I know very little about a group of protesters that were planning to come to my local Stockyards to “bare witness” to the livestock being sold at the next sale day. An event near me popped up in my Facebook feed called “Cow Vigil” and I thought it was a joke. I clicked on it thinking there was a punch line somewhere but it really was a group of people planning to hold a vigil for cows at my local Stockyards. The plan was to meet in the parking lot of a business down the street and gave details to be discreet (for now) and dress in plaid to “blend in”. It was striking my funny bone a little, not their efforts or even their cause but the irony that this group expected transparency but seemed unwilling to start with transparency on their end. Like I said, I have little knowledge of this group’s efforts or really what they are all about so perhaps they have reason to try to blend in with the local cattle ranchers. I can barely type that last part without a giggle because our weather has been in the upper 90’s and I just pictured a group of people blending in with their plaid shirts and shorts on. They were going to sweat their Birkenstocks off!! (Plus cattle ranchers rarely wear shorts but they certainly do not wear them to the Stockyards)
Ideas for logos and designing some Ag related items were already swirling around my brain and had been since my son graduated from high school earlier this year but this group of protesters were really the push that I needed to get serious about a website and creating some material that maybe if written thoughtful enough might even gain some Vegan readers and perhaps I could try to bridge a gap that seems desperately overdue for some connection. I understand completely why my husband would have difficulty processing Vegan concepts or protestors for that matter and simply put it’s because when this vigil was being held in our area my husband had been getting up at 3:30 am to leave the house by 4:00 am to get to the field by 5:00am to start getting hay trucks loaded that were hauling out for us all day. I didn’t see him that evening until 8:00pm. He came inside, cracked open a beer, ate some dinner then scooped up our toddler and headed for a shower. My husband has been taking on the nighttime ritual that was previously my role when we had our older boys. If my husband doesn’t do this part of bedtime then there could be weeks if not months in the summer where our youngest son would not see his daddy. If you farm in any capacity then the long hours will ring true, you’ve been there and I probably don’t have to explain the rest to you but my husband would have a hard time wrapping his brain around people who have the TIME on their hands to protest the very thing he’s working so hard to create. What can literally be blood, sweat and yes we’ve shed some tears in farming is being protested. The theory as I understood this group to stand for, wanted to hold vigils for the cattle at sale so the cattle understood that someone cared for them. This group also held a protest at a processing shop and wanted to stop the trailers that were hauling animals into the plant. They asked the drivers if they could “lay hands” on the animals so that they knew someone loved them before they were slaughtered. This is amazing to me! It amazes me that a group that appears to be so passionate about a cause has seemingly missed the boat on spending any significant time with a rancher. If they had, they would understand the tally of how often hands can be laid on an animal. At birth, assisted deliveries happen daily during peak calving season and while not every cow calving requires assistance the calves at some point get tended to. One blizzard we had a record number of calves in our home, 11 new babies spent the first 24-48 hours of their fresh start inside our house. We had our living room set up like an ER. First responders were my husband and my then 10 and 12 year old sons. I was the ER nurse on call, when I could hear the pick up get close be it at 2pm or 2am I would greet them by holding the back door open and had a fresh blanket set up in front of the wood stove. In one case the tractor that was feeding that morning brought what looked like a chunk of black ice right up to the front porch. My husband laid the chunk down and started picking away at the face, this calf looked frozen solid and there was ice all around it’s airways. Once melted and dried and perked up a little they get moved to the dining room. The poor little buggers have been through so much they are calm and quiet and still just clinging on. If they tried to stand then they got moved to the mudroom where I could shut the door so they weren’t knocking into each other (furniture) or slipping on the hardwood. When there was a break in the day one of the guys would come inside to get some warm colostrum into the belly of those fortunate enough to make it to the mud room. After little bellies were full of warm milk they would be reunited with their mama. This is just the first 48 hours of life, there are so many seasons and stages a herd goes through and there are many more times that a rancher will lay his hands on his cattle. He will also pray for them. Our family attends church roughly 2.5 times a year (o.k. we’re C and E Lutherans I just added the .5 to make some of you think about it for a second) but I promise prayers are made often on this ranch. When the blood scabs over, the sweat dries up and tears have been shed prayer is all you have left. Don't think for a second I don't start with prayer. Every time we round up cattle there is a quick prayer put into the world by this worried mama.
I would encourage any protestor to spend some actual time with the very people you feel at odds with. I would guarantee there is a mutual respect for the animal. The rancher may not have hugged his cow that morning but I would make a bet that he/she has laid hands, prayed, borrowed money, received stitches/broken bones, sacrificed vacations, missed weddings, funerals (insert any important event here really) all for the sake of a cow. Yes, the bottom line is essentially keeping the bottom line in the black vs the red but you don't make money if you don't have happy, healthy, loved for cattle. I’ve shared my thoughts on this cow vigil in a Facebook post, later that evening I received a message from a friend that her family had held a vigil that very day too… for the cow that gave her dad a new heart valve. As my friend followed up later with “they are more than food and glue”, so true my friend, so true!