Saturday, May 31, 2008

Art Imitates Life

from South Park episode 605: Fun with Veal

Hear me out- this really works- South Park has LOTS of good messages for today's controversial issues.

Today's topic is the cattle industry. Seems that every time I post another group of branding photos the wackos come out of the woodwork to comment on them. Last year it was a group that promoted gruesome photos asking me to post to their group. This year it was a "peace-loving" hippie who hoped that one day, I would get branded with a hot branding iron just like a calf. Sound peace-loving to anyone else?

I have no problems with meat-eaters. I am one of them. I also have no problems with hippies, many friends of mine are hippies, and I, myself, have been referred to (by my own mother in fact) as a fat hippie. The issue of raising animals to kill and eat is a really complicated one, covered by ethics classes, protest marches, starvation campaigns, billboards, and naked women. Heck, the cover story on this month's WorldArk, the Heifer International magazine is about the Carbon Footprint of raising cattle. The article focuses mainly on the differences between the Industrial model of American feedlots versus the smaller scale farms around the world. The answer? They didn't really have one yet.

I've said before that I was simply amazed when I started learning what ranching was really all about. There are no feed lots (as far as I can tell) in Fallon County. Every rancher I've met so far takes better care of their cows & calves than I would have imagined. Not only does lots of hard work and long nights and thousands of dollars go into each calf produced, but there's love there. All that hard work produces a living thing that is SO cute. I watch them run around and play as I drive to work. They're like puppies.

I don't think branding is bad. Does it hurt the calves? It sure does. Does castrating them hurt? I think it does. Does spaying and neutering your dogs and cats hurt them? Yep. Does it hurt when you get a tetanus shot? Hell yeah. Does my foot still hurt where they cut the cancer out? YES. My point is, sometimes things in life hurt. They don't usually hurt forever, so just get on with it.

Do I think it's wrong to kill an animal to eat it? No.

What do I think about the feed lot conditions that are so widely photographed in the PETA campaigns? I don't know. I've never been there. I haven't experienced a feed lot yet. If I did, and I didn't like what went on there, I wouldn't buy the products that they sell. We're lucky enough out here to be able to get meat directly from the ranch where I know the buffalo and cows ate hay and lived outside their whole lives. We also hunt for food out here, keeping the antelope and deer from getting run over by trucks and cars.

What about the greenhouse gases and all the energy spent feeding, raising, haying, etc. etc? It sure takes a lot of hay to feed those cows, and that's planting space we could use to grow vegetables and grains for the many hungry people in the world. Is that true? I'm looking around out here, and I'm not seeing too much fertile land. Hay grows here, and not much else. I don't know though- the hippies might have a point on this one.

I think Stan said it best in Episode 605 when he said, "Well, I guess we learned something today: it's wrong to eat veal because the animals are so horribly mistreated, but if you don't eat meat at all you break out in vaginas."

Sorry Mom.

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