Violence in all eating

  • Grass-fed cattle might be more vegan than you think. Courtesy of Carole Soule

For the Monitor
Monday, June 11, 2018

As we unrolled an 800-pound round bale of hay, a dead fawn fell to the floor of the feed bunker. The fawn was all in one piece and must have been accidentally scooped up by the hay baler.

I’m sure the farmer would have tried to save this fawn if he had seen it, but you would be surprised at how many animals are killed during each harvest of hay or grain.

No farmer wants to hurt wildlife or domestic animals in the course of planting and harvesting. Even so, the death toll caused by creating food for humans is enormous. An article I recently read titled, “Grassfed Beef – the Most Vegan thing in the Supermarket,” by Drew French makes the point:

“Sadly, in the practice of agriculture, it is impossible to avoid causing suffering to many living creatures. One could argue that the most suffering of all is caused by annual agriculture; the cultivation of vegetables, including grains, beans, and rice, that only takes one year to grow from seed to food. We displace countless wild animals from their homes and lands when we cultivate annual crops. Not only that, we also kill thousands of creatures when we till the soil.”

Groundhogs, rabbits, mice and other wildlife build their homes and communities in open fields. When those fields are cultivated and planted, the lucky ones escape but others are killed.

As crops grow, wildlife returns. Birds build nests on the ground, fawns – like the one I found – seek safety, insects, rodents and larger mammals build communities in these fields.

At harvest time, there is no warning about the impending disaster. One local farmer I know walks his hay fields before harvesting to chase out wildlife. Another farmer waits until the birds, such as Bobolinks, have finished nesting before mowing. Larger commercial farms don’t do this and during harvesting thousands of animals die, some quickly, others suffer.

Consider this: That a diet of grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, and perennial plants – based on grass that is never cultivated with machinery – gives wildlife an opportunity to prosper. Given the annihilation associated with cultivating, planting and harvesting is it possible that a pound of grass-fed beef is more vegan than a pound of grain?

I think the answer is that whether vegan, vegetarian or carnivore, we should accept that eating is a violent act.

We should respect all creatures – be they insect, bee, rabbit or cow – that gave their lives so we can live. We all need to take responsibility for being humans who must continuously eat to survive.

I mourned the fawn that gave its life so my cattle could have hay. I will respect that fawn and all the animals who have given their lives for my sustenance. You may choose a different route, but whatever path you follow, we must all pay attention to the lives that have been lost to support our need to eat.

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, in Loudon, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.)