(These notes and the commentaries that follow are a Facebook project based on Barbara Kingsolver's book "ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE A Year of Food Life." Each week a project member writes a response based on one chapter of the book. Together we read and talk our way through a year in the life of Kingsolver and her family. This response was authored by DESTYN SUBLETT and is prompted by Chapter Six, "The Birds and the Bees.")
THE BIRDS AND THE BEES
I have always had a deep love for animals.
Growing up we had more than the acceptable number of pets for a suburban family. At various times we had birds, lizards, rats, fish, and of course dogs and cats. Our pets were always multiple and I can't imagine growing up any other way.
When I was in 7th grade my brothers and I joined 4-H. We choose to participate in the poultry project since we could raise the animals in our back yard. We raised bantam game birds and one psycho drake duck who was affectionately known as Norman Bates. When I went on to high school, I was still interested in animals so I joined FFA (Future Farmers of America), not a club choice of the "popular kids" but I didn't care. I could raise animals and get school credit for riding horses. During my time in FFA, I raised market hogs, lambs, chickens, and one beef steer. I can honestly say I have eaten an animal that I raised and it tasted good. I rose up the ranks in FFA and eventually earned my State Farmer Degree.
I was a pretty hard core carnivore until the fateful day that my brother introduced me to a book called "A Diet For A New America" by John Robbins. This book introduced me to the horrors of factory farms (CAFO's) and the injustices to the animals who are raised in them. I became a vegetarian. That was 20 years ago. I have never preached vegetarianism or tried to "convert" others. If someone asks why I am vegetarian I am always happy to explain. I have chosen to raise my daughter as a vegetarian and we talk very openly and honestly about where meat comes from. She is 4 now and I have told her it is her decision whether or not she wants to try meat when it is offered to her.
I appreciate the Kingsolver's consciousness with regard to the slaughter of animals that they have raised. They do not appear to take this decision lightly. The animals are raised in the best possible environment until they meet their demise (of which we are thankfully spared the details).
I have often thought about raising animals for food as I once did. I live on a farm, I certainly have the room. Could I kill and eat a creature that I raised?
I have to say my answer would be no.
I don't know what changed in me over the years, but I know I don't have the heart to look an animal in the eyes and say "you are going to die so I can eat." I do not judge anyone who eats meat, nor do I think it is morally wrong. It's just not right for me.
This book has ignited a spark of excitement in me about food, however. I am trying to be mindful in my food choices. I am cooking at home more (some successes, some failures) and enjoying doing so. We are shopping more often and making use of the local produce as much as possible. I have no excuse not to, I live in an agricultural community smack dab in the middle of the "Salad Bowl" of America.
We have a few feral hens that live here on the farm, and we recently set out some nest boxes to see if we could get them to lay in a place where we could find the eggs. That plan worked and we have been enjoying fresh eggs almost daily.
Our next project is to build a little hen house. My daughter has requested some hens that can be "hers to pet" and that aren't "so wild."
Now . . . if anyone has any bright (and non-toxic) ideas about eradicating squirrels and gophers, I would love to get a garden planted! My 7 dogs are no more willing to kill than I am, apparently!
p.s I haven't read ahead to find out but I sure hope Lily gets her horse!