Chopping ice at lunchtime

A high of 20 degrees on Feb. 13 meant I got to chop ice for lunch.

As I loaded the axe into the front floorboard of my Dodge Durango at lunchtime this week, I thought to myself, "this was probably not what the Dodge designer intended when they designed this car."

Definitely not. My Durango was one that probably wasn't even intended to see a dirt road. With its "blacktop" package with dark rims and 20-inch odd-sized tires, I seriously doubt they thought it would get out of the city when it rolled off the line. But it's what I chose to buy and drive. And since the cattle are on the way back to town, it has to do my purpose—take care of cattle.

We had an Artic front come through this week and temps dipped into the single digits by morning with a pretty healthy wind chill; not nearly as bad as some of those to the north and east of here. I can't complain too much though, it has really been mild here in southwest Kansas this winter.

On my way back to town after chopping ice, I thought how the axe and my Durango are a lot like the comments stemming from recent Hollywood award shows and their digs at American agriculture. Those people aren't aware of the intended purpose of livestock and agriculture. How many are so far removed from nature, agriculture and quite honestly, the real world, and they can influence so many people. One of those, Joaquin Phoenix who won an Oscar for his role in the movie Joker, said during his acceptance speech that dairy farmers are essentially ruining the natural world.

"We go into the natural world, and we plunder it for its resources," Phoenix said. "We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and, when she gives birth, we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal," the 45-year-old actor added.

You can bet I’m going to defend agriculture. Dairy farms are a thoughtfully planned production system to create an end product—milk. Dairy cattle are domesticated animals that serve a purpose—to produce milk. Dairy cattle have been selectively bred to give excess milk. They could easily feed four calves (maybe more) with the amount a modern dairy animal would produce. Plus, in the production system cattle with calves can be a little more difficult to care for if, again, the end product is milk. Think trying to herd toddlers while making a Thanksgiving meal every day.

I get the impression these Hollywood types believe the "babies we steal" are simply discarded. They’re not. They’re raised to either be replacement dairy cows and the male calves are fed out for beef. Not a wasted resource there. They go somewhere and serve a purpose.

I'm not even going to touch his comment about how farmers "feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow." I've met a Holstein bull before. They are arguably one of the most temperamental bovines in the world. Let's turn one loose in Hollywood and see how they love the cows then!

Phoenix also eluded to the term "speciesism" in his rant and quite honestly, I had never heard the term and had to go look it up. According to Wikipedia it means: "Speciesism or specism is a form of discrimination based on species membership. It involves treating members of one species as morally more important than members of other species even when their interests are equivalent." He essentially thinks humans are wrong for thinking they're the superior specie on the planet. Does this Hollywood-type specie think he's superior to the dairy farmer? I believe he does.

Now, I believe in God and his creation of people, animals and the universe—with a little science thrown in. According to the Bible, God wanted humans to use what he set forth. In Genesis 1:26, the Bible reads, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

I take that as humans are meant to take care of all God’s creatures. Many farmers and ranchers already do just that. They care for their livestock, often before their own needs. And the part where it says, "so that they may rule over.." means humans are the superior specie. I’d like to see how the world looked if animals were given the superiority rank. I’m guessing the world would be polluted, overgrazed and overpopulated or species maybe even be extinct because they’d used up all the resources? Humans, with their increased intellect, can manage the animals properly and make livestock be productive and good for the planet.

I invite those Hollywood-types who try to tell us regular folks who are producing the feed, fuel and fiber to feed and clothe the world, to come visit us and see what it's all about. I've got a spot in the Durango and an axe to chop some ice waiting for you. But you better call shotgun first, because I have two little boys gunning for the front seat.

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