Today when I awoke I took the time to luxuriate in the cozy softness of bed. My little white cat was curled into a warm ball under my chin but her eyes opened to slits and she rumbled a small complaint. Her Highness was displeased with my waking movements! I took the time to think back over my life so far, the pain of where I've been and the goodness of where I am. A soft smile curved my lips as I looked at the sleeping form next to me who's a large part of everything good in my life right now. My eyes misted up a bit and my chest ached as my love for him overflowed the bounds of my heart. Gods thank you for my husband!
I walked down the stairs and heard the familiar scrambling of dogs on tile on the other side of the baby gate vying to be the first to greet me for the day. I stopped for a moment to chuckle fondly at them, each one wagging, wiggling, and jumping in delight while grinning at me madly in their doggy way. Hiding my smile I stepped through the gate composed and serene, the thrashing mosh pit of furry bodies respectfully parted around me. The cats may believe I am their servant but my dogs know me as the Supreme Ruler of all I Survey so I must not disappoint them! I said a soft hello to the birds on my way to the kitchen which they returned with various calls, stretches, and wild wing flaps. Coffee pot on, shoes on, so outside I went.
Walking toward the horse pasture I noticed the array of small butterflies. Not long ago the air was filled with the ones I believe are called Painted Ladies. This morning the cool air was alive with wings of a striking, yellow/orange color like beautiful Fall leaves playing in the breeze. The horses usually anticipate my arrival and this morning was no exception. As I gathered up their rations of pellets and hay I paused to watch them running to meet me. Glorious and gorgeous, moving with such power and grace but making it look completely effortless. They stopped just short of crashing through the fence and made their usual sounds of impatience clearly telling me to hurry.
As the feed hit the horse's buckets the chickens and turkey came running to gobble up the bits the horses dropped. I smiled at them with a little twinge of sadness, gave the horses a final pat, and continued on my morning rounds. The dogs were next and they knew it! Just like every morning they were in a frenzy of anticipation! I gathered their bowls calmly whirling with lightening speed to fix any that got offensively eager with a glare that left the troublemaker looking suitably chastised and acting calmer.
They watched me carefully measure out their breakfast. My Great Dane, unable to contain his excitement, went galloping down the fence with the female Heeler fast on his heels and the little Manchester trying to catch up. When I came back out they dutifully contained themselves and took their places in the grass. They waited while I wet each bowl with a little water and put each of their bowls in their own special spot. The male heeler decided to test me a little but I caught him putting just one paw on the pavement, whirled, and glared at him. He quickly withdrew the paw with a sheepish look of "yeah, ya caught me." When all the bowls were down I turned to look at them critically and they looked intently back at me. Yes, they were being very respecful so with a bright "OK!" they each broke position, raced to their own bowls, and started joyfully gulping food.
Then I spent an hour in quiet contemplation as I sipped my coffee. I remembered how small and pitifully ugly that little turkey had been when we first brought him home the past Spring. At first he and the little red chick were too small to be outside so they lived in a cage inside. They were so messy that several times a day I had to let them out so I could replace their paper, food and water. That turkey was the first to leap out each time as if he truly enjoyed the little outings. He'd walk around the room looking at everything, tasting many things, then would suddenly race across the floor flapping his bald wings furiously. He left me in stitches when he'd just as suddenly come to a stop and peer around as if he fully expected to be soaring through the air and was a bit confused about why he was still firmly planted on the ground! There was a time not very long ago when we almost lost him. He'd fallen into the horse's trough sometime during the night. When we discovered him on our way to feed the horses in the morning he was barely able to keep his head above the water. He was completely exhausted and horribly hypothermic. The poor thing had struggled so hard the tips of his wings were raw. We wrapped him snugly in a big quilt, checked him often, and waited. We were so relieved when he was able to stagger to his feet that evening and apparently completely recovered the next day. Coffee gone it was time to wake my love and get to work.
I held the bowl as he ate his favorite tidbits, lunchmeat, cheese, bagel and cream cheese, and finely shredded apple. I opened myself to him and the Universe and willed my words and feelings into being. He was a good turkey. I was very sad to see him go but I was also thankful for the time we had with him. I thanked him humbley for his sacrifice so that my family could eat. I promised I will never forget him. My husband carefully grasped his neck cutting off the blood flow. He gave one great jump and powerful flap then went quiet. When sure he was unconscious so that he would feel no pain we finished our grim work. I felt a bit sick, my guts tight and uncomfortable but it became easier as I worked plucking feathers, gutting, and meticulously cleaning, as he looked more and more like meat. I'll miss him.
People just don't understand. My father can't fathom how I can raise this turkey from a baby then kill him for his meat. I can't begin to tell you how many say I'm no animal lover if I can do that. They call me cruel, murderer, monster. If it bothers me so much why do I do it? It's precisely because I DO love animals so much that I do this! I wish I could raise/hunt/fish ALL of our meat! I wish everyone could! I've seen how meat gets to our grocery stores and it makes me sick! It may be making us all sick in ways we don't even realize yet, who knows? In order to wring maximum profit out of them many animals are kept in horrid conditions, abused in sickening ways, pumped full of chemicals and hormones, then slaughtered sometimes quickly but sometimes slowly, torturously. I can't unlearn what I've learned or forget what I've seen. When I buy meat I'm far too conscious of the fact that I am paying people to torture innocent animals. Buying it is much easier in many ways but maybe the taking of a life, even the life of a "simple turkey", SHOULDN'T be so easy! Perhaps it's only right that we do feel at least some discomfort. This turkey had people that cared about him. He had a snug nesting box in a sturdy chicken house. He had access to good food and clean water round the clock. He was freely given fresh foods and snacks. He ran in the sun and ate all the bugs he could find. Then when the time came great pains were taken to minimize any fear or pain as much as possible so that he could pass over peacefully. It may be hard and uncomfortable for me but it means one less animal suffers. It seems to me that it's more right that way than the other.
*Please understand that I realize that some people simply can't do this for one reason or another. I hold nothing against those that can't but I do encourage you to see what options may be available to you. There are businesses and others who raise animals then butcher them in more humane ways. If enough of us refuse to pay for animals that have been abused they will eventually be forced to adopt better husbandry practices. Even if you can only start small isn't it worth it?
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