Duck, Duck, Goose: Radio guests raise more questions than they answer.

IB Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick blends work and life in this very clear departure from both her column for In Business magazine, and the other bloggers. Awarded national recognition for her previous work as a newspaper columnist, she brings us all back "Closer to Home" with her insights and remembrances. A nice place to be "After Hours." Check back often! Read Full Bio

There are very few comments that you hear during your lifetime, short of news of a full-out crisis, that immediately change a behavior and/or attitude. However, I heard a story once, during one of our radio interviews, that immediately challenged and changed my perception of “meat.” A guest on “In Business with Jody and Joan” shared a story with Joan Gillman and me that painted a vivid picture in my mind — one that I haven’t been able to step back from since, because it haunts me to this day.

Warning — I’m about to tell you the story as I remember it. So if you want to protect your thoughts about how superior we are to the animals that share this planet with us, you might want to back out of this blog now. I’m suggesting that after reading the blog, you just might feel a closer kinship with the food that you eat than you are comfortable with, and if that’s an uncomfortable thought, well, that’s okay. Click out of the blog and check back next week for a different topic. No harm, no fowl….

For those of you still with me, here’s the gist of the story I heard.

Our young man (our guest described himself as a young man when the incident actually happened) once lived on a farm. And on that farm they had some ducks or geese (I’m a little forgetful which feathered friend it actually was). Anyway, whichever it was, for some holidays, duck/goose was served as a main course.

To prepare for that eventuality, the ducks on the farm would be herded into a barn where one would be selected for slaughter and captured; then the others would be released back into the barnyard. Our guest said that the roundup always caused great hysteria among the birds, who seemed to realize the purpose for the rendezvous in the barn.

Regardless what they actually knew or didn’t know, this particularly day a female bird was selected and then, as the human men closed in toward her to separate her from the flock, her mate managed to position himself in front of her. He spread his wings to shield her, and then he slowly walked toward the men, obviously terrified, but (the man believed) also obviously offering himself in her place.

Being witness to that act changed the man who told us the story. It changed how he felt about the animals in his care, and how he felt about his role in the roundup. And yet his family farm is a household name. He’s not an animal rights advocate at the expense of the family farm, either, and in fact, his own company has changed the food-chain landscape somewhat in terms of what animals are fed so that they can gain more weight than they actually eat. So he’s not your ordinary PETA candidate.

He’s just a person who witnessed what he believed was an extraordinary act of self-sacrifice from a feathered being that many of us would believe typically acts more from reflex than contemplation.

After that show, Joan and I interviewed another farmer.

This woman raised chickens and informed us that a chicken’s average lifespan is just six to eight weeks from egg to package. And those are for the fully “mature,” big-breasted birds we buy. We’ve also heard, during other interviews, of the conditions that most commercial chickens are raised under, and after one particular program, I switched over to free-range eggs, but they taste wilder (gamey?), and I’m not sure what eggs to eat now — if any. I find that more and more often, I’m served a side of guilt with any eggs, though omelets remain one of my favorite dishes. It’s a quandary, and I’m serious about it.

Then, between shows, I had the misfortune of stumbling onto an area veal farm. A baby cow got loose and frolicked its way from the farm to the shoulder of the highway. I saw the jumping, running little calf and stopped to capture it and return it to the farm it obviously had run away from (fearing some family of four would be killed when their car might hit the happy cow).

There, I saw where the animal had escaped from, and I saw the other animals confined in spaces so tight, in heat so extreme, that I could not fathom how any human being could do that to any animal for any reason. The conditions literally made me feel sick to return the calf at all — not to its pending slaughter, but to it’s present “life.” Death must have been a blessing for those animals.

I don’t have an agenda, only a changing consciousness.

I don’t honestly think that the one single moment when the duck or goose mate stepped forward to save a mate, if that’s what really happened, was the first or last time such a courageous or selfless act occurred. I believe — and certainly you can disagree with me — but I do believe that such an awareness is soulful.

I will go further — I think it’s an example of emotions more commonly expressed in the animal world than we are comfortable letting ourselves comprehend.

So my “after hours” thoughts are troubled tonight as I contemplate what (or who) I will or should eat tomorrow, and also about who I want to interview next. Knowledge may be power, but wisdom more often is humbling. After having done more than 900 shows with Joan, I’m able to admit that I’m even more confused where I stand on some issues than I was before I began co-hosting our business radio program four years ago.

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