If you follow us on Facebook, you’ll know by now that Sumo and/or Spreckles, two of the New Jersey 5, busted through one of our gates to get to the extremely tempting new grass we had wanted to let grow, unencumbered, just a bit longer before letting everyone loose on it. Ah well – we gave in to pressure and opened up the back pasture. It would have been nice to have accomplished that without losing a gate worth several hundred dollars (because I assure you, that gate was TOTALED), but whenever these things happen, I figure there’s a lesson in it.
This lesson – I think, anyway – is about control. In this case, our control over where everyone can, and cannot, go. We humans in the sanctuary community must always be extremely careful to ensure that any time we exert control over an animal in our care, we are damn sure we have an ethical reason for doing so. We must remember that, with a few exceptions, we are caring for adults – grown-ups – individuals whom we need not raise, nor infantilize, but to whom we must offer shelter if they are unable to make it on their own.
Our reason for not allowing the cows into the back pasture after we seeded was that to do so would compromise the growth of the seeds we’d sown, thus depriving the cows of as much grass as possible. Given that they had plenty of other acres with plenty of grass in them and hay (of course), this did not seem to us like a hardship. Sumo and Spreckles clearly felt otherwise, and given the vehemence with which they expressed their opinions – and given that we already had a decent pasture growing up – we figured what the hell.
Is this a small thing? Absolutely! Some ways we control our non-human sanctuary residents are relatively small: sleep in this building, forage in that yard, eat this kind of food, drink water out of this bowl. Some are larger, such as deciding that certain individuals need medical interventions, and some are larger still, such as castrating or spaying individuals, or taking their eggs from them. Good reasons for all of these actions exist, but it’s still imperative that we remember that we are imposing our will upon adult non-human individuals in ways we would never do to human individuals. If we forget that, and forget that such an imposition is (in the perfect world for which we are all struggling) a horrible way to treat someone else, then we risk exerting inappropriate control. And then we are back to square one in our speciesism.
Back to the busted gate – can you help us out with a buck or two? We could sure use the help, and it doesn’t look like Sumo or Spreckles have any intention of fixing the mess they made.