greenhouse gas effect comes from animal agriculture, according to the latest UN study on the subject. So you're also countering the environmental improvements the world is trying to make. Put another way, you're sending your own planet down the tubes. No one wins by participating in the herding culture in the 21st century.
Will Tuttle has just written an article about his visit and views of the small (family) farms and dairies in Switzerland.
"On the surface, the small Swiss farms all look so idyllic. Hiking the wanderwegs through the mountains, hills, and dales of Switzerland, though, provided me the opportunity to look behind the curtain of the Swiss "happy cow" image. It was revolting to suddenly come upon small, dark, stinking barns where goats were haplessly confined on the hillsides, the land around cut down and barren from grazing. These unfortunate females were the source of the "gourmet delight" goat cheeses in posh stores and restaurants. Kept almost continuously pregnant, their male babies had all been killed at birth for kid gloves and other upscale leather products. I also walked by young heifers imprisoned in pens, waiting for the sperm gun that would impregnate them, and cows separated from their calves, waiting for the next milking. The calves, both male and female, are mostly sold for slaughter for the veal that is omnipresent on the menus in Swiss restaurants, or they are killed at birth for the rennet in their stomach lining that is traditionally used to coagulate cheese. I also saw deer imprisoned in pens for the venison that is similarly popular on restaurant menus.
There is virtually no true wilderness left in Switzerland. Even in the high and remote mountains there are wandering goats and cows who are someone's property, and who will be duly slaughtered while still quite young when their production declines and it doesn't pay to feed them the expensive hay they need in the barn in winter. Most of the Swiss forests have been cut down to grow feed-grains for livestock, and this has led to a loss of habitat for wildlife."
There's more… But he concludes "It should be more clear than ever: reducing demand for all animal-sourced foods–whether small-scale or factory-farmed–is the key to attaining environmental, social, physical, and spiritual health."
Famers "love" their livestock in much the same sense (and for exactly the same reasons) that 19th century slave-traders provided a basic minimum standard of care for (human) slaves; of *course* it's in animal ag's business interest to provide *some* minimum standard of care for the animals it profits from in various ways; this *is not* equivalent to familial love, unless Brian or farmers like him intend on having us believe he's willing to sell his (human) children, if there's a decent profit margin to be had.
Glad he doesn't "love" me!