Farming as an ‘unnatural’ act

It’s sort of a slippery slope, this conversation about what’s actually “natural” and what isn’t. And it’s just started to rain, so that slope is probably already muddy, and I don’t have four-wheel drive — but I’m going to go down it anyway, and backwards.

I happen to actually agree with what’s referred to as the Five Freedoms in the raising of livestock on a farm. They are excellent goals to guide us:

But looking over that list, I’m made slightly uncomfortable by just how unnatural these so-called “freedoms” really are.

Do animals in “the wild” actually have consistent reliable access to the expression of the above states of being?

I would say that maybe the fourth item, “Freedom to express normal behavior” supersedes the others in a wild setting, in that hunger, thirst, pain, injury, disease, fear and distress are not just “normal behaviors” but pretty much the default setting for at least all animal life. The “fight or flight” response, and all that. It comes from the observable fact that Nature, while “beautiful”, isn’t exactly “nice”.

Which doesn’t ethically give one license, of course, to act with brutality on one’s farm just because “that’s how it is in nature.” And perhaps we could make a certain argument that even on the most “natural” or “environmental” farm, what humans are doing when they farm is something very weird relative to the “natural order” of things.

We are in effect massing resources (making piles), while Nature seems to act with a certain level of entropy, distributing our carefully stacked piles with the wind and the rain. Which isn’t to say that Nature doesn’t also follow another throughline, of increasing complexity…

Shit, I think my tires are stuck.

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