....by chance, over the past couple of weeks, i've also been involved in some very interesting and at times very emotional and heated discussions in a couple of different Face Book groups, about the use of animals within permaculture, and particularly about issues around how animals (wild and agricultural) are killed. The (massively) varying views in the debate have helped me to take a good look at my own thoughts and behaviours (past and present) around ethical aspects of humans' relationships with animals, and how we treat both farmed and wild animals in a permaculture system:
* I have been vegetarian and in the past, vegan, for most of my life, and really being vegetarian supports the production of meat anyway through the consumption of dairy products. (the cow has to give birth to a calf that will probably be used for beef, or if a pure dairy bull calf, shot at birth, for her to produce milk).
* The decision to be and then remain vegan/vegetarian was/is based on environmental, fair share and animal welfare/rights ethics. I can at some point in the future see myself eating meat from an animal that I have reared.
* I have been farming animals for meat for the past 12 years and over this time have gradually come to the conclusion that farming agricultural animals for meat/dairy/hide production can have an important role in permaculture systems, but in much less numbers and within increased welfare standards compared to present. In addition, I firmly believe that eating ethically raised veal and older sheep (mutton) should be as common place as lamb, beef, pork etc, to avoid a massive amount of waste (energy, work, life). . Both dairy bull calves and sheep past prime breeding age are 'worthless' at present. (Older fell sheep were sold for just £1/each last week at a sale local to here)
* A future where all humans are vegan and no animals are killed would be near impossible....numbers of deer, rabbits and grey squirrels would increase rapidly and eat the veg/fruit/nut/tree crops.
* Eating 'pests', deer/rabbit/grey squirrel, needs to become the cultural norm for meat eaters in the UK, reducing the numbers of farmed agricultural animals needed and the associated environmental/fair share/welfare issues.
* If animals are going to be killed for humans to eat (or because the animal is suffering in some way) I firmly believe they should be killed as quickly and with as little stress as possible. In my experience that is with a gun, shot by someone who is not only competent with a firearm, but understands the anatomy, physiology and behaviour of the animal they are shooting. Ideally the animal should be in an environment they know, and shot from behind. Post BSE and Foot and Mouth Disease eras, the government enforces very strict regulations about how and where agricultural animals can be slaughtered. Many animals have to travel long distances to huge abattoirs. Slaughter would be much more kind and less stressful if it took place on the farm. In addition to this the environmental impacts of transporting animals long distances and then having to deal with slaughter 'waste' on a huge scale is considerable. Human involvement with hunting animals (ie using ferrets/hawks/dogs) to chase/catch/kill wild animals causes massive fear and suffering, (often to the hunted and the hunter animal). I don't believe killing animals in this way is morally acceptable.