Friday, May 28, 2010
Coast to Cote Week 20 + pictures from the farm
Sorry this is late - I just got back from France on Monday and I have been simultaniously trying to catch up on hours, see my friends, and organize/find all the crap I packed and then shoved into closets and basements before I left.
Pang: I might have mentioned that there's a little farm at the down the street from where I work. My little buddy and I pass it everyday and we love to stop by and say hello to the owners and the farm animals (ie. ducks and chickens). The other day, Amy (the farm owner) took us to the chicken coup to visit with their latest addition, a little peep. It was super soft and cute and I couldn't resist snapping a quick photograph. I think I might have enjoyed seeing the fuzzy little thing more than my buddy did!
Lacey: While we were on vacation last week one of my favorite things we did was visit a cow farm. A cow farm for meat production (unfortch) but a cow farm all the same. I was so surprised by how curious the cows are, coming inches away from me to sniff my boots and lick my hand. These particular cows are Limousin cows (from Limoges)! Arent they pretty?
While I have your attention - I will go ahead and share the pictures from the farm I visited in Chateaubriant
The first group of cows we were introduced to were these little boy calves which I think we less than a year old. They were terribly skittish at first (reminded me of Hibou actually) but after a minute or two they would slowly creep forward for a closer look.
They were all housed in an open shelter - 6 to 7 of them per pen. Our gracious hostess showed us the feed she gives them, which is a mixture that she makes herself. She also explained a bit of how they raise the animals. These guys here stay in this pen for the first year and a half of their lives. This seemed a bit unreasonable to me but she explained that since its just her and her husband (and a few of her kids) working the farm - it would be impossible to have them out in the field because she would need to bring them back in every night. I still didn't quite get it.
This is LouLou. She's a bit special - in general and to her owner. LouLou is a fraternal twin. Sylvie explained that the Limousin breed of cow very rarely has twins. Even more rare is a Limousin cow who has fraternal twins. Lucky her you might be thinking. Well not exactly. There are two problems.
Problem number 1: the female half of fraternal twins can't ever get pregnant. Apparently during the time that they are developing in the womb - the female cow is subject to all the male hormones that the male cow needs - so much so that for whatever reason she is rendered infertile.
Problem number 2: Since Limousin cows very rarely have twins, they don't have the capacity to take care of two calves. Thus LouLou had to be bottle fed by Sylvie as a baby. Had she not taken care of LouLou herself its likely she would not have survived.
So you may be thinking - so big deal, she can't have calves. Its actually a huge huge deal for Sylvie. I didn't realize this before talking to her but female cows in France (I say in France because I have no idea how the system works in the US but I would bet its the same) are almost always pregnant. And it makes sense I suppose - baby cows means future hamburgers, so if a cow can't get pregnant she isn't producing more hamburgers to replace herself!
Technically - a cow like LouLou is a waste of time for Sylvie. She's not producing calves and she's just using up resources. But since Sylvie hand-fed her she decided to keep her and its apparent how much of a bond there is because as we walked out into the field Sylvie started yelling LouLou's name and there she was, slowly lopping her way over to be pet like a giant dog.
But the fact remains that LouLou will go to the laboratory one day - which is french for the slaughterhouse. We talked about it a little over a slice of cake and coffee later. She said it would without a doubt be a difficult thing for her to do. She had already sent a cow to slaughter before that she had a close relationship with, and that had hurt her. But in the end the cows are money - and letting LouLou die a natural death in the field is a loss of money.
When I got up close to them I was really surprised by how different they all looked. Different head shapes, different eyes, horns that twisted or turned in different directions.
After our tour of the place Sylvie invited us inside for some refreshments and we learned some things that I was completely unaware of and actually really reaffirmed my commitment to being a vegetarian.
In France 80% of female cows that go to slaughter are pregnant. This seemed crazy to me but Sylvie reminded us that they are almost constantly pregnant - and - the fetus doesn't get wasted. Alright prepare to be grossed out.
The umbilical fluid from an unborn calf is used to treat people with severe burns. Apparently its a substance full of nutrients (duh) that will help heal the burns without sticking to the skin.
More gross - the skin of an unborn calf is soft and supple and hair free. Sylvie says that the skin from her cows unborn calves goes to Paris where it is made into leather gloves for posh ladies.
Really though I did enjoy my visit to the farm. To see the animals up close and see how Sylvie works with them. She really has a lot of respect for them and told us that cows are intelligent creatures that will give you what you give them. She says her cows are patient and affectionate as long as she is patient and affectionate to them.
I was obviously already convinced of this fact - but seeing them in person and really being able to connect the hamburger at MacDo's to the curious, living, breathing animal in front of me was a really reaffirming experience for me.