I was listening to a program on ABC local radio yesterday and the announcer posed the question “When should city kids be introduced to the realities of where their meat comes from” or something to that effect. She told a story about how her kids witnessed branding and ear tagging for the first time. Apparently, they kept saying “oh the poor cows” for days after, and refused to eat meat when they realised it came from a beast.
I don’t know how common this occurrence is but we have a staff member with us who is vegetarian because she stopped eating meat at age five when she learned where it came from. She has no problem doing any of the work on this property including cutting up a beast but she refuses to even try a taste of beef after all this time.
I want to respond to the question of “when is the right time” with a concept, not of time but of “what is the right way.” Perhaps witnessing branding should not be their first experience, but if it is, how you respond might be important.
When kids fall over, they look to you for a reaction. If you make a big fuss they will often start to cry. If you laugh and say “up you get” lightheartedly, chances are, they will laugh too and get up and continue playing. I’d like to propose that the same principle is employed when dealing with issues of where meat comes from.
I’m not saying that you should make light of killing animals or anything like that but lets put it in perspective. If your child witnesses the branding process (and it is heartwrenching), we can tell the kids that it is the same as when they go to the doctor to get a needle. It only hurts for a minute and by tomorrow they will have forgotten about it. It makes sure that the cattle don’t get lost and don’t get sick. Isn’t that a good thing?
As for not eating meat because it means cattle have to die. You can explain that everything dies eventually. Also, if nobody ate meat then there would be no reason for graziers to raise cattle. They wouldn’t get to live at all. All grazing land would need to be converted to farming land for crops and any animal that came near would be destroyed to save the crops. I personally would prefer to have cattle in the world. That’s why I eat beef. Plus it tastes good and keeps me strong.
So when is the right time? I reckon as soon as possible. Jessica saw a beast cut up for dog meat yesterday and at nearly 6 months old, it didn’t phase her. But if your kids are older perhaps wait until they can understand the concepts outlined above. That’s just my opinion though. I welcome discussion on this issue. Please respond if you agree or disagree.
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