A few weeks ago, a 5-mos old lamb arrived at the sanctuary straight from a FFA program. She looked, well, like a show sheep - all clean and shiny, so very unlike the rough and tumble animals at the sanctuary (who are clean, in their own ways, but not "bleach clean"). Within a few days, Alice (formerly Lambie) transformed into a beautifully dirty, perfectly happy sheep's sheep. She frolicks with the other sheep, decides when and where she wants to eat, and nestles in a bed of straw instead of a concrete floor. Her previous caregiver recently visited and was very happy and pleasantly surprised to see Alice look and act like a sheep.
This time of year is fair time and with fair time, sheep like Alice generally end up at auction. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently did an article called "Youngsters part with animals they raised". Reading the article is a lesson on confusion and out-of-this-world weirdness.
While most people still refer to nonhuman animals as "its", you would be hard-pressed to find a student in the article who called the animal in their care an "it". Even the article's author seems forced to switch from the rather impersonal "it" pronoun to the more intimate "she/he" format. These kids have taken the first step in recognizing the inherent worth in other animals - they are not objects, they are "she/he", animals with personality and interests. Which makes what they do to these animals all the more baffling.
So how do these kids rationalize away their cognitive dissonance?
Here are some quotes:
"You have to remember it's a business"
"I've spent a lot of time with Hobby, but I know that I can't get too attached."
"I think everyone out here gets attached to their animal, but this also is about teaching us how to make good decisions."
There you have it. The selling of life is a business, you can get attached or, if you do get attached, just remember it's about making good decisions.
Seriously? Surely students can learn to make good decisions without betraying, according to what one student called her goat, a "friend"? Most students do not participate in FFA/4-H programs and many somehow manage to make good decisions now and later in life. And FFA/4-H students make poor business decisions now and in the future. FFA/4-H cannot be the model to ensure future good decision makers, especially when the end decision involves killing your "friend".
Feel free to read the article and then make a comment. Be polite and all, but do point out the oddness of referring to animals as "friends" and then sending them to slaughter, the strangeness of "syndicates" who spend inordinate amounts of money to buy one animal, all the incongruities that FFA/4-H is preaching to our nation's children.
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