Let’s face it, people. The male sex is not valued in the world of the farm.
It came as a shock to me. A very parallel universe to the one I knew: being of the female persuasion is actually highly valued if one is a farm animal. All males are either quickly eaten or dispatched at birth/hatching. This is NOT a hard and fast rule, of course: being male won’t hurt your chances of growing to maturity if you’re a cloven-hooved creature, or a turkey. You just most likely won’t get there with your scrotum intact (cattle, pigs, sheep, goats) or once you hit sexual maturity (turkeys).
I am not blind to the reason that female creatures are welcomed: We desire the products of their reproductive organs (eggs, milk, more babies). And even as a vegetarian I harbored no illusions that I wasn’t killing animals in my quest to have milk and eggs: you need to get pregnant to have milk (duh!) and, the chicken DOES come before the egg…and the ratio of males to females in almost every animal grouping is 50/50, thus, for each egg-producing hen, one potential rooster chick was snuffed out. The fact that you don’t even need male poultry to produce eggs further reduces their chances.
So it was with some sadness that I learned all three of our goats turned out to be boys. Sigh. And in my readings of goat-rearing handbooks, most dairy manuals were clear-eyed about this–a lot more clear-eyed than my usual gimlet-eyed self, too–that the most humane thing to do with newborn bucklings is to drown them in a water bucket. “For every 500 males born, only 5 will find productive service as stud, and it most likely is not the one born in your barn,” is the way one manual put it. Other suggestions were to skin them for their downy-furred pelts, or tan their hides for kid gloves. (Eeps. I am so not there yet, people.)
But in my usual take on the world, I knew the most responsible thing to do would be to do the responsible thing: get them disbudded, castrated, and shot up with necessary injections, pronto. Within their first week of life, then, they had their horns burned off, their immunizations, and their male parts disarmed. They will all three find lives as either dinner or as cart-pulling bellwethers. This is what is required if I want home-grown milk.
Likewise, one male turkey and one male chicken is all I require to have a self-sustaining (closed) poultry flock. This is the first year we will not get chicks/poults from the store or in the mail, the first year then that we will have truly homegrown poultry (Thanksgiving Dinner and last year’s goslings excepted).
I harbor no illusions about what it is I am doing and what has been required of me to do it. I am simply a lot closer to the reality of it than many meat-, dairy- and egg-eating people are; the choices pluck a touch harder on my heart-strings because I know and in most cases love these creatures. But please don’t kid yourselves: you’re subcontracting the killing if your hands aren’t physically wielding the knife. And that is okay, as long as you know the animals have been well treated (for whatever their lifespan) in life and through death. And if you don’t know, then you are, at the very least, being willfully blind.
Don’t be blind. Support small ethically-committed farmers if you choose to eat meat, dairy and eggs.