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My mom sent me this newspaper article in the mail.  “Bringing Home the Bacon” was published in the Bend Bulletin on August 5, 2012.  The short article was about Central Oregon youth auctioning off their livestock at the Deschutes County Fair.

The article sharply demonstrates how youth in 4-H are quickly taught that money has a higher value than life.

“The kids go home with a big check, more than $5000 for those who raised the biggest, most prized cattle.  Most of the cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits and poultry bought by local residents, businesses and civic groups will go to the slaughterhouse and find their way to the dinner table in the coming days and months.”

“Sonna said it’s a bit difficult to part with Gus after spending nearly a year raising him, but the money she’ll make out of the deal makes it a bit easier to accept.”

“I just picture him as a big check.”

I’m glad the 10 year old feels a little better with money in hand.  I’d hate to see a child in pain.  But, do you think she learned any lessons about trust in this transaction?  Gus endured the ultimate breach of trust, for $3.90 per pound.

A 17 year old in the article said,

“You can’t look at them like a dog, like your pet.  From the beginning, that’s their purpose in life — they’re just part of the food chain.”

Isn’t it sad that children are brainwashed into thinking that killing and consuming animals is an absolutely necessary part of human nutrition?  I haven’t eaten animals for years.  I don’t need to.  And neither do you.

Like their parents before them, children grow up not ever questioning whether it’s actually justifiable to bring animals into the world, just to turn around and take their lives away a few short months or years later.

We also witness powerful evidence of speciesism:

“…some kids have a tougher time than others letting go of the animals they’ve spent months raising.  Much of it depends on the animal — pigs are affectionate and reasonably easy to grow fond of…but sheep…are less intelligent and much easier to view as meat in the making.”

I must ask:

Should our moral obligation toward other living beings really hedge on arbitrary criteria like form, temperament, and intelligence?  Don’t dogs, pigs, and sheep possess equal interest in avoiding harm?

Now let’s switch gears.  Let’s go forward in time.  Children in 4-H grow up.  Listen to the words of one such 64 year-old man…

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Fred Lundren is the owner and CEO of KCAA AM 1050 radio in Southern California.  He is a former cattle rancher who went vegan earlier this year.  His interesting interview with Bob Linden can be heard on the June 17, 2012 episode of “Go Vegan With Bob Linden.”

Fred grew up in the 4-H culture.  At about 26 minutes into the podcast, Fred recounts his own childhood indoctrination by the 4-H club:

“Well, it’s supposed to teach us to use animals as a product.  It’s just designed to do that, and it’s done quite well.  But it had an opposite affect on me.

I was actually president of our 4-H club, and an officer in FFA.  And, I got a Lone Star farmer degree in Animal Science.  So I’ve been there and done that, and raised animals for a living…”

“In 1965 I raised a champion steer at the Austin Livestock Show.  And, when I was leading that steer up the ramp to the trailer where it was gonna go to slaughter, it was hesitant, but I convinced it to do so.  I took the halter off of it…it walked up into the trailer, and then when it got inside the trailer it turned around and belIowed at me.  And that was the moment that I realized what I was doing.”

At 40 minutes:

“…For all my life, I have ignored that episode from my youth when I actually saw the animal respond to me in a knowing way.  And, like most people we just block it out. We eat our BBQ, we eat our hamburgers, we eat our steaks.  And, as a matter of fact, I was born and raised in what’s known as the sausage capital of Texas: Elgin.  And they have 3 sausage factories there.  And you can imagine how much beef I’ve eaten in my life.”

“…I had to slaughter one calf in my life…and I will never do that again.”

“When I became a vegan, something changed, not only in my metabolism, but in my way of thinking.  Because about a month ago, my wife and daughter ordered a steak.  And of course I ate broccoli and beans and peas and everything vegan for the evening.  But, in the middle of the night I thought, “you know, I wonder”..and they had some steaks leftover, and they had it in a plastic bag, and I says, “I wonder how that would taste.”  And I went to the refrigerator, I looked in the refrigerator and that steak looked like dead flesh to me.  It did not look like a steak. And I thought, “My God, I need to call Bob and tell him.””

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I think it’s appropriate to end this post with the core principles from 4-H:

“The 4-Hs

Head, Heart, Hands, and Health are the four Hs in 4-H, and they are the four values members work on through fun and engaging programs.

Head – Managing, Thinking
Heart – Relating, Caring
Hands – Giving, Working
Health – Being, Living

The 4-H Pledge

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”

(Reference:  4-H website)

I did a home safety assessment for a patient at work today.  I went with her & her husband to their rural home that includes a small herd (i.e. <25) of cows raised for meat.  Having never been in this particular situation before, I was keenly interested to learn everything I could about the fate of those animals.  I watched the cows innocently & peacefully grazing on grass as my patient was more than happy to answer all my questions.

By anyone’s definition, this is about as “humane” as an animal farm can get.  The bulls are not castrated, so the breeding is natural.  The cows have a lovely green pasture with a beautiful view of trees & mountains in a location w/ a mild climate.  A mobile unit comes to the farm to slaughter the animals on site.  The animals are killed when not much more than ~18 months (“so that the meat doesn’t get too tough”…and older animals are only “good” for hamburger.)  The animal’s body is hauled off to a butcher shop in a nearby city for about a week of aging (she called it “hanging”) & then processing into the various meat cuts.

This will be the last herd that my patient & her husband will have because they are both elderly & it’s getting to be too much work for them.  She also admitted that for health reasons everyone in her family is eating less beef so it is clearly not a necessary food source.  She clearly has a certain fondness for her animals & yet her speaking tone was matter of fact and clinical.

I found the whole experience quite unsettling.  Since going vegan, I have never needed confirmation, but yet being there confirmed in my mind that I am on the right track.  If this little family farm is AS good as it gets, I still don’t want any part of it.  I looked at the eyes of those animals.  I put myself in their situation.  I can only come to the conclusion that those animals don’t deserve to be suddenly killed when it is so unnecessary to kill them.  It is unnecessary to eat them.  And they really are babies…18 months.  Cows can live to be 20 years or more if given the chance.

More Q’s I have:  What happens when the mobile slaughter unit drives up?  What is the process then?  I didn’t have time to find out all the answers to every question that I later thought of.  What happens when one cow is harmed..killed?  When do the other cows know that they, too, will be harmed?  I still want to know more.  Nevertheless, I reflect on this interaction without tears, without anger.  I am disturbed by it because it is so unfair.  So unjust.  But I am glad that no more animals on this particular farm will be bred just to be killed.  I hope that more people will go vegan.

(Written April 5, 2012)

"There are those who are appalled because I am so vocal about injustice, yet I am equally appalled by their silence." Lujene Clark

“Every time you purchase animal products you pay assassins to murder sentient beings for you.”

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