BOOKS: How To Raise Chickens

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2007:

How To Raise Chickens
by Christine Heinrichs

How To Raise Cattle
by Philip Hasheider

How To Raise Horses
by Daniel & Samantha Johnson

Voyageur Press (Galtier Plaza, Suite 200, 380 Jackson St., St.
Paul, MN 55101), 2007. 192 pages each, paperback, illustrated.
$19.95 each.

The utilitarian titles and the Future Farmers of America logo
on the covers of How To Raise Chickens, How To Raise Cattle, and
How To Raise Horses conceal and camouflage a wealth of indications
inside about how profoundly animal advocacy is beginning to influence
animal agriculture.
Much of the standard advice about animal care, housing, and
equipment is little different from the advice offered by similar
volumes for generations. Yet almost every page of How To Raise
Chickens and How To Raise Cattle adds concessions, qualifications,
and arguments in response to the challenges presented by animal
advocates.


Both How To Raise Chickens and How To Raise Cattle counsel
would-be chicken and cattle raisers against confrontational or
dismissive responses to critics, whether the issue is noise,
pollution, or animal welfare.
How To Raise Chickens author Christine Heinrichs includes
two-plus pages of advice about slaughtering and butchering, but
surprisingly little of her book promotes eating chickens, and most
of her comments about high-volume poultry and egg production are
critical. Almost half of How To Raise Chickens consists of breed
descriptions and history pertaining to chickens. Heinrichs’ emphasis
is on raising rare old breeds in the best possible conditions, on a
backyard scale, with scarcely a word said about making a profit and
much said about the personalities and intelligence of chickens, as
well as about how to keep flocks happy, healthy, and secure.
On the whole, How To Raise Chickens is less about
agribusiness than about keeping chickens as quasi-pets, albeit pets
who may be sold or eaten. The most offensive part to animal
advocates may be the half page about dealing with predators. Saying
little about discouraging poultry predators by nonlethal means,
Heinrichs recommends using leghold traps to protect flocks, and
explains how to cook and eat raccoons and opossums.
How To Raise Cattle discusses killing cattle only in two
paragraphs about euthanizing dairy cattle who cannot be sold for
slaughter. Slaughtering itself is outside the scope of the book,
but author Philip Hasheider includes several pages of discussion of
the ethical and emotional issues involved in selling cattle to
slaughter. Hasheider’s language parallels that of mid-to-late-20th
century manuals for animal control and humane workers. The first
pretext for slaughter Hasheider offers is that “Without a plan to
selectively remove excess cattle, your farm will become overstocked
by increasing animal numbers.”
Though the argument that the beef industry exists to control
cattle overpopulation is so transparently spurious as to seem
facetious, it is significant that Hasheider feels a need to
rationalize slaughter to FFA members.
Traditionally, 4-H and FFA encouraged young members to bond
with animals, then shattered the bond by forcing the participants to
sell their animals to slaughter after exhibition. This prepared them
to raise and sell animals in a detached manner later in life.
Beginning in 1992, first 4-H and then FFA have rolled back
the requirement that animals raised as projects must be sold. Partly
this is in recognition that the majority of graduates today will not
become farmers, though many work in other aspects of the food
industry. Less acknowledged but equally obvious is that cultural
attitudes toward both animals and children have changed. Children
are much more likely than a generation or more ago to balk at
participating in an activity that they know will harm animals.
Parents are much less likely to make them do it, in the mistaken
belief that learning to harm animals without qualms is part of
growing up.
Unlike How to Raise Chickens and How To Raise Cattle, How To
Raise Horses sidesteps controversy, saying little or nothing about
rodeo, fox hunting, racing, auctions, horse rescue, Premarin,
and slaughter.
Some of these topics may seem a jump or two away from a
typical FFA horse enthusiast’s experience, but introductions to
rodeo, hunting, and racing were often included in the horse how-to
books of past decades, while words of wisdom about acquiring horses
from auctions and rescues might have been useful and appropriate.

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