I hear the cry of a lamb and instantly I know that something is wrong, the lamb is perhaps lost. I step outside and sure enough the lamb is a long way from the herd baaaing for its mother. I wait silently ensuring it goes no further in the opposite direction and simply listen to the call of its mother – the baaing of the lamb – the call of its mother – the baaing of the lamb; until suddenly the mother comes racing over the hillside with an urgency that every parent knows. Not long after the two other mothers in the herd race over with their lambs in tow as if to check that all is OK and mother and baby have been reunited.
My heart skips a beat.
This is just one moment in a month of staying on a farm, where I have experienced first-hand the raw instinct of animals and their babies. Of course, there are so many other things I have learnt, but for me this deserves a post all of its own because it is the animal side of things that has so affected me.
I am a vegetarian, and I am a vegetarian first and foremost because I do not want any living being to be killed for my own consumption when, in my environment, there are many other things available for me to eat and sustain myself. However, since my time on the farm I have witnessed first-hand local milk farms, cheese farms and the very hard-working family farm where I have had the privilege of staying, and what has stuck with me is that these people are striving to sustain themselves entirely on a local level. They care for their animals, they choose with great passion the places where they buy any food derived from an animal and they understand entirely from living being to plate what has happened in order to feed them and, they respect that process. In a world of great ignorance, of buying pre-packaged meat or dairy products with no thought for the journey beforehand, I have found it refreshing to talk deeply and openly with people so passionate about the realities of being self-sufficient on a local level.
But where does it leave me? Someone once said to my husband and I, “if everyone did a little bit…” and this is true. We all have to find our own level of comfort regarding how we exploit animals for our own gain be they pets, food, clothes etc but having had this more in-depth look into the production of dairy, seeing the animals queuing up, their udders – heavy with milk meant for their baby – being sucked dry by machinery, has stopped me in my tracks. Since becoming vegetarian more than three years ago my intake of dairy products has dropped significantly, I don’t buy leather products anymore and in general, becoming vegetarian has encouraged me to think in greater detail about how I exploit any animal. But staying here and seeing how all the animals run with such freedom on the land, witnessing the production of dairy products on a small organic scale (god knows how those in part of the bigger and more demanding system are treated) has forced me to question things even further.
However, finding our own levels of comfort, our own line of how we are personally exploiting animals, means facing up to the REALITY of what goes on because only then can we make a decision based on truth.
A friend recently shared a link to a documentary and, watching it could not have been more timely for me, but as always I noticed that as with other postings of this nature, it was met with silence. I wondered:
Is this because people just don’t care?
Is it because they do care but don't feel the need to say so?
Is it because people don’t want to know the truth?
Is it because they fear that knowing the truth will force them to have to DEAL with their own levels of comfort?
Is this because they simply believe there are more important things in the world to think about (and of course, that is their right!)?
I’m not sure, but I urge anyone reading this to not shy away from the information that is out there as I believe it is not too much to ask that every human being stands up and questions where their own line is with regards to how other living beings – who share this earth with us – are treated in order to serve them.
I know I continue to question myself every single day and it is not always easy, but it is very necessary.
"EARTHLINGS is a powerful and informative documentary about society’s treatment of animals, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix with soundtrack byMoby. This multi-award winning film by Nation Earth is a must-see for anyone who cares about animals or wishes to make the world a better place"