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Farming meat is not evil, and I support the seal hunt

I read with disdain a Thought Leader blog that called the farming of meat “evil”. I have just returned to Canada and I visiting my parents on the farm and it is killing time. I say this to be provocative and honest about what we do. The chickens and turkeys are fully grown and we have started to process them. The lambs have been sent to the processing plant last week and we have freezers full of meat.

We have currently 150 breeding ewes, 18 horses, 50 chickens for meat, 12 for eggs, 25 turkeys, six dogs and some rescues (random barn cats, two ducks and a goat). We proudly raise and sell our animals for meat and we do so in as ethically and humanely manner as possible.

And yes, we kill them and eat them.

I get annoyed by animal rights activists who denounce the entire industry as “evil” or some other hyperbolic expression. I find they lack real information (a crude YouTube video is not evidence) and are dishonest in their portrayal of what farmers actually do.

What I also find annoying is that far too often people that denounce all animal use or consumption will still wear polyester based clothing. Sir Paul McCartney is a vocal advocate against the meat industry and he can be seen on the ice flows of the Canadian Arctic denouncing the seal hunt. He is easy to spot due to his bright red snow-suit made of a plastic by-product of the petrochemical industry; a far worse industry than meat producers in terms of global impact and environmental impact. I will return to the seal hunt below.

Our farm has been growing its sheep herd. Two years ago we only had 80 breeding ewes and grew all our own hay and barley to feed our animals. We were not officially organic as my parents could not be bothered to fight to obtain the certificate, which is not all that easy to get. We now raise too many sheep to grow our own barley although we usually produce enough hay annually to meet our needs. The cost to get certified organic feed for the sheep is too prohibitive in cost for us to source. I am not convinced that certified organic is necessarily better. I would prefer to source meat for local farmers whether or not they are organic. I support farm fresh free-range chickens and one must be conscious that it is possible to raise organic chickens under battery conditions. So be conscious of organic labeling — it can be misleading in terms of ethics.

Despite the annual killing of our animals we love them dearly, raise them with pride and feel much more compassion than the anti-meat lobby would have you know. Most farmers do care deeply for their animals and their way of life; to depict them as savage, uncaring, brutes shows ignorance and a willful ignorance. Animals raised in cruel conditions do not grow as well, suffer more injuries and are difficult to handle. Battery farms of chickens are another story that overcome this through sheer size and are not what I am discussing here.

My mother feeds her chickens and turkeys daily any vegetable scraps and certain weeds from the garden alongside their normal chicken feed (a premix of different grains and minerals). When it comes time to kill them she allows dad to step in as the axe murderer. He calmly and slowly kills each chicken far away from the rest and their death is over in a few seconds from being grabbed to the final curtain.

Our sheep are taken to a slaughterhouse where they are dropped off and dispatched within a day. We do not sell any live lambs at market as we do not wish for them to be transported long-distances across Canada or into the USA in crowded conditions. None of our lambs live in a feed-lot at any time.

For many in the anti-meat lobby they see nothing but contradictions in our stance of caring and loving our animals to killing them. I think that as farmers, we accept that death is part of life and that nobody gets out of here alive. Ensuring the animals we raise suffer as little as possible does not make us hypocrites, but simply human.

For those about to attack me here, I ask you to look at your wardrobe. Do you have any nylon or products from the petrochemical industry lurking in your closet? Is that not a worse industry than the meat industry? Does it not contribute to the destruction of the environment and therefore the reduction of natural habitat? I am not even advocating all natural fibre for all our clothing needs as cotton also contributes terribly to devastation of crop lands and massive water consumption.

I am asking for balance in our views and beliefs.

I think that the anti-meat lobby should be more honest and upfront with their ideological beliefs. Their beliefs are at best beliefs in the sanctity of all life and their depiction of the meat industry is dishonest. Their claim to lesser environmental impact is erroneous as it posits all land as being of equal quality to produce their beans and vegetable crops. Meat is simply the best and most compact form of nutrition available to people in arable lands. The various peoples of the Kalahari I work with cannot live on beans trucked in from abroad.

And as for the meat eaters; I think they should know more about where their meat comes from and how it gets to their table. We should avoid buying meat wrapped in plastic and set out on Styrofoam trays. I would like everyone to speak to the manager of their local supermarket and request the removal of the Styrofoam trays and extra packaging. Even better would be to find a local farmer that you can buy direct from or use the local butcher.

And I said I would return to the seal hunt. I do support the Canadian seal hunt. And again this is not out of hatred for fluffy animals with big brown eyes, but is support for aboriginal communities that rely on this for their sole source of income and for the bio-degradable products created form this industry. As long as it stays carefully monitored and regulated, Paul McCartney can stay off the ice flows. And the little baby white coats that appear on youtube being clubbed to death are no longer hunted. The most horrific claims have been refute. Seals are not skinned alive as often claimed.

Enough on this topic for now. I await the comments that follow.


  • Michael Francis

    I have returned to South Africa. I now teach Economic History and Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. I am happy to be back after a couple years away. I had been teaching anthropology at a Canadian University, but Africa called and I returned.