Thursday, February 4, 2010


#1: I just gave antibiotics to livestock.

I dosed (actually, per the instructions of Pat at the feed store, double dosed) my chickens with Sulmet to prevent whatever illness is making one of them sick from getting to all of them. While I know heavy and indiscriminate use of antibiotics in livestock is a big problem (it's often used to make up for the effects of the unhealthy diets and unsanitary conditions animals are raised in, and it produces antibiotic-resistant bacteria), my poor sick hen is a little different. She likely has coccidiosis, which domestic birds get from contact with the droppings of wild birds (which assumes that your poultry has enjoyed the outdoors).

#2: Animal suffering really gets to me.

For years when people asked about why I was a vegetarian I made sure to distance myself from any animal rights connection. I didn't stop eating meat because I thought killing animals was cruel - I stopped because I didn't like meat. That's still the primary reason I'm a vegetarian - I prefer meatless meals (and I've been veg long enough that no matter how good the carne asada taco sounded at 2:30 am, my body will be sure I pay for eating it). I'm also increasingly convinced that eating fewer animal products (and that includes milk, eggs and cheese, all of which I love) is better for the environment and promotes a more just distribution of the world's resources. But recent events on the farm make me wonder if there isn't a little bit of aversion to animal suffering in the background too.

By "recent events on the farm" I mean a lot of exposure to animal suffering in the last week - one chicken crippled by some mysterious illness, another one sick, and a rabbit that got hit by a tractor in our field today. I've avoided all three because it's just so hard to watch.

As a kid I remember boycotting cartoons and seriously wondering if I could ever be happy again whenever one of my hamsters would get old and start to deteriorate. In high school I always felt ashamed when I had to excuse myself from watching a goat slaughtering as soon as the animal started to suffocate (which is to say I couldn't last through the first 30 seconds). While my friends ate raw kidney and marveled at the contents of the animal's stomach I'd sit a safe distance away trying to ward off the lightness on the edges of my vision. In Cambodia I could barely eat my way through a small frog still very much resembled a frog. Now I find myself asking my housemates to do more of the chicken upkeep because it's hard to be around the ones that are in pain.

I don't like this about myself. It interferes with the self-image I try to cultivate of a strong, independent woman unencumbered by the need for rich-world comforts like toilet paper or a rodent-and-cockroach-free bedroom or food that no longer resembles the living thing it once was.

But there it is.


  1. The rabbit didn't just get "hit" be a tractor, half of it got DISCED by the blades of a tractor attachment that was basically mowing over the kale that's finished in our field. It was awful, and after seeing it happen (and trying to rescue it), I "hear you" on this post.

  2. Its terrible to watch hamsters die. I always think of your stories about how hard it was when ours start to look a little sick. Thankfully the one we have now is far more robust.

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