Driving north last weekend, I was thinking about how, sadly, our society disrespects agricultural animals. In particular, I was reflecting on how our food system manipulates and harms animals in order that people can have soft, tender or plump meat. We grab milk from the grocery store shelf without considering the countless growth hormones given to, and shortened lifespan of, conventional dairy cows.
If you look into the eyes of a cow, pig, or bird, you will see consciousness and life. How do we continue to turn a blind eye to the cruelty inflicted on poultry, cows and pigs? The conventional agricultural industry is lacking in the consideration of these sentient beings. Our food requirements and desires have become so selfish and ego centered. We prefer not to think about what the treatment of the animals has been prior to coming to our table, or handed through a fast food window.
Towards the end of the afternoon, my husband and I dropped in to say hi to Michael and Elisa at Glencolton Farms. We are Farmshare members, and pick up our raw milk from the Blue Bus in Thornhill every Tuesday. We have been getting milk from Glencolton Farms for almost 15 years. My kids have grown up on it, and we have all worked on the farm.
Michael was down in the barn, milking the cows, so off we went to see him. Oliver, Michael’s youngest son, took us to see a newborn calf, born just before we had arrived. We found Momma, lying beside her new, wet, calf. The moment her calf tried to tumble onto its legs (he actually did a somersault), Momma was on her legs and licking the calf, encouraging it.
This mother was fifteen years old. Fifteen years ago, is when our family began our journey with Michael and Glencolton Farms. Over this period, this cow has had 12 or 13 calves. What is also remarkable is that the average, natural life of a conventional dairy cow is only five years. As I watched the mother and calf, the recognition of this difference struck me as profound.
There is a lot of respect for life going on at Glencolton Farms. The animals are treated with respect and they naturally, respond with life. How can humanity not value such a redeeming farm practice? How can we not support a practice that respects and cares for sentient life? Have we lost our ability to care for, and value what is noble? Does our system only support the self-serving? Can it not change, nor accommodate a truly beneficial farming operation? Are we, as a society, not able to surpass controlled, corrupted and detached interests? Are we, then, the non-sentient?
By Shirley Ann Wood