Two Pictures And A Thousand Words

Updated: Nov 6, 2018

Take a look at this heartwarming photo.

Isn't it delightful? Do you like it? What appeals to me most is the obvious reciprocal affection between the girl and the steer. It perfectly captures a tender moment that embodies the range of possibilities that exist for achieving inter-species bonding. It speaks volumes of how we may meet with other beings at a level of parity, demonstrating mutual caring, empathy, tolerance and above all, love. Even her T shirt that bears the wonderful words, “Follow Your Heart” gives me hope that the youth of today may lead us towards a kinder, harm free tomorrow, where the lives of animals are valued, and they are not cruelly sacrificed for such fleeting whims of desire as our gustatory pleasure.

At least, that’s what I’d like to see. Photos can lie, and the truth is somewhat different. ​

This is a picture that accompanied an advertisement. It explains that the girl has raised the steer as part of a 4H project. It concludes with these words, written by the girl herself:

“I would love for you to come down and meet my Steer Buddy and bid on him. He was raised with lots of love and he will make mouth watering Angus Steaks and great tasting Ribs to fill up your freezer!”

Is it just me? Am I the only one to have their brain fried when faced with such a maddening rush of cognitive dissonance? Is anybody else offended by the staggeringly hypocritical juxtaposition of an empty claim about “raised with lots of love” and the “he will make mouth-watering Angus steaks...” comment? Aren’t you appalled by how easily a young mind has been subverted to the point where the ultimate emotion for good (love) may be so comfortably and naturally associated with a twenty-minute meal? Please tell me you’re as staggered as I am by the ruthless, cold-blooded disregard for another being’s life? Can you see any hope for our society when this level of intimacy between a young human and a harmless, peaceful creature can be written off by said young human without a moment’s pause or conscience? What is going on here?

If you knew the whole scenario, perhaps it would become clear. The girl is a participant in the 4H program. If you’re not familiar with this, 4H (it stands for HEAD, HEART, HANDS, HEALTH) is a youth organisation founded in the US in 1902, with the stated objective of “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development”. It offers a variety of (otherwise) worthy programs, one of which focuses on having young children raise and care for animals that are shown in competition and then sent for slaughter. Somewhere along the lines, this is supposed to "create self-assured adults who can make their community and country a good place in which to live". I’m sure many of their other programs, which are genuinely wonderful and totally admirable, really do that very thing. But frankly, the animal one sucks.

I find it tragic that this child has invested time, effort and emotion in forging a relationship with another sentient being, only to release it to a violent and utterly unnecessary death. The justification is that this is the way things are, and by participating in such activities, the children grow to have a realistic appreciation of the society within which they live. Yet what sticks in my throat as a painful lump of anguish and disillusionment at the travesty of it all, is the fact that if some adult weren’t telling the child that this is the way things must be, then the emotions that would surely come to the fore would be kinder and infinitely more productive in creating a benevolent, peaceful society. ​ Here is another picture for you to consider.