Tough times for Badger

activism, Animals, Nature

badger_profile

Painting by c.g.young

In Britain, The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame) has been a childhood favourite for many generations and is probably one of the main reasons why so many British people hold the badgers so close to their hearts.

Badgers are an iconic species of the British countryside and have been in the news for the last few years, given the UK Government’s controversial decision to trial a cull of badgers in the belief that this will have an impact on the spread of bovine TB (bTB).

Reflections on how we could change farming for the better…

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Thom&Mum

I don’t want to add anything to the general over drive and I’m aware that when I’m in writing mode, I end up in the zone and I’m not available for my family. My son ends up left to his own devices for too long while I’m just sat in front of a screen, typing away. I don’t want to do that to him. Even if it’s the hardest thing to do, I want to be present, to be with him as we share precious playful moments together. I know that his youth is very finite and that it won’t last forever, and I must make sure that I make the most of it and that I offer him precious moments that he will carry with him as memories into adulthood. That’s why I have decided to consciously limit the time I spend on the internet, trying to avoid this false sense of emergency that is so addictive and so predominant when one checks her emails 10,000 times a day.

Also I would like to focus more on my yoga practice as all these recent false emergencies have made me slip off again and neglect my daily practice. So I want to go back to spending more time trying to be present in real life, with my family and with myself, on my mat.

My recent experience trying to rescue four dairy cows has been quite challenging and I ended up getting into trouble with nearly all concerned parties (apart from the cows…) and that made me think a lot about what I want to do with FocalHeart. I knew that by getting involved with farmed animals, it would be quite hard emotionally, which is fine. I knew what I was getting into and I knew that dairy farming wouldn’t be the easiest area of farming to handle. I have been reflecting quite a lot about all of this lately… The life of a dairy cow is full of repetitive trauma. I know a dairy cow (who I really like a lot) who is 12 years old, still being milked twice a day and still giving birth to a calf every year… A calf that she might not get to have with her more than a couple of weeks… There is only so much a cow can take before she breaks… I have met quite a few broken cows and it’s so heartbreaking to see!

I’m definitely not advocating meat eating here, but at least grass fed animals reared for meat are pretty much completely left alone with minimal human disturbance, compared to dairy cows! So if that was to be the case… is lacto vegetarianism such a kind lifestyle on the animals?

The very few ethical farms that exist today truly believe in what they are doing, but their customers need to wake up and pop the bubble they are in.

I haven’t visited a lot of them but the few ethical farms that I have visited do care a lot about their ethical values. Their main problem is that they are too popular. They probably will dislike me even more for writing it publicly on the internet,  but they are supporting too many customers because so many people agree with their values and make the ethical choice to shop there to support them. The feel good factor for shopping there is big. Now I’m not saying: “Hey people, don’t support your local ethical farms anymore”, I’m saying : “Hey people, start your own local ethical farm as there is a need for more of them”. A great way to change farming is to ‘become’ farming and to change it from the inside…

Currently there isn’t enough of them, and the demand for the highest animal welfare standards is increasing. All these well meaning customers are actually putting a big strain on the animals. Farms are at their maximum capacity, having  the maximum amount of animals that their land can support, but the demand is unlimited and growing exponentially!

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I’d like to say that again: ethical farms can only have a limited amount of animals living off their land but their customer base has no limits and some ethical farm shops even buy in products from other farms when they run out, so that their customers are not disappointed and won’t go shopping somewhere else.  This success is putting more strain on the animals, and the farm ends up removing  the calves from their mums earlier so they can get more milk in order to make more yoghurt, cream, cheese, etc… so that the shelves are not empty.

There is a serious need for more small scale, local, organic farms – there is no denying it. The world will not go vegan and the vast majority of people are buying their animal food from supermarkets, which are buying them in bulk for as cheap as possible which is having a devastating effect on farming and on the farmer’s life. Conventional farming will not change because they can’t. They are stuck with their mortgages and with ridiculously unrealistic quotas. To me, it seems that the very much needed change in farming will come from small local organic farms, as their customers make the conscious decision to support them because they are willing to support this change. As customers they have the power to encourage their local organic farm to take it a step further, in terms of animal welfare.

So people need to appreciate dairy and its hardship a bit more and stop drinking milk as if it was coming out of a tap. They need to implement discipline with it and consume it with respect and deep appreciation. They need to accept that there should be time without dairy in their local farm and not run to the supermarket to get it instead, as it’s putting strain on other cows somewhere else.

In my opinion the only way that farming will change, is if people start more small organic community farms to support their community and their community only. Customers need to understand that these small local farms have their limits and if they want to make a difference then they should tune in with the natural rythm of these farms and accept that, for instance when the cows are calving, people should try to go without cream, their favourite yoghurt or even dairy altogether for a while…

This issue brings up a lot of questions regarding people’s eating habits. It may be that being too stuck in a belief system or a particular dogmatic system might be one of the main reasons why things got so out of hand in the first place, as in the myth around dairy being such a staple, daily necessity? Also the myth around (grass fed organic) meat being the worst product in terms of animal cruelty, the myth of ethical shoppers who believe they are doing such a great thing by shopping at ethical farm shops and spending an absolute fortune there every week, when really they are causing a big strain on the animals who have to go through such hardship… Keep going there, but be mindful! Be grateful and appreciate every single animal product you buy for what it is, because behind every single animal product there is a sacrifice. May it be the sacrifice of a life, of a calf…

I’m not denying the need for animal foods in a human’s diet. I was vegan for eight years and at the end I wasnt doing well at all. I ended up undernourished. I love the idea of veganism, as an ideal, a vision for the future, and I hope that we, as a species evolve in that direction… but this is not the reality we live in right now. And right now, animal foods have played a big part in our evolution and are still essential for a lot of people. So telling people to go vegan is a nice idea but it’s not going to work. We all need to be kind to ourselves, and to each other… and to work on having a better understanding of death so it’s no longer the worst thing that can ever happen. Death happens all the time, so as my friend Dolly the cow told me, it’s good to think about it and to be aware of the fact that we, too, will die at some point. I have asked quite a few farmed animals what their thoughts were on death and most of them have healthier and more detached views on that subject and with more clarity than most of the humans I know!

