We lost a goat to heatstroke yesterday. I was at fault, thinking there was enough shade for her while I was gone helping a friend off farm. I was mistaken by about two feet, just enough to prevent the goat from finding shelter from the hot sun for too long. It was an armature mistake, and it cost the life of the animal. It’s a very tough thing to carry sometimes, the responsibility for so many little lives, but ultimately, the reward is great, and the passion moves me forward, further establishing my understanding of the true responsibility of livestock. The failure to fully see the picture is a constant worry. Did I feed everyone enough? Is there enough water? Will everyone make it though the night? Have I protected them enough against predator attack?
When I loose an animal to predation, it’s a little easier knowing the natural cycles of life are at work. But when human negligence is the cause… it’s harder to forgive. There is a moment where I ask myself if I really should have animals, if domestication is really fair. Then I remember how little land there is now producing healthy food. I look at the isles in the grocery store where all that meat sits packed up and ready to take home. That meat came from a factory farm, feed lots, and a life no animal should have to live.
I also know, as a hunter, that wild land is disappearing, that game is becoming scares. Salmon are overheating in drying up rivers, bison have become “beeffalo”; perhaps there is room here for an argument against eating meat? That is possible, and the farm is experimenting with bug based protein as a viable alternative. Insects are another form of living tissue, but I think because they do not have cute faces like a calf or chick, a society that would otherwise be majority up in arms about saving life, can happily sever the head of lettuce or rip a berry from its branch without stopping to reflect on the irony. But there is something about including all types of life in our diet, which compels in me a belief that animals are part of the abundance of nature, we are stewards of all things, and goat meat tastes so good.
The goat on Leafhopper Farm was pasture raised, had a natural diet, and lived with her family group. She had a healthy kid, and was growing up beautifully in an environment where she could brows in abundance. She was the first kid born here on the land, and I will never forget the hard lesson she helped teach. Know the land, know the animal, and know myself. The intension is good, time will tell. I have to believe my actions are helping, even when I make mistakes. Loosing the goat should not feel any different than the loss of any other life, but it does. I didn’t feel the same as a cedar was cut to make way for the pond. I never really feel this way as I pull living plants from the ground to eat, and I should.
There is comfort in knowing we all make mistakes. The consequences are sometimes harsh, but I will never forget the lesson, or the life my actions took. This is responsibility, this is good medicine, this is real living, and I am grateful.