On Grief And Farming (A.K.A. Me and My Arrow) Pt. 2

Approximate Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’m the one on our farm who has primary responsibility for all the lives that exist on that farm. I’m the one who makes almost all of the life and death decisions on our small farm, even though I’m not the one who usually carries out the deed.

This is Wednesday, at the vet’s the day I had to decide to put her down. She had been the most adventurous kitty we’ve ever lived with, and, after 13 years, it finally caught up with her.

Still, it’s me who decides whether or not something on the farm lives or dies.

Mostly, it’s a tolerable decision:
the animal is not one we had planned to keep for breeding and it is ready (i.e. in prime condition) for butchering.

I *could* use the euphemism “processing”,

but let’s not.

I love all my critters far too much to try and gloss over their deaths with euphemisms.

I love all my critters – even the ones I kill.

The truth is that most of the critters who are born on our farm are destined to become someone’s dinner, and that dinner is both tastiest, and tenderest, when those critters are in their prime (i.e. still pretty young).

Let’s not beat around the bush – these animals are killed. The vast majority of the life on my farm ends (i.e. dies) when *I* say. Sometimes it is because I honestly believe I am ending their suffering, but most often, it is because they are the right size to be of value to us for meat. The reality of the world is that MOST life on the planet ends up being food for other life on the planet*. That’s how the planet survives. The Grim Sower.

MOST of the time, the remains of the critters we sacrifice here are used completely – they feed the human members of the farm as well as the dogs who protect both them and us. It’s a “circle of life” that makes sense, and seems appropriate –

  • so long as those critters are well looked after while they are alive.
  • so long as their lives are good (which also includes safe).
  • so long as their deaths are respectful and humane.
  • so long as their remains are not wasted.

Most of the time this works pretty well and while I do mourn the lives that are taken, I realize that the reality is that they were given life specifically for this purpose. They would never have been born if not for the fact that we want to eat them. They are “meat” animals, and with the exception of those very few who end up being kept as breeding stock, the majority of the lives born on this farm are destined to become meat on our table.

There are exceptions though.

On our farm, we have a number of animals who are NOT meat producers.

In some cases, I am the one who must decide when one of our partners (i.e. the critters who help us be successful in what we are trying to do) is at the end of their life.

THAT is always a heart-wrenching decision.

Arrow is one of those, and he is nearing the end of his life.

This is the second in a series of posts about Arrow, and about grief.
Stay tuned for more in the coming days.

If you are at all curious why I named this guy “Arrow”:


The Grim Sower:

“Human beings, conscious of their personal mortality, are somewhat obsessed with the Grim Reaper, if only because they dimly see Him coming and they don’t like it. In consequence the Grim Reaper plays a central role in humanity’s usual story of evolution: ‘nature red in tooth and claw’, where creatures strive to out compete each other in a desperate no-holds-barred battle for survival. Only the winners of these battles, it is said, get to perpetuate their kind: the losers just die, and in this way organisms with ‘good genes’ proliferate at the expense of all the rest. It’s a simple, compelling picture, which seems to explain the general increase in the complexity of life-forms.” p.25

“In fact, in the evolution both of complex organisms and of mind, the central role is played not by the Grim Reaper, but by the Grim Sower, who starts things up by their billions so that nearly all of them have no option but to die before they have reached maturity. The popular view of ‘natural’ animal lives has been romanticized to such an extent that they are universally seen as idyllic, whereas actually the reverse is the case. Nearly all wild animals die without breeding. For example, from the 10,000 eggs that a female frog lays during her lifetime, on average, 9,998 die for each pair that survives to replace the parents and breed. A more extreme example case still is the cod: a single female lays forty million eggs, of which about 3,999,998 die for each pair that survive to breed. This is what food chains are all about, and it’s the system that started with eukaroytes, who made death a necessary part of life.”
p 25-26

“… there is a huge advantage to making vast numbers of potential offspring and throwing most away. The advantage is that you can be selective cheaply, and sift through them for the occasional accidental good one. Indeed you can produce a few high-quality items even if the ‘technology’ needed to make thousands of them reliably doesn’t exist at all.” p2

Stewart, I., & Cohen, J. (1997). Figments of reality : the evolution of the curious mind. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

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