Here’s an interesting story I found in today’s Detroit News online about city residents in Detroit rating farm animals on residential property.
I’m curious what you think about this idea?
As a suburb-dweller my first thought was “GREAT! Why not? They’ve talked about urban farming in Detroit for almost 30 years now…why not also include some livestock on those farms?”
But then it occurred to me, my perspective is clouded by distance. We live almost 20 miles from Detroit so all of the wonderful sights, sounds and smells of a working animal farm are far enough away to not concern me in any negative way.
Many of us have memories of a family farm…my Aunt Mary and Uncle Dan had a working farm with acres of crops as well as ducks, chickens, pigs,roosters cows and sheep. I spent a “year” there one week as a kid. It was like being in a nightmare-prison. Farms are fun to visit, but to be around one for even 24 hours is something most of us would find unsettling. As a 12 year old I found “the farm” to be a loud and scary place that wasn’t anything like a trip to the zoo. It’s more like a construction-site with living creatures. There is work to be done and some of “the workers” are the end-result of that production. I’m sure my childhood imagination got the better of me, but I seem to recall an almost unspoken relationship with the animals… “what are ya in for?”…both of us knowing how things would end up.
Hell…I’ll just come out and say it: For a city-boy, The Farm was a violent place. Even the simple act of retrieving eggs from the chicken coup was terrifying…reaching in the cage under the chicken…trying not to get scratched or pecked…and then the thought of taking their “babies” in egg form to be used or sold…I’ll be honest: it put me off eggs for a while. And that was just the eggs…I conveniently got lost in the cornfields when it was time to bring home the bacon.
Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE meat! I was born a carnivore and I don’t get hung-up on how meat is harvested: because I don’t have to! If however I spent a day on a working farm today, I’m sure I would turn veg…just long enough of course until the memories left my mind again. That’s the kind of almost “Royal” life we’ve become used to…not being forced to be concerned with the origin of our pleasures.
My point is: Would the average City of Detroit resident, who didn’t grow up on a farm actually be able to raise farm animals on a lot or two that used to have a house on it, if it included ALL aspects of the “farm to fork” model? I don’t think so. Even if you raised livestock and someone else came by with a truck and took them somewhere else for preparation…I think our basic 21st nature to make any animal a pet would cause anxiety. Especially if there were kids around. And the sounds and smells would make you the most hated neighbor on the block.
But I do think you chould be able to have an area for farms that included livestock, if it were set up in “sections” of the city that have been designed for urban farming. That would keep it from being something your neighbor is doing as a hobby or even a source of income,and it could be engineered away from family homes. I just don’t think we’re ready to be awakened by our neighbor’s rooster at dawn…not yet anyway. Maybe when the grid goes down?
But this discussion always makes me ask “Why can’t we get this urban farming idea off the ground? I’ve been hearing these ideas since the late 70s about lots being sold on the cheap to people who would tear down a house or two and start farming, but you really don’t hear a lot about it on a regular basis. I know some are doing it successfully, it’s a noble idea..but it doesn’t have the same energy that most of the “rebuilding Detroit” projects do. Maybe it’s not sexy enough for The Hipsters ? (hard to look cool in overalls) Maybe the big-money-people in Midtown don’t see enough profit in it? Maybe there’s a “Supermarket Cartel” that blocks this kind of project behind the scenes? Or maybe it just wouldn’t be fair for more people from the suburbs to come in and take the last part of The City (the homes and lots) and leave actual city residents out of the equation, like so many of the big projects have? I honestly don’t know the answer.
All I know is that I personally could not butcher a living animal unless my family depended on it to live. (This is why I admire Michigan hunters who help thin the heard from a painful starvation and actually use the venison for their own tables and those of the friends and neighbors). In fact…since science has proved that plants are a living thing and can actually react to our presence (people who talk to their plants swear it helps them grow) I would even have trouble tearing a carrot out of the ground by his “green hair” and wash him off as he slowly dies in preparation for slicing and dicing because after all “fresh is best”. Funny how most vegetarians don’t acknowledge that harvesting vegetables is still killing a living organism. Just because we can’t “hear them” doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling anything. If the “eyes” on a potato were real…could you look into them without sympathy as the deep fryer starts to boil? Consider this report from The Smithsonian if you doubt the possibility that plants don’t feel anything.
You can argue that plants are better food for your body than meat and dairy, but you really can’t feel superior about your choice being more “humane”. Not really, unless you only eat fruit that has fallen from trees and plants naturally without picking them. There are such people. They are called fruitarians.
I couldn’t raise farm animals in our yard for consumption but I still want to eat them. I’m just more at peace with the idea that I’ll pay for someone else to do the nasty work and put it in a cool package with a little cartoon of the animal in question on the wrapper. The same with veggies, dairy and fish. That doesn’t make me a hypocrite…it makes me a consumer.
As always, I welcome your feedback. Forget about farms in Detroit…how would you feel about raising livestock in your own yard, or living next to someone who does? Please keep in mind the sounds and smells. Not to mention your dogs and cats wanting to explore their more basic meat eating personalities. And where do you draw the line? “Yes” to chickens…but “no” to cows? ( I still want a pet goat, but Lynn is being unreasonable about it) Consider for a moment the dangers of your young children wandering into a pigpen or chicken coup to “play” with the animals. I saw that happen to a toddler cousin and it was awful.
I wouldn’t be in favor…You?