Friday, October 8, 2010

County fairs and animal mutilation.......

In much of this country (and others) the end of summer signals the onset of numerous events called "fairs". Apparently these originated in pre-industrial times when agriculture and autumn harvests were insinuated into the daily life of most people. A celebration of some sort was associated with the harvesting of crops and the presumed presence of enough food for the humans to subsist over the non-growing season of the winter and the growing season but no food harvest months of the spring and into the early summer.

I grew up in a farming/ranching area of rural southwestern Oklahoma and "fairs" and "fat stock shows" were a pretty important facet of the annual progression of the seasons. There are organizations devoted to inculcating children into the culture of the farm/ranch, the most prominent of those being 4-H and FFA. One of the more important cultural transmissions of values that occurs in these organizations is that animals are property and just about anything can be done to them in the name of efficiency and profit.

The FFA (Future Farmers of America) has an especially prominent role in the schools and lives of students in the rural and small town areas as they age into high school. Back then this was an exclusively male organization. Classes were taken in school and various "educational" forays onto working farms and ranches were part of the curriculum. These "field trips" usually consisted of providing unpaid labor to the farmers/ranchers.

I remember traveling in the back of a pick-up to some farm and wrestling with baby cows and baby pigs....wrestling with them because we were being taught how to castrate them. No anesthesia, just hold them down while they were screaming and bellowing and terrified and....with a hopefully sharp knife blade cut into the scrotal sack, pull out the testicles and cut the tissue attached to the testicle and dab on an antiseptic (or not) and release the terrified, injured, bleeding baby. Joking and laughter about the severed testicles was all part of the experience, "mountain oysters", etc.

The social pressure was considerable on the boys to participate in FFA. Once you reached 9th grade you were subtly and not so subtly encouraged to sign up each year for the FFA elective. One of the only areas of minor pride I have about my high school times was that my best friend and I refused to join FFA our senior year. This was heresy and unheard of in the history of the little school and some serious arm-twisting from the school faculty involved was brought to bear. We resisted (how I don't really know) and completed that last year being the only boys ever (as far as I know) to not be in the FFA our senior year.

I went out to the local county "fair" this past month to see how the animals were being treated there. I knew it would be painful and depressing and disgusting was.

To the left is a photo of one of the mutilated sheep on exhibition. Notice the rear of the sheep, no tail. Apparently this is a new "fashion", instead of cutting off part of the tail (euphemistically termed "docking") now the whole tail is hacked off.

There are various justifications advanced for either practice that you can find here and here.

Suffice it to say that if sheep had not been interfered with by humans and not bred to grow too much hair (called wool) problem with a sheep's tail would exist.

But, as always, human interference creates a problem and resolution of the problem involves doing something painful and grotesque and disgusting to the animal involved.

If the sheep's tail (because of the excessively lengthy hair) collects feces which causes flies to lay eggs there which results in maggots growing......well....cut off the tail. No matter that the mutilation injures the sheep and creates a much greater likelihood of rectal prolapse.

This is what we teach the children in 4-H and FFA. This is what we teach the children that attend the "fair". Mutilate the animal, they are yours to do with what you wish. We don't tell the children that the problem with too much hair was caused by humans in the first place. We tell the children that mutilating the sheep is "for its own good" because the mutilation will reduce the chance of maggots growing on the sheep. What is even more ludicrous is that most humans do not understand that humans caused the problem to begin with.

To the right is the face of one of the victims. I felt and still feel shame and sorrow as I look at her eyes. What wondrous beings we humans are.....we maim and enslave and show off our victims as if they were testament to our worthiness and skill. And we award prizes and honors to the mutilators and animal abusers that have the most "attractive" victims.

There was also a "petting zoo" at the event. Here we teach our children that other animals, usually baby animals are "cute" and there for our pleasure and profit. Often the animals shown are not well cared for and exist only to make a profit for the owner. We don't tell the children this, no, the adults point and oh and ah and smile and tell lies (lies the adults often believe too) to the children.  Meanwhile the animals suffer and despair and look back at us with empty eyes, having gone away somewhere we all do when we are forced into situations we hate but must endure.
And they lay in prison, guilty of no crime except that of being themselves. And we bring our little ones to gawk and point and "learn about the animals".

