Thursday, August 13th, 2015
You know you’re getting old when you start sentences with phrases like “now, when I was young….” and you fondly reflect— often — on how life was sweeter, people nicer, and everything was better and cheaper. I will swear that I’m far too old to be part of the ‘me’ generation, and that social etiquette “back then” “in the good old days” included returning phone calls (via rotary phone), letting people get into a traffic lane in front of you, and, yes, doing things for others that didn’t directly benefit you.
Nowadays all you have to do is go to a shopping mall to witness the dog-eat-dog world we live in. Just try finding a parking space! Problem is, I don’t even have to leave home. Mr. Newman Goat has more than once eerily reflected the more, shall we say, base inclinations of society. I suppose the sheer honesty of his bald “Me-ness” is part of his charm. But really, sometimes he goes too far.
The other day he was out sunning himself and looking at me in that charming, je ne sais quoi way of his, so I went up to him and received a nose-to-nose kiss. I thought, how sweet, how absolutely charming, he loves me. Moments before, though, I had been handling some food and right after the kiss he reached around, sniffed my hand, shuffled to his feet, and proceeded to get quite pushy. “There are no free kisses”, he proclaimed. “Where’s the treat?” You’d think by moving out to the country and tending to some gentle animals that the peaceable kingdom concept might apply a bit more often.
After this incident I began noticing the trend of gimme, gimme everywhere. Angel (she is not one) the sheep, has developed a technique for maximum food intake. Refusing to get with the evening program of goats in pen 1, sheep in pen 2, pig in pen 3, and elders in pen 4, the other night she dashed into pen 4 knowing that the old guys get the best (and most) grain. She rushed from bowl to bowl, pushing each old animal out of the way as she scarfed down their food and they scrambled to find a bowl unoccupied by Angel. I made angry noises and waved my scary human arms to no avail. It was a disgusting show of absolute self-centeredness, and I declared her unworthy to be called a sheep (who ordinarily exhibit the closest example of pure socialism I’ve ever known). I do not care that she is a millennial or that when she was younger she didn’t have enough to eat or that she is the smallest of our sheep; I want to know who her parents are so I can give them a piece of my mind. She is now fat, entitled, and rude. Thank heavens Dee Dee Donkey (going on 42 years old now and certainly of a more disciplined generation) round-kicks her whenever she gets the chance. But I despair of Angel ever really learning manners.
Hypocritically, I am glad when certain animals develop a sense of entitlement. Louisa the llama, 17 years old, was so shy and afraid when she first came to the farm 3 years ago that she spent all her time under a tree in the most remote part of the pasture. When Hurricane Sandy hit with driving cold rain, I found her at the bottom of the driveway, huddled on the gravel, shivering from head to foot. I herded her back up to the barn and toweled her off but she then headed right back down the hill to suffer stoically in the rain again. So we repeated the exercise. The day after the hurricane, I found her lying down amongst the sheep in the barn. Somehow she had decided that she belonged. Because of her age and because she was underweight when she first came, she gets some of the old folks’ feed every night. If any other animal came near her, she used to run away. Now, she pins her beautiful ears back and spits at anyone who dares to try to steal her food. I love progress.
But I fear I’m a bad influence. I love them all, offer little discipline, spoil them rotten in fact, and bore my friends with endless photographs of them (“look, aren’t they just too cute?”). And I’m not fair. I celebrate the cojones Louisa has developed, despair at Angel’s (“la pistolera”) bad manners , and simply laugh at Mr. Newman’s antics.
And yet. Have you ever visited a farm where the animals were not loved? Where you can see the despondency, the ribs sticking out, the flat, dead eyes? Water troughs might be green with algae, or the barns ankle-deep in decaying manure and fetid urine. The fencing might be broken down and rusty, with broken wires sticking out, the pastures so overgrazed the animals are picking roots out of the ground. Or the animals might be locked in a barn with no sunlight – as were our three new alpaca girls – living in a dark, concrete dungeon with a bit of hay thrown in each day to stave off starvation.
So let’s celebrate the remarkable sense of entitlement the animals have at Star Gazing Farm – and rally in protest against the mistreatment of farm animals elsewhere. Just think: it could be Mr. Newman’s second cousin once removed you are helping.
Till next time,
“The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creatures that cannot.”
― Mark Twain, What Is Man?
A few resources:
Look up what is happening in legislation in your state: http://www.humanesociety.org/about/state/?credit=web_id95084468
History of gains made to protect farm animals:
Facts about farm animal protections:
Documentation of major animal welfare issues:
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