Thursday, September 29, 2011

Our Ethical Objectives

I probably should have put this in the very first post of the blog, but I felt that getting a feel for the process of blogging first was more important. 

Our Mission Statement
To raise and grow our own meat in an ethical manner consistent with maintaining animal welfare and a sustainable lifestyle.

That's the short and sweet of it, I'm going to discuss more about the specifics of it below the cut.
As defined by Ethics is:


  [eth-iks]  Show IPA
plural noun
used with a singular or plural verb a system of moralprinciples: the ethics of a culture.
the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particularclass of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.:medical ethics; Christian ethics.
moral principles, as of an individual: His ethics forbade betrayal of a confidence.

Why does that matter to food and our goals for homesteading? Because of the fact that animals bred in factory farm situations are in situations that are cruel. There are arguments on both sides of this particular issue. In the end  it comes down to agribusiness conglomerates that control most of the meat industry say that better treatment is not only un-necessary but untenable business wise, while animal welfare activists say that while maintaining sufficient production better animal welfare is possible. Animal rights activists are a whole different perspective on the situation, and cover a broad ground not addressed here.

The ethical part of this equation is that I believe that at least on a homesteading scale I can feed myself and my loved ones while also treating the animals providing the meat with respect and care. My ethical goal is to provide an enriched, safe life where the animal is free from fear and indeed, happy through out its life, how ever short it may be. In addition I intend to slaughter the animal as humanely as possible both to reduce the pain caused in the situation, and because I believe doing any less dehumanizes me bit by bit.

As defined by Sustainability means:


  [suh-stey-nuh-bil-i-tee]  Show IPA
the ability to be sustained supported, upheld, or confirmed.
Environmental Science the quality of not being harmful tothe environment or depleting natural resources, and therebysupporting long-term ecological balance: The committee isdeveloping sustainability standards for products that use energy.

This means for us in our homesteading that we intend to make best use of the resources that we can. This has a few factors. The first is resource dependence, the second is local depletion, the third is use of produced resources.

Resource Dependence: Effectively we want to be able to homestead and raise our meat with minimal, and eventually no reliance on outside resources beyond what is necessary. For instance, it is going to be needed from time to time to bring new breeding stock in to prevent inbreeding in the colony. It means doing all we can to maintain a healthy colony of animals so that we are not reliant on medications to protect our food supply. In the end it means working out how to feed our animals from our land instead of having to primarily feed on commercial feed.

Local Depletion: This means that we want to carry out this operation without taking away from the land that we are on. We don't want to have to bring in new soil to fill in holes. This is actually the easiest with the choices we have already made, but is something to remain aware of when attempting a sustainable lifestyle. It means not selecting actions that will disturb or destroy our local eco-systems. For example, this means that simply exterminating the predators in our woods is not an option without full consideration. After all, they do provide a benefit by keeping vermin heavily controlled.

Use Of Produced Resources: I have no way of estimating the number of resources discarded by the meat industry. Obviously good business uses as much as they can, but waste is inevitable. Waste is just as inevitable in our operation, but our goal is to minimize it. For example; chickens molt, we can collect the feathers and use the down feathers in making warm clothing, blankets, or pillows perhaps, and we can use the bigger feathers for art, or to sell to those who want feathers. Rabbits are one where the resources are abundant. The meat is obvious, as it is the primary purpose of the rabbits. There is also the fur which is perfectly serviceable despite being meat breeds, and we intend to use it for blankets, glove liners, hats, etc. We also are looking to find purposes for the bones which could include feeding to the dog as long as they aren't cooked, grinding up to provide calcium to the chickens, and perhaps art. There are also uses for the tendons in tool making, the fat for turning into suet feeders or other uses. This is the part of sustainability that will take the most research and experience.

A Holistic Approach
Our goal as simple as the statement sounds, is a complex one. We have to balance the more resource intensive demands of keeping healthy, happy animals with our own needs and the limitations of living sustainability. We don't expect to immediately find the perfect way to make the entirety of this mission statement happen. We however will not compromise in our goal. Toward that end this blog helps us record our successes and our failures, and keeps us honest with ourselves. It also allows us to hopefully let others learn from what we do, and get input as we grow and hopefully innovate.

As this mission statement evolves I will occasionally post to discuss how and why it is doing so.

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