“…it will never go away.”
A very wise butcher once told me that. It was in response to a question I had asked him about whether he had been getting a lot of protest from our area’s animal rights activists. He also included “We’re fighting for the same thing, to have animals treated humanely, but I’m being much more realistic.”
As urban farmers, we raise a variety of livestock to meet our egg, dairy and meat needs. Those of us that raise our own animals are doing so because we no longer want to be part of the industrialized agricultural machine that routinely abuses animals for the sake of the almighty dollar. Instead of thousands of animals being abused for our sake we reduce that amount to zero. We cannot afford to live in a rural area that is close to our work so we have to make do with living in the city. The cost of humanely raised meat, eggs and dairy is far too high for many of us, so raising our own is really our only option. Because we raise our own we also eat a lot less meat now compared to before we started raising our own animals. We honor the animals that gave us their life so as to nourish ours. I find this attitude towards backyard livestock to be quite common among those in our community. We feel we have a responsibility to be active players in the sustainable food movement even if we cannot afford the high cost of it.
On top of that we were finding that getting through the grocery store was such a time waster. Do I want free range, cage free or organic eggs? Do I want grass fed or organic beef? Labels no longer really mean anything. Cage free doesn’t mean the hen has more room. Organic just means they were fed organic feed and weren’t given any medication and has no bearing on their living conditions. Grass fed, organic beef can still be grain finished. It was just easier and cheaper for me to just raise the animals myself. Erica over at Northwest Edible Life summed this all up very succinctly last week.
But there’s a very small, yet very vocal group of animal rights activists that want us to no longer be able to raise our own. Nevermind that we’ve never had a complaint (our neighbors actually enjoy what we’re doing and come over regularly to visit our animals), we’ve never made anyone sick (they claim that we are creating a health hazard by having these animals), and our animals are safe, happy, healthy and have a ton of room to run (yes, they have enough to actually run/gallop/jump) around. We take them to the vet if they get sick or injured (yeah, I’m the crazy person that spent $300 on a chicken at the emergency vet) and we make sure they have the best feed available.
One of the activists admitted that they don’t have experience with these animals. They don’t know what urban livestock really entails and they’ve never actually visited an urban farm with livestock. yet they tell people that our animals are living in conditions that are worse than the factory farms. They say we participate in illegal activities such as selling raw milk and meat. It’s hard not to assume that they want to use the government to force us to eat their way. That if they force us to give up our own animals that we’ll just choose to go without meat, milk or eggs.
Unfortunately cheese (and meat and eggs) outweighs my guilt and if I can’t make the best choices by raising my own I’ll just go back to eating the commercial stuff.