Sunday, March 1, 2009


At my previous home I had a neighbor-over-the-fence who took genuine offense the day I told her I was a vegetarian. "You should eat meat. God gave us dominion over the animals!" she exclaimed. I had no reply, and from that day forward we no longer discussed dinner menus.

But the notion of man's supposed dominion nagged at me. Surely people don't believe in a divine handout of burgers and wings?

Today I read a brief interpretation of Judaic thought on the subject on the website It defines "dominion" to mean guardianship or stewardship. I feel more comfortable with this idea.

Which leads me to the difficult decision I have had to make in my flock. As noted in my previous post, Tweedledum's adolescence has developed into a full-grown adult desire to be the A#1 cock-of-the-walk. His aggression for Egglebert led to full-time restriction to a large dog kennel. Even inmates get time for hygiene and exercise, but with the exception of an occasional five minute excursion around the pen when I am able to close off the rest of the chickens behind a rickety door and stay to supervise, Tweedledum's free-ranging days are over. The flock is terrified of him. And I am weary of his aggression towards me, which has resulted in a number of bruises and scabs.

I told my friend Farm Girl Beth today that I would take her up on her kind offer to use Tweedledum for soup stock. Today I inched closer to becoming a real farmer. Man's dominion over the animals implies not only providing food and shelter, but tackling those deeper moral conflicts, applying Mills' "greatest happiness principle" to create a coop where the greatest good comes to the greatest number. Certainly in this instance removing Tweedledum, "culling" as it is called in the trade, will result in the greatest peace and calm for the chickens. Ultimately this will result in better laying (production dropped dramatically since the incident last week), more egg income, and happier hens.

Facing this decision has weighed on me the past few days. I procrastinated, hoping some other solution would appear. Then today, as I mulled it over, Beth literally walked right in, and in this moment of synchronicity I knew what was right. She is a kind person and will treat Tweedledum with respect.

Life in the country is not often simple.

Addendum, March 6. Today was Tweedledum's final day. I arrived home and noticed the gate was latched differently than I normally do it. Farm Girl Beth had been here. In the hen pen, all activity revolved around the cracked corn I scattered for the girls. No one raced to the dog kennel in alarm, cackling "he's gone! He's gone!" But I paused a moment to cry just a little.


MaryEllen Schneider said...

Life is complex no matter where you live. Knowing you made a sound decision makes all the difference.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow... either way one day his time would come. He's had a good run... but when I first began to read your post I though you were going to say you ate him. I about freaked out...

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