Teetering on the vegetarian fence.

I must say that when my family heard I was dating a cattle rancher and was coming to Saskatchewan to help him, they were worried.  Why?   It’s because if there was ever a person who could be vegetarian or even a vegan, it was me and I was dating a man who raised cattle.

When I was little we had some chickens. They scare me. Well at least they did back then. I am taller now so maybe a flapping, pecking, squawking bird wouldn’t be as frightening at knee level as it was at face height.  We had them for eggs, or so I thought.

I arrived home after school and got off the bus. I heard voices in the back yard and went around the house. There in the back yard was a makeshift slaughter house. Dead chickens, blood, feathers, and my mom, grandmother, and aunt.  I went into the house and stayed there.  I hated the chickens but they didn’t need to kill them!  I was sickened. My dad told me when he was little he would have to go out in the morning and put a chicken under a pot for the day, so his mom could ring it’s neck that night for supper. It is just how it is.

From then on, I did not eat chicken if it came wrapped in brown paper.  Once our supply ran out and mom bought it from the store I was all over it. Something about the pink foam tray and grocery store sticker made it ok. It doesn’t seem logical, but in my mind it wasn’t a bird that had lived here, it was just meat.  The same thing happened when I came home and saw a deer hanging from the clothes line pole. Nothing wrapped in brown paper for me, Thank you!  That was the last time my dad ever hunted.

I even stopped eating KFC after finding veins in the legs too many times. The first time I had to stuff a turkey for a family dinner I wouldn’t eat it. Apparently it was very good and moist, but I just couldn’t do it. That was probably because I saw my grandmother in her house dress and rubber boots, wielding an axe, chasing after a headless turkey and then hanging it from my swing-set. If something made me feel too close to being a carnivore (animal) I didn’t like it.

So, as you can see, they did not know how I would ever handle being around the cattle.  I will confess that I did grill hubby about exactly what happens to the animals he sells. Did he actually send the animals to slaughter? Would I see anything like that?  Thankfully he said no.  He runs a cow/calf operation and he sells the calf after it is weaned to other people. That is all I needed to know. I didn’t want to hear anything after that point.

What I found at the ranch was not at all what you would expect if you listened to all the very vocal opinions of the animal rights groups.

I did not see animals stuffed so tightly into pens they could not move.

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The cattle in the distance are in one of the “pens”

I did see during the winter and spring, the cows in pens to keep them separate based on their feeding needs. They had enough room that all could lay out on fresh bedding, plus room to roam around, and a feed bunk big enough to all eat at the same time.  Was there manure in the pen?  Well of course.  Did the cows stand in it?  Yes, and they even poop on each other and poop while laying down. I think it keeps their butts warm in the winter.  Just my opinion.  Is all that gross?  Yes, until you realise that that is how it is even when they have acres to roam.  In the summer they are roaming thousands of acres of native prairie grass, trees, and streams along with the deer and moose.

I did not see animals suffering or malnourished.

I did see during calving season, a man wake every 4 hours after working all day, to jump on a quad no matter what the weather, travel about 1/2 km to check on his heifers. These first time moms need help sometimes or they will loose their babies and sometimes they will die.  No matter what needed to be done, how little sleep he had, or what the weather was like, hubby was there for that mama and calf.

I did see during bad weather when the rest of us would be curled up on the couch for the weekend, he was outside spreading straw and setting up shelters. Lunch time would pass and sometimes even dinner because the animals always come first.

I did see a man who in snow storms would bring new calves into the house to be wrapped and warmed so they would not freeze. A man who could tell you the history of his cows and could tell them apart.  A man who has cried when a calf has died and felt guilty because if only he had…

I did see  a man who vaccinates his cattle so they don’t fall ill. A man who uses antibiotics to treat his animals so that they do not suffer with an infection and recover instead of just killing them.

I did see that although these animals were being bred and their offspring were raised to be consumed, they were very well taken care of and loved.

Even now, raising the cattle myself, I still do not like being a carnivore sometimes, but I realise that it is life.  I know times are different now, but we started out eating meat and I believe that is something that is going to continue.  Wildlife could not sustain the population growth so we had to start raising our own meat, the same as we could not rely on mother nature to grow our wild fruits and greens and farming began.  I think of the stories of people who where lost and how they say they survived and it wasn’t from gathering. It was from hunting and eating meat from what ever they could catch.

I will say that I still do not think at this time in my life I could be the one to kill and process the animal, but thankfully there are other people who are able to do that.  When I do take an animal to the abattoir, I am thankful for the nourishment it will give me in exchange for the nourishment I gave it.  It is the circle of life.

I do understand those who do not want to eat meat. What I don’t understand is those that bash, condemn, ridicule, spread lies and try to undermine those that do.  Everyone has a choice and that should be enough.  Let your opinion or choice be known, but do not try and force or scare others into believing lies.

I am proud of our ranch. I see a place where the animals are raised with care, respect, and love to provide the best nourishment they can for people.  The land we use is also respected, loved and cared for. Without our animals or land, we would have nothing. So why would you believe we would do anything to harm either one?

 

Splint on Angus calf.

Mom stepped on her leg. 6 weeks of a splint and helping her stand to eat a few times per day, a year later she is out with the rest of our girls.

 

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