And we inadvertently say volumes about ourselves, our vapidness, our cruelty, our utter and total debacle of failing to participate as wanted and responsible and caring citizens of the community of life.

Thus we teach our young ones to not care, to be blind to obvious cruelty, to slavery, to exploitation. We teach them and we twist them and we make liars and insensitive torturers and louts out of them. We educate our children.

At the county fair.


Harry said...

Matthew Scully, in his book Dominion, suggests that God granting us dominion over the Earth and all its inhabitants also brought with it a duty: the duty to show mercy. Unlike Mr Scully I am not a religious man, but his argument remains compelling - how has the world become so lacking in mercy? Where, for example, was any mercy shown in what you have detailed above?

Children are not born merciless; they are, by active acts of education such as those above and by passive education such as animal-containing food being regularly placed on their plates, taught to be merciless. Should they 'go against the grain' and maintain that deep sense of love, caring (and mercy) for animals they will then join one of the world's minority groups, one out of sync with greater society. What we teach our children is, quite simply, insane. And terribly sad.

A close friend of ours, Emma from Brightside Farm Sanctuary, counters this by running school programs, in the schools themselves and at Brightside. Her message to the children is straightforward: Look at these beautiful animals. Aren't they worth continuing to love? Do you want to hurt them? The children's answers always demonstrate their deep sense of, at the very least, mercy. We need more Emmas.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Harry. You are correct, children tend to evince compassion and the culture (parents, institutions, etc) attempts to eradicate it in large and small ways.

Let's clone Emma. :-)

Krissa said...

Well, this made me cry. I cry every time I see/hear anything like this. ... I remember 4H and FFA from my childhood days, too. Sadly, I did have 4H experience. They were offering dog obedience classes and I took our dog, Sheik, through the class myself. I guess I was about 12 years old. Good for you (that's putting it mildly) and your friend for standing against the hostile crowd and NOT participating in FFA. I do know how difficult that was. Your refusing to participate (and back then it would have been even more difficult to refuse than now) is an inspiration. ... I don't know what else to say because when it comes to this emotional stuff, I can't really get words to come out the way I would like. It's just heartbreaking. Heartbreaking beyond words.

veganelder said...

Thanks for commenting Krissa. As far as not being in FFA, we probably were mostly being obnoxious adolescents as opposed to anything grander...but we did break the barrier (as it were) of opting out of FFA.

I dreaded going out to the fair, I anticipated what I would see, I found myself apologizing to the animals again and again. Would that I could have organized a jailbreak!

So I'm Thinking Of Going Vegan said...

I'm going to echo Krissa here and agree that it's (the post and the events described) heartbreaking. Here too in Southern Ontario all kinds of fall fairs are taking place, but when I moved back to my hometown to be closer to my elderly parents I had somehow forgotten how rurally-based this town still is. At least in the city I didn't have to read about pig roasts (church-sponsored of all things) in the local paper, and the joy of hunting. Bah!

Interesting, but the word I had to enter for verification for this post was "boxine" -- a boxed-in bovine?

Also, I nominate that we start calling fairs "unfairs"! ;)

veganelder said...

Thank you for your comment SITOGV. I like it....the county or state UNFAIR.

Bea Elliott said...

I get so angry when I see how institutions attempt to indoctrinate kids into seeing animals as disposable "resources". It's really quite evil - to manipulate the genuine love children have for animals into something "profit" driven. The pressures must be tremendous for those kids in rural areas who don't participate in "fairs". I imagine they are bullied and made fun of... For being different - complete and emotionally whole.

I think in my Peaceable Kingdom there shall be only children and animals... Adults most often spoil the whole paradise.

And about the sheep tail... Or rather the absence of. I know that fairy tales were most often written to describe or explain a true life account. Now what about Little Bo Peeps missing sheep (and their tails)?

veganelder said...

Thanks for commenting Bea. If the kids don't get warped, then where would the "consumers" come from? Teach them to believe lies when they are small and they will defend and promote lies when they are grown.

Good resource on Bo Peep...thank you.