I know that the word ethical can be loaded. What’s ethical for one person may not be ethical at all for another. When it comes to farming, there seem to be many debates on what is “standard practice” vs. what is the “right” way to do things. I have a lot of respect for methods that have been developed by experience, science and generations of knowledge. That being said, we don’t agree with the way many things are being done in the farming world today.
Here’s a definition of “ethics” straight out of the dictionary: “values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.”
That’s a fancy way of asking “why are you doing things the way you do?” If we can answer that question and feel good about the answer, then we believe we are being ethical. If we are ever going to have a mission statement at Barefoot All Natural Farm, it would probably fit right along the lines of that definition.
We believe in giving animals a high quality life and, when necessary, a quick death. When you take responsibility for a life, (no matter if it is the life of a chicken, a pig or whatever; if it is for a month, a year or however long), you take on the burden of that animal’s needs and desires while they are in your care. If we are being ethical owners, then we must provide ample opportunity for each animal to engage in behaviors that he/she finds satisfying while meeting their needs for survival.
Some “standard practice” techniques (such as caponizing in chickens, removing tails in pigs, confining animals to cages or gestation crates, and slaughtering inhumanely) seem unnecessary to us (especially if the animals are given ample room and natural conditions to live in.) The reasons for applying these “standard practice” methods are typically cited as being for better meat taste or to prevent injuries amongst a group of animals. If we are going back to the definition of ethics above, we can ask “are your motives good or bad? And does the end justify the means?” If your motive is just to create chicken meat with a better taste, does it justify holding a rooster down, surgically opening his chest cavity without anesthesia and removing his testicles manually? I’m going to go with no. The level of trauma that the animal goes through is not worth a tastier bit of white meat on my dinner plate. And if you can’t get the product you desire without severely hindering the animal’s quality of life, then you probably shouldn’t be raising that animal.
We could go on listing things we deem as right or wrong farming practices. And we may even change our minds about certain things as we become more experienced. But if we continually ask ourselves “why?” and “is it worth it?” I think we’re on the right track. We hope you agree with our choices. But if you don’t, we hope you ask yourselves the same question when it comes to where your food came from and more often than not find an answer that you can feel good about.