Anyway… I’m off to get my son ready for bed. I have done it again… he is waiting for me and is trying to get my attention!

Have a lovely night!

Noémie.

 

A fond farewell to my dear friends…

Animal Communication

bella+dolly

Goodbye beautiful Dolly (picture above), and a fond farewell to Chicory, Barbie and Nettle. You will be sadly missed. I love you all very much! Thank you for everything you taught me, for tolerating my presence in your space and for putting up with all my questions.

My entire brain space has been intensely focused on the cows for a few days. Most of that time hasn’t been spent in their company at all but instead trying to organise things & communicate with man people online – something that I’ve had to take a break from as it can over-stimulate my mind & keep me awake at night. I lie there in bed thinking about what could be done again and again… and I end up feeling awful because that’s all I can think about, my mind is always elsewhere and I end up not being present for my family and neglecting them.

Yesterday was both beautiful and sad at the same time. I had such a lovely time in the afternoon! I felt extremely lucky to spend two hours sat in the barn, sharing some precious time with the cows with such lovely people! I’m always amazed how groups of people create themselves in such an organic way! I really feel that there is something special with these Animal Communication workshops with the cows. It’s amazing to watch people feeling that call from the cows. Whoever is meant to be there, will be there.

But my heart sunk when I realised last night that we wouldn’t be able to save the cows from their terrible fate. Still, I did hold some hope that maybe we could save one of them (the farmer’s favourite) (who is pregnant) as he had arranged for a lady who lives down the road to have her, but apparently it turned out that she didn’t have any building or any food sorted out for the cow, so the farm ended up saying no. They don’t want the cows to go to a sanctuary either as they are concerned that the place may not have the right facilities to transition the cows out of dairy farming. So they are going to slaughter. Despite all my efforts to find them somewhere to go, in the end it’s not meant to be. I think that these are just excuses though. The core of the matter is more to do with money. If they were willing to let them go for free then they would, but as they could get a significant amount of money for them, they would rather save themselves the bother and make some money.

I think the only thing I can do now is to take the farmer to visit Hugletts Wood Farm Animal Sanctuary so that he can see what a Cow Sanctuary looks like, and next time he will be able to vouch for such place. With farming it really is one baby step at the time, which can be quite disheartening. More cows will go this year, I think even the bull is supposed to go after about 13 years on the farm. It saddens me, but I’ll have to accept it. My four and half year old son was watching me moving Heaven and Earth on Saturday trying to save these four cows. I explained to him why I was so busy staring at my computer screen all day and he said to me:

“So are the cows going to die?”

I said: “well, hopefully not, that’s why I’m trying to find somewhere else for them to go so they can be safe”

– But they don’t want to die! why are they going to kill them?

– No you’re right, I don’t think they want to die.

– So they can’t be killed then if they don’t want to die! What about the very big daddy then? He’s not going to die, is he?

The very big daddy is the name Thom gave to Bob, the bull. As I knew that his departure has been on the cards for a while I asked recently and I have been told that he was due to leave this coming summer. So I said:

– I think he will have to go too at some point this year.

– But we can’t let the very big daddy go, we can’t! I don’t want him to be killed!

No. I don’t want him to be killed either. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that death should be feared and avoided at all costs: when I talk about death with animals, generally speaking they are not particularly scared of dying. In fact, they seem to be able to handle it better than most of the humans I know! For them it’s natural, like a contract you sign when you are born: you accept that at some point you will have to die. They don’t have all the emotional attachements to life and all of the fears surrounding death… BUT they don’t want to be killed, and they are scared of the idea of being in pain, the unknown, the stress, having to go somewhere, to be loaded on a truck… Farmed animals would rather die when they feel they are ready to die and they would like to die peacefully on the farm, where they were born. They usually dont get that luxury unfortunately, as their dead bodies are worth money. They can be sold and eaten so they are transferred to slaughter houses when their carers feel that they have passed their prime in terms of productivity.

My hope is to somehow find a way for dairy cows to retire. I have tried to convince the farm to allow some of the older cows to retire and be left to just ‘be’. That was how I was planning to spend the money I get for the workshops with the cows, I wanted to pay for the retirement of one or two healthy older cows so they could stay on the farm, and I was told it was a good idea, one that could be discussed further. I have been told last week that now they need the space. No wonder the cows have been so unhappy lately! Having carers who change their minds all the time and can’t stick to their own decisions must be quite hard to handle, especially if it’s your life that is at stake every time!

Anyway… I have made the committment to stay in a place of love, understanding and neutrality and I can feel that I’m starting to drift away from that right now…

These are hard decisions to make. And I know that no one is happy to see them go.

There will be more happy times. and more sad times too.

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Farming. What an odd system!

I think I will try to contact these four cows in spirit in a few days time and see how they are all doing.

Please join me in sending them all our love and positive thoughts in their passing…

Millions of thanks to everyone who responded to my appeal on Saturday. I got to meet some extraordinary people! Thank you for your messages, help and suggestions, I have kept good notes of all the places you have suggested me and I’ll make sure to use them again next time.

Thanks again,

Noémie.