Monday, September 17, 2012

Halfway through September

The month of September is carrying on as expected. The work is easier and my love for this place is continuing to grow. I’d say after the first two weeks of my time here, once I got past that awkward, anxious stage, my heart began to open and really take in everything.

I have been able to observe my surroundings more and have been seeing the details of everything. I know most of the animal's personalities and physical traits. I am also seeing this with all the people here, from my fellow interns to the caregivers. We are connecting with and influencing one another, the non-human animals included. 

Feeding the back cattle on my own during my AM shift
 Amy and Dani are both in their second week and it seems they are beginning to grasp the work. With two extra people, we are finishing our daily work earlier than normal. With more time, we are able to get the extra work done and we hang out with the animals more. It is weird to see four people cleaning, when I had grown so accustomed to only seeing one other person with me.

Last week, we finished everything before our shift was done, there was no more extra work to do, so we went to groom the cattle. It was fantastic.

I spent most of my time sitting down next to Punky. It was an incredible experience. I sat next to him for 25 minutes. Taking the time to look him in the eye, I am not sure how anyone can not see a beautiful living being. While I groomed him he watched me, turned his head into me and rested his head down. When I would stop for a moment, he would swing his head my way as if to say, "keep going!" 

It is hard to not think that I consumed a cow just like him before and that people still do. I have wondered since being out here, if anyone who still eats meat, were substituted in my place and had the expereinces I have had, would be able to continue on with their lifestyle. 

Since going vegetarian seven years ago and vegan just about five years ago, I have always looked at these animals as no different than a dog or cat. Being here has further rooted how I feel. Their physical appearance is different, their nutritional requirements and day to day needs may be different. However, dogs do not look like cats, require the same nourishment or the daily needs of a cat, but we put them in the same category. These animals equally want to receive love and they have love to give. They are aware of you as much as you are aware of them and they develop attachments and habits and routine just like any of us. There is such a detachment between a farm animal and the products they become. If you can see past, a moment's satisfaction of a burger or chicken wing, and realise that without these small moments of satisfaction an animal is able to live, love and feel than I can really respect that. 

William keeping me company as I clean around the cattle barn

A line from the song "Apparently, I'm A "P.C. Fascist" (Because I Care About Both Human And Non-human" by one of my favourite bands, Propagandhi, says, "And you can feign ignorance, but you're not stupid, you're just selfish. And you're a slave to your impulse." That line has crossed my mind as I have reflected on thoughts while being out here. I understand it more now than ever. 

After experiencing my time with these animals, connecting with them like I would with a dog, cat or human being, I find it difficult to not think about the beautiful animals, like the ones I have gotten to know here, that people around me are consuming. There are cows everywhere much like the cattle here, who are being killed for meat and raped for dairy as I write these words. And very few thoughts have broken my heart more. It is like the song lyric, about being a slave to impulse or satisfaction. We would much rather have the minutes pleasure of eating a hamburger with cheese than not and sparing a cow’s life. 

I have learned that if you are against veal, but consume dairy than you are still endorsing the veal industry. Like humans cows lactate after giving birth with the purpose of feeding the milk to their babies. Cows are artificially inseminated, go through pregnancy and then give birth to a calf. Whether it is organic or conventional dairy, the calf is taken away from their mother immediately and shortly after they will be killed for veal. The milk the mother cow began to produce is drawn from them and turned into milk, cheese, ice cream, etc... You cannot just choose to not eat veal if you are against it, you must cut out dairy as well.

William (left) and Harry(above) are the youngest cattle here, and they were rescued from a veal farm. They are just like puppies, they want to play all the time and are super curious!

Anyone close to me knows that for the time I have been vegan I have never forced it upon anyone. If I have spoken about it, it has made up a miniscule percentage of my interaction with them or it was brought on by discussion or argument. I will not push my belief onto people, because I do not think force serves many purposes, however I do ask my peers, family and friends, to understand what I am trying to say, where I am coming from and to know I still love them far more than words can describe. That is why I ask you all to really think on what I have said and I am open to discussion if they feel they would like to. 

This week I got the opportunity to shadow the health checks again, which were done on the white turkeys.

They clipped their nails and did body check on them. If live is detected, then they would apply a powder that aided with getting rid of the lice. I learned that their is a poultry specific type of lice that we as humans cannot get. The lice can crawl on us, but they would never take us on as a host.

When the caregivers were done with the body checks Amy and I were responsible for weighing the turkeys. So, I picked up the turkeys and put them on the scale while Amy recorded their weight. 

Kate and Kim doing health checks on the white turkeys

I worked my first PM shift this week with Alex.

It was a bit of a crazy day and did not go down in its normal routine because we had an injured steer.

