Dudley and Destiny were married a few Saturdays ago. This was no ordinary wedding. Dudley is a steer and Destiny is a heifer. No great romance happened in one day, so let me start at the beginning.
A beef farmer had the misfortune of having one of his steers get a leg caught in some wire. If life followed as it normally does then the farmers would have called a vet to check on the steer and sold the animal for beef as soon as possible or, in a worse case, put the animal down because it could not walk to be hauled and sold. The farmer instead hoped for nature to heal the steer. The animal stumbled in the field and was noticed by neighbors and passersby.
Eventually, the farmer was approached by a party willing to take the steer off his hands and attempt to rehabilitate him. The farmer agreed and the steer, now named Dudley, was fitted with a one of a kind prosthetic leg to replace the one that needed to be amputated. Dudley then moved to the Gentle Barn. While there Dudley spent time with a heifer named Destiny that was taken in because of a walking disability. After a whirlwind courtship, the two were married.
I have conflicted feelings about the Gentle Barn, but I know why it exists. It fills a void. With three percent or less of the population working as farmers, there are ninety-seven percent of the people that have little or no connection to agriculture and where their food originates. The adults and children that visit this farm sanctuary go there to experience farm animals first hand. I recognize that this can be transformative for some of them, too.The problem is that we’re filling a round hole with a square peg.
At the end of the wedding, the animals were declared that they were “…safe and loved and protected.” I appreciate the fact that the animals are receiving feed and medical care, and that the public gets the opportunity to interact with them when many farmers don’t have the time or means to “open the gates.” However, I also believe that we’re forgetting part of what needs to be told.
From the simplicity of The Circle of Life from the Lion King to the gruesome reality of The Blue Planet my kids have been watching lately, animals are part of the food chain. Animals eat other animals. This is normal behavior. We eat animals, too. And this is normal. There was nothing wrong with it five hundred years ago, fifty year ago, or yesterday. Animals are not our equals and the fact that we collectively value human life over animals was unfortunately put to the test at the Cincinnati zoo when a child was chosen over a gorilla.
I can’t help but think that the impact of this steer and heifer could be made more of by allowing them to serve their purpose as farm animals to be food. The meat could be donated to a food kitchen to help others in need. More animals could be brought in to replace them and be raised for the same purpose while still fulfilling the needs of people to interact with them. These animals could help more people in more ways.