I gaze out upon gently rolling hills as the birds trill in dipping waves around me. Undertones of grass tearing and sheep chewing seep into my awareness. A breeze gently lifts my hair away from my neck; the sun warms the space it leaves behind. Some may see green. I see the silvery green underside of leaves, the vibrant green of healthy grass, the mottled green and brown of a non-wetting hill only just germinating. I see the nuances of colour that make up ‘green’. I hear the panicked calls of parrots and know that a bird of prey has taken flight above them. I smell moisture on the wind and know that the rain is coming. I am connected; irrevocably.
Some may see me as a manipulator, a dictator, or a manager. Yes, I manipulate the kinds of grasses in my pasture. Yes, I dictate which paddock I allocate my sheep. Yes, I manage the business of farming.
That is not all I am; I am a balancer, a nurturer, a caretaker, and an element within the ecosystem. I balance the native and introduced species. I nurture all life surrounding me, not just the lives that I farm. I caretake the land. We may own it, but we borrow it from the world. I am just a part, a small part of something enormous and magnificent.
Perception is what vilifies or glorifies us in the public’s eye, no matter the industry. It can feel like the public sees me as callous for raising animals to be eaten. I cannot deny that I raise animals to be food. I will always dispute anything that paints me as callous. I care; every single moment of every day. I am always in tune with the living beings in my care. Are they fed, watered, sheltered, and content? I may only work eight to fourteen hours each day, five to seven days a week. However, I raise animals eight thousand seven hundred and sixty hours a year.
Some days I find it difficult to reconcile the nurturing of animals with the production of meat. How do I resolve that conflict in my soul? I watch nature around me, and I connect myself to my surroundings. Plants utilise water, sunlight and nutrients; a mouse eats the grain from the plants; a fox eats the mouse; the fox dies and becomes nutrients for the grass. It begins and ends continuously. Some days brim with more endings than beginnings, and those days are hard. Those days amplify the conflict in my soul.
How do I explain to someone who isn’t irrevocably connected to nature that the circle of life is the answer? Our ‘circle of life’ happens to be long enough to show us millions of ‘circles’ in our lifespan. When we see death this often, we do one of two things. Fight it, or accept it. I am comfortable that my living means other beings will die. Sometimes I will benefit from the death; other days you may. One day I will die and I find peace in knowing another life will be richer for what I leave behind. That is how I resolve the conflict in my soul. I remember I am a part of the natural world. I am not above it, nor am I beneath it.
I am with it.
I am it.
Accepting the circle of life and food chains may not answer how I can defend farming animals on a broad scale. Farming is not the original ecosystem. It’s important to remember that in nature, nothing ever remains as it was. We are here; we have altered the ecosystem of the world. Should we attempt to remove the effects of our being here while we are here? To me, that is an exercise in futility. Should we listen to the way the ecosystems have changed and help them adjust to us being here? Absolutely. Farming is one of the ways I do that. Our population requires the farming of food. Each farmer I know is a balancer, nurturer, and caretaker of their ecosystem; the farmed elements, the introduced species, the native species, and the land.
I accept that I am a living being in an ecosystem, which means give and take. I take food and give nutrient back. I believe that we have altered the world and its ecosystem, which means we must farm that food. I fervently trust in the fact that farmers care. I provide for my animals every hour of every day. I believe they lead a content life and a good life under my care.
Have we altered the world so much that it will never be the same, will never thrive as it did? Are we killing it? Will nature win out and remove us? That is a question for another blog.