While visiting a busy garden center today, I almost walked right past this goat who was watching me and everyone else intently. His eyes pleaded with us for attention, but no one even seemed to notice he was there. He watched in silence and with little movement. Maybe people just thought he was a life-like garden statue. At first I was delighted to discover him there, but as I approached him, I sensed a very lonely and perhaps neglected animal, languishing in a small lot attached to a dilapidated old house, and no one in sight.
When I reached over the fence he jumped up with incredible excitement, as if to say, “Finally, someone noticed me!” Perhaps people were afraid to approach him. Many urbanites and suburbanites I know are afraid of farmed animals since they haven’t had any contact with them as living individuals. Some people are even oddly terrified of my gentle and affectionate chickens.
This irrational fear of farmed animals must be due, at least in part, to the relentless cultural conditioning that portrays them as crude, dirty, mindless, and even mean, as if they were “untouchables.” If only that fear would translate into a fear or disgust of eating their dead corpses, but it does not. The connection between the once living “someone” is divorced from the abstract meat product on our plate.
I could tell right away that this goat was playful and affectionate. As I petted him on the head, he craned his neck up and his eyes widened and brightened. He was clearly so grateful for the attention. With a better view of the yard, I realized that he was in the company of a few older sheep who barely moved. They were ungroomed and unmaintained, at least as much as the lot they lived on.
I wondered what purpose these animals served to their absent owners. Were they being raised for their wool and meat? Or were they just “pets”? And then I realized that, either way, my speculation was futile. These animals were simply pieces of property, “things” rather than persons, in the eyes of the law. People won’t much notice them, let alone care or get to know them. They just don’t stand a chance to compete with the garden statues, plastic waterfalls, and plants next door — all the somehow more-meaningful-to-us “stuff” that has come to define our lives.
Why oh why is that?