a fine line with animal empathy

ImageWhile mulching (always mulching..) the other day, we disturbed a nest of voles. My boss, correctly, told me to leave them be and nature would sort itself out. Well, first he said to crush them and leave the for the crows but softened up when he saw the look of panic on my face. Needless to say I spent the next 10 minutes trying to mulch with one hand while I clutched two of the babies to my chest and tried to think of how I could bottle feed them and still work 6 days a week.

ImageI nestled them into a cardboard pint container with some hay and left them in a shady corner of the farm stand for the rest of the work day. I called A, excited but still torn about what to do. He asked me how I planned on taking care of them, what I would do with them, and if it wasn’t better to just leave them and let them go peacefully overnight instead of dragging it out over a few days at home.

I ended up leaving them in a bale of straw, I drove off, turned around and drove about half way back, turned around again, cried a little, was a total wuss. I couldn’t think of them as anything other than infants, not baby rodents, just babies. I told my boss based on this ridiculous outpouring I didn’t think I’d be very good with live stock. He said I’d probably be very good with livestock, having empathy for the animals would be crucial to their success. But he did agree that I’d have to learn how to let go and remember what I had been raising the animals for in the first place.

I still don’t know that I could dispatch anything I had helped raise, fed, or came when I called. My farm would just turn into an old folks home for cows and chickens. And then go out of business.

For those of you with livestock, how do you manage this? Do you do the processing yourself or do you send your livestock off? Which way helps you cope the best?

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