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Since we began raising dairy goats, we’ve become part of an amazing farm community. For the most part, the people are supportive, hilarious, and always willing to lend a helping hand. I love being able to call myself a farmer.
However, there’s been a backlash that we never expected when becoming dairy farmers. Once we really began getting out there as a dairy, we began to hear from animal rights activists. Vegans. Keyboard warriors with too much time on their hands and no practical knowledge of what they were talking about. They criticized us processing our meat birds. They accused us of stealing baby goats from their mothers. They called us murderers. Exploiters of animals. Monsters.
When animals are your passion, these are hard words to hear. I’ve done my best to ignore is all when I can, but it eats at you. My husband spars with these keyboard warriors often, trying to defeat them with logic and sound judgment. It never works. I always tell him his efforts would be better spent shoveling real shit in the barn than virtual shit on the internet.
When you spend every waking moment caring for your animals, it’s infuriating to have someone tell you you’re exploiting them. When you spend every last dime you have buying the best animals you can, and someone tells you you’re abusing them, it’s astounding. When someone tells you you’re heartless after shedding countless tears over the animals you love, it tears you apart inside.
So please, let me address some of the biggest misconceptions of being a small farmer, and what it means about us as people.
“How can you eat an animal you know? You must be sick!”
I have actually heard this from other meat eaters. Ones who buy their meat at a grocery store. Produced in a factory farm. Chemically treated for color and “freshness”.
Yes we raise our own meat birds from chicks. We coo over them, and feed them and care for them, and let them eat the grass and feel the sunshine for their 8-10 weeks of life. By the time they’re ready to be processed, they’re big, they’re ugly and they smell. It’s the truth. If you don’t processes them humanly and quickly, they start dropping dead of heart attacks, and suffocating to death slowly. We honor our birds by giving them the best life possible, and making their deaths devoid of suffering. We appreciate all of the work and sacrifice that went into making them food for our family. That’s not sick – it’s a beautiful thing.
For our beef and pork, we don’t have the means to raise it ourselves at this time, so we buy from local farm friends. We’ve met our cows and pigs before they went to the butcher. We’ve seen where they were raised. Where they were loved by the folks that raised them. Some have names. It makes me proud to buy my meat from these people who care so much about what they do and the animals they care for. Being so removed from where your food comes from that you can’t bear to think of them as animals, well, that’s what’s wrong with our food systems today. That is where the true “sickness” lays.
“You rip baby goats away from their mothers to steal their milk for profit! Then fill them full of chemical milk replacers and send the babies off to die!”
Sadly, PETA and other vegan based animal rights groups have spread a lot of shocking propaganda about livestock. While some of the information is true for factory farms, a lot of the shocking “truth” they spread is pure fiction.
As a dairy farmer, I’ve been told repeatedly that I steal milk from baby goats. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our baby goats are primarily dam raised, and supplemented with a bottle to help make them easier to handle. The bottle only ever contains goat’s milk. Milk replacers are expensive, full of garbage, and usually make for unthrifty or sick baby goats. Producing healthy, happy baby goats is more important to us than anything else.
We’ve never pulled a goat kid from their dam to send it off to die. We’ve never dumped goats at the sale barn, or killed a kid just for being a male. We work really hard to find our kids the very best homes we can, spending countless hours talking to people with perspective homes for our goats. We’ve invested thousands of dollars to have a stellar, registered dairy herd, and we spend thousands more on performance programs to continue to prove their worth. One of the main reasons we do this is to give all of our babies a shot at the best homes possible.
“Farmers just exploit and abuse their animals for profit!”
Lets pretend for a hot second that I don’t love my animals with all my heart, and their welfare isn’t always my top priority. Let’s pretend for that second that all I care about is the almighty dollar. So, as this greedy farmer, I starve my animals. I breed them back to back, and cause them stress as I rip their babies away. I pump their babies full of milk replacer. Now that’s how I get these imagined piles of cash, right? Wrong! As a small farmer, I’ve just lost money on sick and dying animals, too hungry and stressed to produce milk, or eggs, or healthy babies to help keep me sustainable. Maybe huge factory farms can operate this way, but a small farmer would be out of business in no time by mistreating their most valuable commodities, I assure you.
This is the response I always try to stick with. Rather than believe every info graphic and meme that pops up on social media, take the time to learn where your food comes from. And if what you’re buying at the grocery store disgust you, then use the power of your pocket book and help support a local farm. Most small farms are happy to share their passion and let you see the inner workings of your farm. They’ll be thrilled to share with you all of the hard work that goes into caring for their animals or tending their farm plots by hand.