Ethics in Small Farming
There's something that's been bothering me lately.
I think my priorities when it comes to farming, even as a small farm, may differ from some. I've seen animals treated like commodities and kept in over crowded spaces where they don't have adequate resources given. I've seen places where conditions have been dirty, animals are sick, and some dying from easily preventable maladies like Pasteurella. This gets regarded as an expected loss, just part of business with so many animals coming and going...
Maybe I am soft-hearted. Maybe it's my background working in veterinary clinics and pet care. Whatever the reasons, I'm proud of the fact that everything here begins and ends with my animals' health and comfort in mind. If that means I will never be as "productive" because I will not attempt to cram as many individuals as possible into the space I have, or that more of my daily routine is given over to their care, I'm okay with that. If that means I am accused of being "judgemental" when I refuse to do business with anyone who doesn't seem to care about their animals enough to ensure they always have fresh water and enough space to stretch out and stay clean- I'm okay with that.
I may have burned some bridges by refusing to barter or sell to certain people. It's not a huge community here. I had some harsh words directed at me a few weeks ago by someone because I wasn't comfortable with any of my animals going to live in the conditions I saw on their property. It doesn't seem to matter how delicately you try to broach this topic. People get defensive when they know deep down they are wrong. You can't look at a rabbit that has half an ear chewed off in an over crowded hutch with empty water, and honestly tell me that your animals are getting all they need.
I think the line of assessment should be easy.
Ask yourself, "If I were this animal, would I be happy here?"
If you were under the same care, given the same conditions, space, treatment, etc. would you be as happy as you could be? If the answer is no- then you may want to evaluate why, and what can be changed.
I know that some people are bound to say, "These are not pets!" when it comes to livestock. How does that argument justify providing less than 100%? Just because these animals are being raised to sustain and nourish us, rather than for companionship, they should deserve less? I don't accept that.
I believe it is our responsibility to ensure quality of life for any and all animals that we have a partnership with.
I know there are great small farms out there. I've had some really good experiences, along with some terrible ones. Speaking out appropriately about poor conditions, holding to higher standards, and supporting those farms that do treat animals with respect and compassion is our way to hopefully inspire change.