When my dogs look up at me with their big brown eyes, it feels to me like they are glowing with love and affection.
Those are very human qualities to place on an animal, and there is lots of debate over just how sentient different animals are. In my experience, while I witness what looks like love and affection toward me and towards their fellow animals, it’s also clear that animals aren’t like humans. I don’t believe they sit around pondering their long term fate for example, or there would be a lot of militant cattle and sheep wandering around the NZ countryside.
This month Ruth Renner is looking at how our urban friends look at farming and how much influence they will have over farming practices, and it’s made me think about how it’s very easy for people who aren’t around animals a lot to ‘humanise’ them far more than someone who is.
A good example is my goat Lolly. I adopted her when she was around six months old, and to my horror discovered she was pregnant not long before she gave birth to two beautiful twin boys, JP and Basil. I watched her lavish attention on these boys from the moment they were born. They were always together in the paddock, slept together, and you’d often see Lolly checking up on them even when they were adults and almost twice her size.
One day JP got very sick and when it was clear there was no way we could save him, my vet put him to sleep in the paddock. Lolly was there for every second, nuzzling JP with a worried expression, nosing up to the vet as if asking ‘what can you do?’.
But literally seconds after I felt the air leave JP’S body for the last time, Lolly began grazing. A few seconds after she actually bunted JP’S leg out of the way so she could eat the grass under it.
I believe it’s important our city friends know of our experiences like these – hopefully share these experiences with us – so we can all understand how to be better farmers and better people.