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Dec 23, 2006

Santa's slay is bad news for our flock

Dec 19 2006
Liz Shankland, Western Mail

THIS time of year is never easy. Today is abattoir day, and by the time
you read this, our Christmas turkeys will have taken their seats on the
magical mystery tour bus. This is the worst bit about rearing your own
food, but it has to be done. All the old cliches like, "At least they
had happy lives" get trotted out by well-meaning friends, but it doesn't
stop me feeling like Lady Macbeth. I often think I could turn
vegetarian, if only someone could make vegetables taste like meat.

At least we're handing over the birds to someone else to do the
unmentionable. Our way of detaching ourselves - and abiding by the law -
is to take them to a licensed slaughterhouse to be dispatched and
dressed. The Grundys on The Archers may be summoning all the help they
can get to kill and pluck their turkeys in a grubby shed at the bottom
of the garden, but some of us prefer to do things by the book.

It's not just the turkeys that we'll be waving off this week, however.
Our goats are on their way, too. I told you a few weeks ago that I had
reached a difficult decision about their future; if we are to have more
pigs, something has to go, and the goats are the ones with the short
straw. Okay, so they're really affectionate and entertaining, and
they've been really useful in clearing overgrown ground of brambles,
willow herb, and other unwanted vegetation, but they are pretty
time-consuming and, as they're not milking, we get precious little back
from them.

We've used them for strip-grazing since they arrived here, using
electric fencing, and they very swiftly blitz anything edible in their
path. To be honest, the hassle of constantly moving them to new ground -
getting them out and tethering them, unwinding the electrified tape,
uprooting and then re-siting all the plastic posts, and eventually
re-threading the tape and re-installing the hungry beasts - has
outweighed their ground-clearing benefits.

And it didn't do their case any good when they got out of their
enclosure and went on the rampage in my new orchard, giving my precious
collection of rare Welsh fruit trees a brutal pruning.

Another problem we've had with the goats is that we don't have any
permanent winter housing for them, so they've been shuffled between an
assortment of temporary homes, with a knock-on effect on other livestock
and belongings. Lesson one in buying a smallholding: make sure the place
comes with outbuildings. Believe me, you'll need them.

Happily, the goats are going to a really good home. One of the flyers I
pinned up at the Winter Fair a few weeks ago prompted a call from some
experienced goat-keepers who were looking for a Christmas gift with a
difference for a relative. What a lovely idea. I can't wait to see the
chap's face when he arrives to pick up his mystery present. I'll make
sure the goats are suitably festive-looking when they get here.

The final farewell of the week will be less pleasant, however. Gordon,
our pup, will be saying goodbye to two things very close to him. At six
months old, he is starting to show his macho side and, with "top dog"
Bryn being castrated already, we don't want any disruption in the pack.
Just like taking the turkeys to the abattoir, I feel immensely guilty
about taking Gordon to the vet, but it's another necessary evil.
Fortunately, unlike people, dogs recover quickly after surgery, but I'll
still feel rotten when I take him for the op. I have to keep saying to
myself, "Less is more". I hope he comes round to my way of thinking.

Happy Christmas - whatever unspeakable acts you find yourself carrying out.

Write to Liz Shankland c/o Western Mail, Blue Street, Carmarthen SA31
3LQ, enclosing an SAE for a reply. Or e-mail
"Because we domesticate [nonhuman animals], we bring them into existence for the sole purpose of exploiting them, and then we sit around wringing our hands saying, "What are our moral obligations to animals?"" Gary Francione.
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Posted: Dec 23, 2006 12:47pm


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