My coworker and I were just discussing the merits and pitfalls of being a vegetarian, and I thought back to the undoubtedly carnivorous yet emotionally aware environment in which I grew up. My dad raised a significant amount of cattle for slaughter since before I was born, and yet he loved (and I don’t use the world lightly) them and cared for them in a tender, personal way; and as his daughter, I was fortunate enough to know, through him, what real tenderness was. He was proud of their extraordinary gentleness, a reflection of the gentleness they were shown, and he had a special joy in calling them to feed. Yes, they existed, you could say of the bottom line, largely, perhaps solely, to feed us. Yet while they lived, they lived peacefully under his caretaking, with a quality of life to (sadly) rival many humans’.
Shortly before he died, when his cancer came back last summer, he knew the chemotherapy would make him too sick to care for his long-beloved cows anymore. And they were his, in a sense much larger than that of mere property. They were beings he said a tearful goodbye to before those of us who loved him said goodbye to him.