Ever since Tanya and I started our internship, there has been a steer having trouble getting up after sitting down. Some days he will spend close to ten hours sitting down. That day he had been sitting down for close to twelve hours. The caregivers tried whatever they could to get him up themselves, but were unable to. Out of concern they called the vet, who tried what he could to get him up, and still was unsuccessful. The vet then called a search a rescue emergency team to help get him up.

The rescue group consisted of many, many firefighters.

A lot of stuff went on, and trying to get it all into this blog post in detail is not likely, as I have an awful memory, and I am going to try and keep it simple.

They put supports beneath the steer and then attached the supports to the lift of a large tractor that was brought to the farm. The tractor began to raise the lift and the steer was off the ground, but his legs were not trying to support his weight. The poor guy was not really trying at all. The rescue ended with the team leaving the steer to sit, because they were unable to get him on his feet.

For the evening, the steer was left to sit in the pasture, with the hopes that he would be able to stand the next day.

Alex and I continued our P.M. shift later than it normally would start, so the normal routine was not followed.

Aside from the unfortunate moments with the steer, I enjoyed the shift. Things were more rushed than usual, but we still got everything done. It was neat to see all of the animals being put into their barns at night, so peaceful. I think Alex is awesome! So it was cool to spend time with her and to hear her stories, she is very dedicated and passionate about animals.

The next day, the steer was still not getting up, so the decision was made for him to be euthanized. He weighed aproximately 2,100 pounds and it would be crucial for him to be able to stand in order to enjoy his life. Many of the caregivers and volunteers said their good-byes before he left. He was a very fortunate steer. 

Most cattle raised in the meat industry are slaughtered at a very young age. They are not able to live their life span or grow to their full potential. He was able to live out his life longer with an immense amount of love unlike many cattle raised in the agriculture industry. Even a farmer who "loves" their animals, if they are being raised for eventual slaighter then I question that whole idea of love, if the entire time the intention is for the animal to be killed. 

Everyone here lives for these animals and loves these animals. They are their family. Although, his life was shorter than it could have been, I am sure it was as fullfilled as if he did not have the leg trouble. He did not die at the hands of slaughter or for the purpose of consumption, he died because it was his time to go. He served his life as he was meant to and touched the lives that surrounded him with tears as he left.

Due to the passing of the steer, I went to Orange County - ON MY OWN - to pick up a hen from the Orange County Humaine Society. I did this because the caregiver who was going to be picking up the hen wanted to say goodbye to the steer and I offered to make the drive. It was nice to get out of Acton and see a bit more of southern California. The drive one way was about an hour and a half. There was only traffic really, on the way back. 

View on the drive back to the farm

So, we now have another hen and named Marge, I will try to snag a photo to include on a farm dwellers post!

As of today, I have a full two weeks left. It is going to fly.

Things I have done:
  • Bike from Santa Monica to Venice Beach and back
  • Play poker with a bunch of strangers (not with real money)
  • Have an incredibly awkward conversation with a 40 year old man from Palmdale, CA
  • Pecked by a chicken, rooster and turkey
  • Cleaned pigs ears
  • Held a chicken
  • Sun screened pigs ears
  • Rubbed a lot of pigs bellies
  • Cleaned out a barn
  • Brushed cow's hair
  • Finished Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Made a list of 101 Things to do in 1001 days - my deadline is Sunday May 3, 2015
  • Drive a big truck around the farm
  • Feed a goat medicine mixed with molasses
  • Spray turkeys with water to cool them off
  • Spray pigs with water to cool them off
  • Spray water into pigs mouthes
  • Watch Breakfast at Tiffanys
  • Walk a turkey to his pen
  • Had my first sentimental moment with a sheep
  • Lift a weight on my own I have never been able to lift
  • Skype with Cat and Theresa, Pavel, Jessie, Krystin, Mom, Dad, Allison, Julie, Oliver, Nico, Grandma, Uncle Frank and Auntie Carla
  • Help a caregiver give a sheep a needle (held her down)
  • Walk around the farm at night
  • Drive in California
  • Help a turkey groom himself, break the pin feathers
  • Skype with Raman
  • Foster a dog
  • Feed Li Mu Bi by hand
  • Watch a vet treat a tumour on a cow
  • Shadow caregivers doing goat and sheep health checks
  • Listen to the new Propagandhi album a bunch of times
  • Rub Russell the turkey's belly
  • Work a PM shift
  • See a pig yawn
  • Have my foot stepped on by a pig
  • Sit beside a cow for 25 minutes
  • Licked by a cow
  • Feed white turkeys
  • Drive to and from Orange County, on my own
  • Feed front and back cattle
  • Feed front and back pigs
  • Feed horses
  • Make mash for skinny goats

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