One of my colleagues from India notes his and Gandhi’s respect for all life.

The sad thing for those of us living in developed nations is that we have largely lost contact with most domestic animals and, thus, tolerate extraordinarily cruel conditions under which animals for food are mass produced.

I am old enough so that,  as was the case with my peers,  many of us had grandparents who were farmers. Two of mine came from farms — one ran away from the accusations of a cruel stepmother at 12 (and any more formal education)  and eventually with the help of a brother started a retail business in Hanover, NH. The other born in the starting town of the Mormons, Palmyra, NY, became a distinguished scholar with overseas study and a career finally at Yale. Both would have been familiar with and presumably kindly disposed towards farm animals — they were both kind men.

I had the good fortune to spend my early years living in the country and had direct contact with farm animals one way or another. During WW2 we actually were raising two baby sheep for food. We made the mistake of naming them, Betsy and Butch. They were cute and marvelous at keeping our lawn cut and fertilized with small organic pellets. We did not have the heart to eat them and so back to the sheep farm they went to spend the the balance of their lives producing wool!

Another home creature was Tiny, our pig. He was a small piglet bouncing by the side of the road in a sack when my father picked him up and brought him home. Tiny, too, was supposed to become bacon and pork on our table. But as any familiar with them know, pigs are perhaps the smartest of the animals with which we have contact. So Tiny became bigger as our built in garbage disposal unit and we became fast friends. Tiny went back to a pig farm and not to our table.

My contact with cows came through my friend, David, whose parents ran the home and farm of a gentleman farmer nearby. I learned to bring in the hay. I was not good at milking. Cows are benign but not very bright either — bulls are dangerous! We had bought our land from a chicken farming family and I passed their chicken yard each day on my way to the school bus. Chickens are pretty stupid! We also had our dogs and cats (who got along fine as long as they were raised as little ones together). I had a rabbit for a time.

The bottom line with farm animals was that they were well treated until they were killed. That usually was done with such things as a blow to the head which probably stunned before pain set in. One summer a playmate in Vermont taught me how to chop off a chicken’s head on the family chopping block for wood. He could hit just the right spot on the neck so that the headless chicken would hop around for a time spouting blood. But ordinarily the chicken was dead before it knew what had hit it.

I, myself, shot at wild animals until a kindly lady persuaded me that I might be killing mommies and leaving the kids uncared for. So I gave up the hunter instincts that are embedded presumable in us. I did hunt frogs and my mom was shocked when following the Boy Scout handbook directions she salted the skinned legs which promptly started quivering.  They taste like sweet chicken. The Scout book gave me the directions for turning a blacksnake’s skin into a belt — nonsense — too frail. But I note that it was easier to kill creatures less like ourselves.

We now live in NYC and we have had occasional animals in our apartment — a cat that had to go to Maine when a daughter became allergic (had a friend living in Maine who could use a mouser), a dog which we loved dearly, a hamster (done in by the cat), etc. But it is not the same as growing up with them. And how sad that the same farm animals are so abused by agribusiness in ways that I will not spell out here. I fear that we have been desensitized to life in ways that may prove dangerous in the end. We seem to be living in a second hand la la land divided from reality by our omnipresent TV horrors.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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