A Farm Boy Empathizes
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who usually manages to impress me only with the stubborn denial of his neoconservatism, wrote a great piece this week about California’s Prop 2, which, if approved, would keep factory farms from raising hogs, chickens or veal in small cages. Anyone concerned with eating healthier, more humane meat should support this initiative. Similar ballot measures have passed in Florida, Oregon, Arizona and Colorado.
But the best part of the column comes when Kristof describes his own experience slaughtering geese on his family farm.
Then there were the geese, the most admirable creatures I’ve ever met… Once a month or so, we would slaughter the geese. When I was 10 years old, my job was to lock the geese in the barn and then rush and grab one. Then I would take it out and hold it by its wings on the chopping block while my Dad or someone else swung the ax.
The 150 geese knew that something dreadful was happening and would cower in a far corner of the barn, and run away in terror as I approached…
Very often, one goose would bravely step away from the panicked flock and walk tremulously toward me. It would be the mate of the one I had caught, male or female, and it would step right up to me, protesting pitifully. It would be frightened out of its wits, but still determined to stand with and comfort its lover.
I tried to pet a goose when I was a small child, and it responded by pursuing me with ferocity. At the time I thought all geese were crazy; now I understand that there was probably something more going on. People are already weirded out by eating cute animals (cats and rabbits being unpopular for bbq’s); will they soon be just as repulsed by eating smart ones? Geese and pigs, as Kristof writes, “adhere to family values that would shame most of those who dine on them.”
Is there a slippery slope between this and vegetarianism, or at least (flavor-of-the-month vocab word) pescatarianism? It’s difficult to imagine that. I like to think that it’s a path where our awareness of animal rights leads us to eat a healthier and more sustainable amount of meat. Hopefully, states like Florida and California will take the lead in making sure that meat is humanely raised.