Idealism and philosophical purity are luxuries, you know. And you won’t truly understand that until you try your hand at raising your own food. Sometimes, in raising food, you need to do things that make perfect sense, but that would be completely despicable if you applied the same logic to your other dealings.
Case in point:
This is Selma. Selma is the oldest of my Rhode Island Reds, one of the original three. Once upon a time Selma was the smallest and most oppressed of the chickens; in fact her older sister Agnes got moved in with the Brahmas after she pecked Selma nearly to death. Seriously: There was blood everywhere.
Agnes is doing fine now, in case you care. Actually so is Selma, except that in a turn of the worm that could qualify Selma to be a black attorney general or a gay rights activist*, yesterday’s oppressed has become today’s tyrant.
This is Edith. (It’s a sad fact that the only chickens who acquire names are the interesting ones, and ‘interesting’ almost never works out well for the chicken in the long run.) It’s a lousy camera-phone picture, but if you could see her clearly you’d note that Edith is the sorriest-looking chicken you’ve ever seen. There’s nothing really wrong with her, she’s perfectly healthy. It’s all about Selma, who has plucked Edith bald. And Edith allows it. Welcome to the pecking order, which in small RIR flocks can have lethal importance.
You noticed that Selma is in a small cage? Yeah: she’s in Purdah because her Edith attacks were starting to get unacceptably violent. And the solution to this problem? Now, the notion of taking an oppressor to the chopping block is pleasing to your old Uncle Joel for obvious reasons. But you know what?
I’ve never once done it. I always plan to do it, I’m always open to the idea of doing it. But I never end up doing it. Because it’s not about principles and idealism. It’s about eggs.Truth: in working out this little psychodrama, Edith was precisely as likely to get the chop as Selma was. I isolated Selma to keep her from committing fratricide (sistricide? There must be a word for it.) but also to determine if she – the oldest chicken in the flock – is still laying eggs. At the same time, Edith has been put to the same question. The stewpot loomed over the immediate future of whichever chicken for whom the answer was no.
Does that seem right to you? It didn’t seem right to my inner ideologue, either. But Farmer Joel told Idealistic Joel to go screw himself, because Hungry Joel wants eggs and a chicken farm is not run on philosophical principles.
The point: If you want to raise your own poultry and livestock, be prepared to get over some things.