By Larraine Roulston:
Such a clatter there was when Daisy and her Aunt Wee came to the barnyard, for everything was just awake and in the best of spirits. So begins the story of “The Barnyard Clatter.”
Farm animals are so important to us. They are among the first animals that we introduce to our infants. From “Old MacDonald” and the movie Babe to the picture and storybooks, puzzles and toys – in each we describe a mutually beneficial and delightful life for these animals. Dare we sit with our children and read a factual book or explain a truthful story about the short and harsh life of a laying hen? Or the agonies of a milking cow? Or arrange puzzle pieces of a colorless barren factory farm?
Small family farmers know the value of raising healthy, happy animals. They have grazing pastures for cows, sheep and goats; ponds for ducks and geese; space for hens and turkeys to scratch for food; mud for pigs to wallow; straw bedding for comfort; and space to allow egg laying hens and milking cows to rest.
This month, in Chilliwack, British Columbia, eight dairy farm employees were secretly filmed mistreating the cows. So brutal were their actions that they were reported and debated in the media for over a week. The farm owners were not held criminally responsible; however, the workers were fired and charged. While these were extreme and outright acts of cruelty, there are many everyday atrocities that are routine. Many of us are aware of chickens being de-beaked and de-toed without anesthetic, ducks being force fed for foie gras, as well as the story behind veal, the overuse of antibiotics, and small crowded cages of pigs and hens. For our milk supply, cows are continuously re-impregnated and their calves taken away. Faced with this reality, the best thing we can do is adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet.
In 1986, Farm Sanctuary opened the barn door to offer a haven for farm animals. Its mission is to protect farm animals from cruelty, to inspire change in the way society views and treats animals, and to promote compassionate vegan living. With its three locations (Watkins Glen, NY; and Orland and Los Angeles, CA), Farm Sanctuary is the nation’s largest and most effective animal rescue and protection organization. It educates millions of people, and hosts tours for visitors to learn about their plight and the effects of factory farming on our health and the environment. Founders Harry Lynch, who has been committed to animal protection for more than 20 years, and Gene Baur, hailed as the “conscience of the food movement” by Time magazine, advocate for laws and policies to prevent suffering. Together, they also reach out to businesses and legislators to bring about institutional reforms. Farm Sanctuary is a haven where employees and volunteers give a pig a belly rub or hand feed a cow – steps that help reconnect and heal our relationship with farm animals under our care.
We are all responsible when we purchase industrialized meat, milk and egg products. We can help build a more compassionate world by affording farm animals as much regard as we have for our own family pets. To start, we can limit our meat portions in size and frequency. There are amazing vegetarian recipes loaded with an equivalent amount of protein, so a “Meatless Monday” would be a good beginning. Choose organic or animal friendly meat, dairy and eggs when we can. Selecting these farmers keeps and supports a kinder way of farming which, in turn, reflects and reconnects us to the barnyard adventures we read about in storybooks.
Mrs. Hen had three butter-yellow chickens. They lived in a cozy little coop behind the plum tree. So begins the story of “Mrs. Hen’s Red Hat.”
Larraine Roulston writes the Pee Wee at Castle Compost adventure series. Visit www.castlecompost.com