Thought Number 9 More Cows, the Coming Chaos and Meat Eating
My friend L is reading a book about coping with the coming chaos, so she can make herself more resilient for the future…must ask her what she thinks is coming. We’re on our way to Somerset with her 5 year old daughter M on yet another rainy day to look at some North Devons. Her small herd has a couple of gaps since the two with TB were sent to slaughter. I didn’t realise but the culled TB cattle enter the food chain like any other animal.
The deep sided narrow lanes bordered by swathes of meadowsweet confuse us as they skirt pretty hillocks and expensive looking barn conversions. Finally we find the track to the farm, after some open woodland of ash and oak. We catch a glimpse through the raggedy hedges of the rich brown blocky shapes of the North Devons, pale cream horns standing out against the green and gray of a slope punctuated with stands of creeping thistle.
The farm house is almost totally overgrown at the front, some of the windows are boarded up, there are many things which have slid off the end of the list here. We are greeted by C, a one time traveller, who pitched up with his old Mercedes truck one day looking for a place to rest and ended up staying on. First as a part time cow hand and odd jobber and then, after D’s stroke, almost running the herd single handedly. His wide grinned enthusiasm, lip ring and goatee a reminder of times past, tell us that he has found a home.
I learn that you shouldn’t get too physically friendly with horned cattle when very young as when they want to play the same games when they’re fully grown you could be in trouble. I learnt my lesson says C after one of his favourites had him on the floor of the barn. But he doesn’t seem to bear any grudges. L agrees. A little bit of distance for ease of handling. Must remember this.
D sits on a chair facing us in the low light of the almost abandoned farmhouse. The dilapidation gives it a hollow feel, there is hardly any furniture and I glimpse in another room scattered papers and other rubbish which looks like it has been left in a hurry. Three filing cabinets are stacked up to one side and there is a desk where D has begun his list of all the North Devon bloodlines since 1852.
He is ethereal, with long gray hair and beard and is obviously much diminished by his stroke. It’s like he might disappear at any moment, and he has long delicate fingers. The picture of a voluptuous semi naked woman seated by a river on a calendar above the filing cabinets speaks of a more robust past as we stand before him amidst the desolation. C tells us later that he actually lives most of the time down the road with his sister in a bungalow where carers come in 3 times a day, which is a relief.
His broad Somerset burr and the softening, stretching and whispering of his words as a result of the stroke make it a challenge to understand, but a high level of concentration uncovers a bawdy sense of humour. He talks to L about the cow and heifers he’s selected for her, I guess she’ll negotiate later.
C introduces us to his two Gloucester Old Spot pigs which he’s just let loose in the old orchard. They are exuberant and snorty. One of them is ready for slaughter and we talk about how wonderful it is to have a freezer full of delicious pork.
Looking at their piggy faces and stroking their coarse hair I wonder whether I will ever be able to see one of my Hereford steers grow to maturity and then kill it. I’m a meat eater, so why not? L tells me that the local slaughter house is a good one and the animals have minimal stress. Alternatively you can home slaughter, but then you’ve got a massive carcass to eat or give away as selling is illegal in these circumstances. It’s about £700/800 for a beef carcass at the moment. Morally speaking, if you eat meat, then shouldn’t you be able to bear it?.