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Animals in agriculture

September 10, 2017

Recently I have come across a lot of articles and video’s explaining why we shouldn’t eat meat, or use animal products, even when it is ‘humanely grown’.

Some of the arguments are irrefutable:

  • Most farmed animals are kept in ways that are horrible and definitely animal unfriendly.

  • All farmed animals, including organic and bio-dynamically farmed ones, that are kept for meat, as well as chickens for eggs, are slaughtered long before they have lived a full lifespan.

Others are more a question:

  • Do we need meat in our diet? Perhaps this is such a difficult question because we are all different and what seems healthy for some, feels uncomfortable and unhealthy to others. I don’t think it is possible to reach a conclusion on this one other than that it should be a personal choice.

  • Do we need animals on our farms? This point is an issue I would like to talk with you about. I would like to share some of the reasons why I think animals are very important for farming and for people in general.

Animals in our culture (agri- or otherwise)

Animals play an essential role in a healthy ecosystem:

  • They recycle nutrients, making them more accessible to plants again,

  • They add ‘animal energy’* to the soil,

  • They increase diversity,

  • Some scratch or dig to open up soil for seeds,

  • Some eat insects, helping to prevent plagues,

  • They concentrate manure,

  • Some increase species richness of plants by eating potentially invasive ones and thus making space for others

The healthiest, stable ecosystems are the most diverse ones

Farms should strive to resemble healthy ecosystems, because then they will be healthier and more stable with less problems with pests and disease.

*animal energy, or astral energy: With the material world of stones and soil etc, we share our physical body; the next step in development is the plant, which has a life-body or etheric body -as do we; with animals we share a body of emotions and the ability to move around; and Man has the ability to see himself /herself as an individual.

In bio-dynamic agriculture we work to help all these kingdoms develop further.  In earth and stone we want to start the development of life; in plant we encourage the development of feelings and motion; in animals the forming of a separate individuality.

We can do this by giving these kingdoms the right care, be it plenty of compost, including that from animals (which has a different quality from plant compost, because of their different quality of being, which also shows itself in it being richer in nutrients), or our loving attention and the space to live in a way that fits with the plants or animals’ natural needs and habits.

What would happen if everyone stopped eating meat and dairy?

Clearly we would stop keeping farm animals. This should be clear: because we live in a society where we need to earn money with our work, keeping animals that have no benefit would be counter productive. This would mean that soon there would only be a few left in a zoo or a museum park etc, while the majority would simply die out.

Farm animals are our responsibility

We have worked with these animals for thousands of years, turning them into the animals they are now. We have taken much of the land where their wild ancestors roamed for our farms and cities. Add to this that with many breeds we have gone so far in our breeding that they would struggle to survive without our care and you will see that we are indeed responsible for these creatures. It is up to us to sort this out and give them a place in our culture that respects who and what they are, gives space for them to live in circumstances as closely to their natural habitats as is suitable.

It seems sensible to me to do this by letting them help us in our agriculture, like I described they work in healthy ecosystem.

The story of the animals

I would also like to share some of the story Peter Brown shares every Christmas eve at Tablehurst Farm:

Long long ago Man was sent away from paradise to live on the earth. There were no animals there, as those all remained in paradise, where they were beautiful and elegant each in their own way. When the animals saw Man there on the Earth, they felt sorry for them. And each in their own way they asked God if they couldn’t do something to help Man.

And God said to them that yes they could but, in order to help us, they would have to become heavy and slow witted, or lose the ability to fly, to jump and so forth.In essence they would cease to be the beautiful light footed elegant creatures of paradise and instead become the animals we see now. But each in their turn decided to come down and help man, so they could give us meat, or eggs, milk or wool and so forth.

This is just a story- but it feels so right to feel gratitude and respect for these animals and what they have done for us. To appreciate their gifts.

And so, to me, saying we don’t need animals in our agriculture is showing a great lack of respect, it is reducing them to something surplus to requirements.

So how can we find a balance?

We will need to find ways to make it possible for all farm animals to live a full life and raise their young by their side, while still providing us with some of those gifts.

This will mean we need to be less greedy, eat less meat and eggs, use less milk, which is likely to be better for us anyway.

Did you know, by the way, that milking cows produce quite a bit more milk than their calf would drink? This is because of our breeding of them and it means that we can allow calfs to be with their mother, and still get a bit of milk.

And one more story:

A few months ago, when our new apprentice Marine started her placement she asked me what happened to the old laying hens. I told her they get slaughtered and sent off, they don’t get sent back to the farm. (I later heard from Daniel at Orchard eggs that the slaughter houses say they can’t keep his hen separate, it is too small a batch and staff isn’t trained to do this)

Marine comes from a small island near Madagascar (sorry, I forgot the name). She told me how on this island the oldest chickens are seen as those with the best meat: yes you need to cook them for a long time, but then the flavour is the best.

Point of this story: well might it not be that this goes for all meat? The animals that have lived the fullest happiest longest lives hold the greatest gift for us in their meat.

When we eat it should be with gratitude and appreciation for this amazing gift.

I hereby make it part of my mission for the Gardens of Love to find the best ways to make this possible: for the animals to be a part of the Gardens and for them to live as suits them best and to be able to raise their young to maturity.

Each Gardian can decide for themselves if they choose to eat animals -or eggs- occasionally, or not. If we choose not to eat our friends, we need to make sure to allow other predators, like fox, ferret, pine martens or birds of prey and such, to come into the Gardens and hunt. If we would keep them out, we would soon find that there are too many chickens and rabbits etc. In this case it may be better not to keep a dog or cat, as they would discourage the wild predators. The animal houses should be made secure however, as animals like foxes tend to get crazy inside enclosed spaces, and kill anything that moves.

with Love,

Noor Bunnik


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