Monday, July 30, 2012

Like A Night at the County Fair

Summer time, for most, means sleeping in late and spending every moment lounging by the pool.  But for many 4-Hers, summer time means getting your animals ready for the county fair.

In my mind, there is nothing in the world that compares to a county fair.  Its 4 days of hot, sweaty, exhausting, nerve-racking fun :).  Most city folk think that fair time is only about the carnival and the concerts, but little do they know that the fairs were first started way back in the day because of agriculture. So you can probably understand my frustration when I talk to someone about a county fair or the state fair and they don't even realize that there are animals at the fair.
My last year as a 4-H member. (way back in 2008)
These young 4-Hers work extremely hard all year long getting their animals ready for the fair.  They get up early every morning to feed and bathe their animals.  They walk them, put them in barns under fans or even inside air conditioned buildings.  They take every extra step to make sure that these animals are calm and comfortable.

My cousins Colton and Cameron get they calves ready for this
years beef show.  The cattle stand in chutes while they are
brushed and readed for the show.

Almost a year ago CNN posted an article titled "Does 4-H Desensitize Kids to Killing?" Yes, I am not making this up! An actual human being wrote such an article, and I know its been over a year but I feel like I still have something to say on the matter.

Nowhere in my 13 years as a 4-H member have I ever considered myself insensitive towards the well-being of any animals.  I worked hard on each of my 4-H hogs and cattle.  Feeding them twice a day, giving them a bath every morning, training them to lead, putting them in a cool barn with fans and misters in the summer when it was extremely hot outside, and training them for show.  And after all that work, there is no greater feeling than all your hard work paying off by a success in the show ring. 

Another great feeling, is when your animal is auctioned off at the end of the fair to a 4-H supporter in your community.  The higher the bid, the better, because all that money went back into my account to help pay for next years 4-H projects.

My first few years as I walked my big steer into the show ring, usually weighing him in at about 1200 lbs, I cried.  O boy did I cry.  In my young mind, my steers were pets.  I had spent several hours everyday for the past few months with him, so you can imagine my heartbreak when I had to see him go.

Fair time is a family affair for us! My uncle Kurt and his boys
Colton and Cameron are the only family members young enough
for 4-H anymore so the entire family comes out in full force
to help during the fair. My aunt Kim, uncle Kurt and
mom Deb are all 4-H alums. 

As my 4-H years went on, it became easier for me to see my steers and hogs leave.  Does this mean I was "desensitized to killing?" ABSOLUTELY NOT! I now began to understand the purpose of my agriculture animals.  My steers served a purpose.  To feed the world.  And I, a young 4-Her, was part of that purpose. My steer was not put on this earth to be a pet, he was put here to grow and then be harvested. 

4-H taught me and many others the difference between pets and animals for food.  It makes perfect sense to us 4-Hers that when we start working with our animals, that they have an ultimate purpose and we work extremely hard to make the best market animal that we can.  Yes we still become attached to the animals because each has its on personality.  My cattle and hogs had their favorite scratch spots, their favorite feed, and favorite spot in the pen.  But I knew all along they were not pets.

What many people do no understand is that agriculture animals are not pets.  Nor does 4-H try to give kids that impression.  Death is a part of life, and we must realize that fact.
We use show sticks to scratch the cattle tummies to
make sure they are calm and comfortable at all times.

When I read the article the part that really got my blood boiling was when 4-H members were called "insensitive".  This is complete garbage.  Everytime one of my animlas looked ill or uncomforatble, I did everything in my power to correct it.  I have worked extra hours in the morning and at night to makre sure my animals were not subjected to the extreme heat of the day.  I have been stepped on, drug on the ground, charged at, and kicked by my own animals, but loved them all along the way.

If that is "insensitive and cruel to animals", then I think I need to check the definitions of those words.

...that's what she said

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