A 'happy, healthy life' for friend and fowl
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, April 10, 2014


I donít eat much meat, but I really like the occasional bacon-double-cheeseburger grabbed at the Burger King drive-through, meatballs on my Papa Ginoís Papa Platter, one of a variety of New England Hot Dogs in downtown Salem and for a special summer treat, the just-past-rare steak from Chipís grill. And how can I give up the traditional holiday meals: turkey at Thanksgiving, corned beef at the Porthole Pub on St. Patrickís Day, ham or lamb at Easter, pork with sauerkraut ďfor luckĒ on New Yearís Day.

But it bothers me, the way animals are treated. I now buy only free-range chicken eggs and get meat from the farmers market at a booth where Iím told the cows live happy lives in the meadow before humane slaughter. I donít object to humans eating meat, thatís what itís for ó I just want the meat to be treated well on its way to my plate. So, I find what I call ďa happy turkeyĒ for Thanksgiving and ďhappy pigĒ for New Yearís at Whole Foods, where the treatment of the animal is rated at the meat counter; Iíll be looking for another happy pig for Easter this year.

Yes, Chip thinks Iím crazy: He lets me pay the additional cost.

But Iím not happy enough myself since Chipís vegetarian sister-in-law sent me that ďFirst Sunshine for 752 rescued hensĒ video from Edgarís Mission Farm Sanctuary website.

Thereís this chicken farmer in Australia, who a few years ago decided to take his hens from their tiny cages and let them roam free in a fenced enclosure. In the video, Cinderella the Hen is lifted from the cage and placed on the ground in the sunshine. She slowly, almost disbelievingly, stretches her legs, then her wings; scratches in the dirt; lifts her face to the sun; makes a nest in the brush and lays her eggs. Yes, there is emotion-inducing music in the background. And it may be my imagination that the last scene shows her smiling. But I canít argue with the slogan of Edgarís Mission: ďIf we could live happy, healthy lives without harming others, why wouldnít we?Ē

I got caught up in the ďhealthy livesĒ issue some 20 years ago, when I had an emergency hysterectomy. As I left the hospital, I was given a prescription for Premarin, a hormone-replacement drug used to ameliorate the symptoms of sudden menopause, as well as protect women from bone loss.

I balked at this, arguing that taking the drug was unnatural; the young doctor agreed that ďYes, the natural thing is to die now that nature no longer has a use for you.Ē Sarcasm works with me, so I took the drug for 10 years, but someone eventually told me what it is: Premarin, from pregnant mares.

I went online and learned that the mares live long (often 20 years or more) and brutal lives, repeatedly impregnated, and for most of their pregnancy confined in stalls that prohibit turning around or comfortably lying down, as their urine is harvested. This didnít seem possible, so I went to the drug company website, then Snopes.com, looking for rebuttal. I didnít find it.

Still, I wanted strong bones, so I continued to take the pills, until ... I needed emergency lung surgery for a rare carcinoid tumor and was told I could die if it had spread. As I prepared to possibly meet my Maker, I thought Iíd have trouble explaining my participation in the abuse of those mares. I decided that if I lived, Iíd stop taking Premarin, and I did. My lungs and bones are fine now, and so is my conscience.

Other women might have to make other choices, but Iím told that there is now a synthetic hormone replacement that doesnít require horses in restraints. So, on to the poultryÖ

We have wild turkeys in our yard; they like it here, not only because the squirrels toss them seeds from the bird feeders, but because we have a mowed-meadow yard full of bugs and roots instead of pesticides. Itís a joy to watch them live the life of a turkey, strutting and preening, interacting with each other, roosting in the trees. When it thunders, the males herd the females and youngíuns into the bushes, then line up to face the thunder and gobble in unison as they prepare for battle with Zeus. I canít imagine stuffing them into a cage until it is time to stuff them with bread. Of course, when they get aggressive with me in the spring, they risk immediate beheading with the wood-pile ax, but thatís another issue.

Yes, some farmers who experiment with free-range poultry often feed the local foxes, coyotes and fishers until they move their livestock into a safe barn, which is still better than cages. I donít have room here to tell you about factory pig farming. Or cattle crowded into pens, hearing those ahead of them being slaughtered as they wait their turn.

I donít want to be part of this anymore. I wonít be a true vegetarian, like those who wonít eat ďanything with a face.Ē Iíll try to make sure the fish I buy werenít crammed into a farm-pen, but aside from that, itís always been tough being a salmon, grabbed as they swim upstream by grizzlies and eagles. Iíll happily eat deer thatís been hunted to cull the herd and prevent mass starvation. And yes, you may see me in a weak moment eating a hamburger or steak. But mostly, Iím going to try to have a happy, healthy life without causing unnecessary pain to the animals I eat.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle-Tribune newspapers.

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