A friend asked me to respond to this article, written by a PETA volunteer.
At first, I wanted to paint a picture of my boys playing with a newborn baby lamb, or a girl sleeping in the pen with her steer after a hard day in the show ring in an attempt to prove her wrong.
But the problem is, on her main point, she is not wrong.
She claims FFA and 4H are not teaching the romanticized version of raising animals to our kids.
Organizations like PETA love for us to tell the romantic stories of livestock. Because the more we do, the more they can profit from spinning our stories.
But the reality is, raising animals isn't romantic. She talks about a mother pig singing to her piglets while she nurses them. I wonder, has she ever witnessed the same mother pig eat one of her piglets for reasons unknown to us? Has she ever watched that 500 pound sow roll over on half her litter, killing them instantly and then push their little dead bodies out of the way to get to her food?
Has she ever watched a ewe relentlessly paw a newborn lamb until she kills him?
Has she ever dried off, warmed and comforted a baby calf whose mother delivered him on the back side of the pasture and then left, not looking back once?
No. She hasn’t, because she doesn’t raise livestock. In fact, her organization doesn’t even run a single animal shelter.
Kids in 4H and FFA have seen this. And they develop compassion for their animals in spite of the reality of animal nature (which often is very cruel). Raising animals is beautiful most days. But sometimes it's the exact opposite and our kids know that.
She is also right that most animals will end up in the food chain. And as she laid out so well, there is nothing kind about eating animals.
There is nothing mean about it either. The bear is not considered mean when he invades a rabbit den and consumes an entire litter of week old rabbits. A tiger is not considered cruel when he starts eating his prey before she has even died.
I take pride in the fact that humans show more compassion in our protein consumption than animals do (another thing that serves to remind us animals and humans are not equal, not the same).
We work very hard to raise animals in a clean, healthy and safe environment. We bond with them while they are here, we provide everything they need. And when the time comes, we kill them in as humane a way possible and consume them (after they are dead of course).
Is that kind? No, not really. Is it cruel? No. It's a fact of life.
As long as God keeps giving us two rows of teeth, I will take that as a sign we are supposed to consume our protein as a steak (or preferably a lamb chop).
So yes. Our kids are probably hardened from raising livestock. When my boy has to say goodbye to the lamb he showed all summer, his heart will toughen a bit. In the same way it will when he has to bury his first dog, when he suffers through his first breakup, and when he gets his first paycheck and realizes how many dollars are taken for taxes.
Life isn't romantic and neither is raising livestock. Which is exactly why kids leaving 4H and FFA are more prepared to succeed on the road ahead of them than their counterparts, who are often spoon fed a fairy tale version of reality.
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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