Garden Farm Skills

I see [in recent Ohio news] that people are getting arrested for murdering dogs and cats. We deliberately murder thousands upon thousands of cows and pigs every day so that we can eat meat but oh my, not cats and dogs. We kill people in war every day too, but oh my again, not cats and dogs. Has it been determined by theologians that dogs and cats are suddenly included in the Thou Shall Not Kill commandment? Did the writers of the American Constitution have in mind covering pets too?

Next thing you know, someone will get arrested for killing a mouse. Why not? Does a mouse have any less rights than a cat or dog? How about a rat? A mosquito? What hypocrites we are. Our pet-worshiping society raises a hullabaloo when a man kills his dog but our local humane societies must kill dogs by the thousands every day because pet-worshipers won’t take proper responsibility for their pets and nobody else wants them.

Sooner or later some poor judge will be called upon to decide which living things can be legally killed by humans and which can’t. Mercy, what a can of worms that will open. The judge will have to decide whether or not animals have rights like humans do; or, if they have some human rights and not others, which? And then, where should the line be drawn between which living things are animals with rights and which are animals without rights. If a cat has rights like humans have, why not the fleas on the cat?

What grinds me the most are people who, believing they are being kind to animals, will live-trap the ones that are bothering them and release them out in the country to become someone else’s problem. That is first of all illegal in many places. Secondly, study after study shows that releasing a wild animal into the wild most often is an act of cruelty. (Not to mention the horrendous cruelty of dropping off pet kittens out in the countryside.) The wild environment already has a full complement of wild animals, believe me. That’s why they are going to town and raiding urban backyards, looking for food. Adding, for instance, more raccoons to the countryside will only mean grave hardship or starvation for the released animal or it will find its way back to town anyway. Or into my barn. People who treat animals this way rather than killing them or taking them to the Humane Society to be killed, are just plain ignorant about nature, or refuse to admit that the food chain requires the constant necessity of death. Thank heavens for our local Humane Societies who do the dirty work of killing these unwanted animals. But why is it cruel to shoot a dog with a bullet, but humane to kill it with a shot of some chemical?

I once had a very refined and cultured book editor who was very adamant about not killing wildlife. She was horrified when I told her that I killed groundhogs and raccoons that were destroying my gardens. Later she took up gardening. Wasn’t long before she admitted that she understood what I had tried to tell her. She cornered the groundhog that was systematically destroying her garden and this very refined and cultured woman killed it with her spading fork, the only weapon handy.

This is the only way I know to change an avid wildlife lover’s view of life and death. Put them in charge of producing some of the food for the world. They can either put an animal and bird proof fence around the entire food producing acreage of the world which not even Bill Gates can afford to do, or they can help nature keep population levels from exploding.

Now all you friends of wildlife can rant at me. I wish you well and I wish you were right. If raccoons were endangered in any way, I would be the first one to rise in their defense. We certainly have to avoid cruelty to animals, but, oh my, it is extremely difficult to define what is morally or immorally cruel. Life is cruel by whatever standard you want to use. I just took my lambs to market, an experience that is always very sad for me. I’ve spent many a cold night keeping those lambs alive and healthy and many a long day guarding them from neighborhood dogs whose owners won’t live up to their responsibility as dog owners. I have enjoyed the supremely pleasant sight of lambs gamboling over the meadow grass. I had the unpleasant task of cutting off their tails so that fly eggs don’t hatch into maggots in the manure that would otherwise cling to the lambs’ tails and literally eat the lamb alive. I have tried very hard to raise lambs in a way that will protect them from internal parasites which is the main reason they often get loose bowels that bring on the maggot problem. But it is extremely difficult to succeed at raising sheep without internal parasites. Should I not raise lambs because I don’t like docking them? Should I quit raising lambs because they will end up as rack of lamb for rich people who descry the ways we shepherds must use to keep the lambs alive until then?

Should I not get married and have children because in the end we all must die? Perhaps in some idiotic war? Some of the very people who belch bricks at me because I will kill a dog that is killing my sheep support that terribly insane Iraq war and now nod their approval to killing more people in another idiotic war in Afghanistan.

But oh my, we must save our precious dogs and cats so they can die of old age and be buried in animal cemeteries. Did you know there are even live traps for mice now? You trap them and then let them loose away from your property to infest someone else’s house. I wonder how far away we are from spending money on mouse cemeteries while poor people can’t get adequate health care.
Gene and Carol Logsdon have a small-scale experimental farm in Wyandot County, Ohio.
Gene is author of The Mother of All Arts: Agrarianism and the Creative Impulse (Culture of the Land), The Last of the Husbandmen: A Novel of Farming Life, and just released: Small-Scale Grain Raising, Second Edition: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains, for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers.
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