July 18th, 2014
Bear, the Lamb
Disclaimer / Warning: I conferred with Farm Sanctuary shelter staff about the contents of this blog. Though the comparison made here is painful, and personal, we agreed that it illustrates an important reality about animals used for food.
Bear, the lamb, was rescued by Farm Sanctuary staff and volunteers after she was found abandoned in a barn in the Los Angeles area. Though no other sheep were around, it seemed that, with her umbilical cord still attached, shed been born that very day, and left alone at the most vulnerable time of her life.
After a few days of veterinary care, the sanctuary staff made a safe space for her inside their offices where she could be monitored and kept company at all times. Her bleat would send sanctuary staff to her side in an instant. She was bottle fed. She was cuddled. Soothing coos from her human caregivers were always at the ready. As she grew stronger and more sure-footed, she was given regular outdoor play time too.
I got to meet her during this early time at Farm Sanctuary, and I, too, got to hug her, smell her baby lamb smell, and laugh and cheer her on as she explored every branch, flower and blade of grass in the yard. Bear endears herself to all, and the initial imprint that she made on the hearts of the sanctuary staff and interns grew into something permanent. Just as dogs and cats become our beloved tribe members, so has she become at Farm Sanctuary. Bear is curious, playful, trusting and happy, but most of all, Bear is family.
The night after I took these photos of Bear, I found myself at a corporate function, the kind I typically shoot here in Toronto as an event photographer. Speeches and toasts were made and eventually buffet stations were filled with steaming food, more than enough to satisfy a few hundred people.
One of the stations consisted of a cutting board with a heat lamp above it. The prep cook stood behind it, sharpening a carving knife, and then a large tray was placed beside him. With the knife and long, two-pronged fork, he lifted, one by one, tiny racks of ribs onto the cutting board. Aloud, he began to announce: Lamb. Tender young lamb. Delicious lamb.
Instantly, there was a line up of people, eager for a serving of the tiny, rosemary and parmesan-encrusted ribs. Blood began to smear the cutting board as the chef sliced between ribs and served them onto clean, white, appetizer plates. More and more ribs were brought forth from a kitchen beyond view. Plates full of bones, picked and licked clean by the events delegates, were deserted on tables for catering staff to collect, while they lined up with new, clean plates for more. Lamb ribs were by far the most popular food item that evening. As I write this, my main recollection of that dinner is the sight of people standing in small groups, talking, drinking wine and chewing the meat off of lamb bones.
I know that not many people will have the opportunity to meet Bear in person, or visit a sanctuary, so I'm glad that you've had the chance to meet her here. After spending time with beloved Bear, and then being confronted with the food at the corporate event so soon after, my reaction to the racks of ribs and discarded bones was more visceral than usual. I could imagine what it would be like for Bear to be separated from her family, transported, auctioned, transported again and then slaughtered, in a long line of others.
Such is the story with many of us who don't eat animals. We see the Bears
, we see the individuals
behind the meat, and we want to talk about it. Though its a theme often reiterated by vegetarians and vegans, I share it with you anew, in hope that you'll experience it, at least in part, as I did. As Farm Sanctuary says of Bear, the animals in their care, and all of those raised and killed for food, they are Someone, not Something.
To read Farm Sanctuary's account of Bear's rescue, visit this link: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/the-sanctuaries/rescu...
In these photographs: Bear with Farm Sanctuary staff Alexandra Caswell and Keith Burgeson