My friend is a goat pimp.
Well, not exactly, but I wanted your attention.
My friend raises goats. I think she has six. She likes goat milk and makes goat cheese. She is kind of a modern-day farmer on a small (VERY SMALL) farm. She's not doing this to support her family, but it's a pretty important hobby to her. She loves her goats. Fortunately, her small goat-related income (more on that in a minute) is supplemented by her husband's "real" job (something technical that I haven't bothered to learn about...one of my many faults is my general inability to pay attention when the topic of conversation turns to electronics or wiring or computers).
She knows I've been pretty committed of late to veganism, and even though she is a (selective) meat eater and (obviously) a consumer of dairy, she is very sympathetic to vegans and others who criticize factory farming as well as the consumption of meat and dairy. As she succinctly put it, "The current system of factory farming isn't sustainable. We HAVE to change it. Maybe we're not all going to become vegetarians, but even if you do eat meat, that shouldn't mean that you think a farmer can just treat a cow however the hell he wants!"
She has been providing me (rather than me providing her) with various articles on veganism, factory farming and the environment. Most of them I'd already read, but she's one of my few non-internet friends who has actually even CARED that I'm into this. It's been a great comfort.
Perhaps more importantly, her interest in my current obsession has given me new insight into the often overdrawn dichotomy between meat-eaters and non-meat eaters. Here she is, somebody who DOES eat meat and dairy and is, at the same time, very, very in tune with animals. I never did think that it was impossible to be both, but a trend I've noticed among many vegans is their insistence that somehow meat-eaters are by definition heartless, selfish and uncaring.
She is absolutely none of those things.
A more honest description of the difference between meat-eaters and vegetarians is that the former group rarely sees animals as having the same rights as people. (I'm not even sure I can go that far, though I'm quite sure I go farther that most of my meat-eating friends in thinking of animals as having rights similar, though not identical to, people.)
In fact, I think this is THE difference between meat-eaters and people who have chosen a vegetarian or vegan diet due to concerns about animal welfare. (Those who choose either diet primarily for health benefits may not, for instance, be particularly concerned with animal welfare, or at least that may not be the driving force behind their choice.)
My friend told me tonight of a funny story about getting goat semen (yes, goat semen) in her eye when a male goat was brought to mate with one of her female goats. See, she had to "encourage" the female to be "interested" and this involved her holding the female goat's tail up, but somehow while she did this the male goat, while trying to mount the female, uh, sprayed too early and it flew into my friend's eye.
Yeah, that's gross. It's also funny. Premature ejaculation exists among goats (at least in certain artificial circumstances) -- who knew?! And, as my friend said, she was then in the uncomfortable situation of asking the couple who brought the male goat to pay for the service of having (almost) mated with her female goat.
So, she is kind of a goat pimp. But she takes really good care of her goats. And she helps other goat farmers in the area with their goats. And she reads widely on issues related to diet, food, the environment and farming. And she listens to other points of view.
She's not vegan. I doubt she ever will be. But if every meat-eater was as selective about where their meat comes from, the system of factory farming would pretty much fall apart because there would not be a demand for it. She only buys local, grass-fed meat and does not eat meat every day. While these choices are arguably not as ethical as a vegetarian diet, they sure are better than the typical meat-eater's choices.
If only all meat-eaters were like her!
We learn most from people who are NOT like us. I'm not a farmer. I'm no longer a meat-eater and I eat very, very, very little dairy. But I sure am glad I have a friend who is a goat pimp. She knows stuff I don't know. And I might know some stuff she doesn't know.
And sharing it with each other is good for both of us.
- My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.