On the Question of De-horning Livestock, and Castration

The issue of goat welfare came up on the farm the other day, and raised a few contentions in my mind. It not being my own farmstead or my personal goats, I could have no control or coercement over the final situation, in the end, a decision was taken that in my mind was not conducive to goat and livestock welfare, and actually morally wrong, so I wanted to raise a flag, and see if there are any others who are alligned with the same mindset.

A male goat was to be sold to another farm in the locality, because her last goat, her only representive member, was ‘bored’, and needed an ungulate companion. Said farmer asked the owner of the farm I currently dwell on if she could buy one of her males. But she did not want any offspring, and concurently requested for the goat to be castrated and de-horned, you know, so they don’t fight or fuck, like that natural wilderness inside them impells them to, such would be a terrible thing, sarcastically speaking. Said man goat in his youth, was taken to a ‘friend’ by the farmer, and had the deed done, permanently sterile, and had his horns cut, and burned down… and then sold at a ‘fair price’.

Now, in the words of Sepp Holzer, and Austrian permaculturalist, on de-horning, he says “It is extremely painful for the animals and also has an effect on their behaviour. Acording to my observations, they act in a completely different and disturbed way. They butt each other in the stomach, which can lead to premature or stillbirths in pregnant cattle.In addition to this, I am of the opinion that dehorning cattle also affects them in other ways. I think it is possible that animals also store and dispose of harmful substances in their claws and horns. Dehorning as well as docking tails and cropping ears is nothing more than mutilation.”

Thus is can be said the same for goats, dehorning them only creates a false sense of equal rank, instead of establishing a hierarchial system that exists also in other mammals like wolves, the beta’s and submissive serve the alpha, usually female, or farm animals like the chicken pecking order, these are important natural orders that people try to manipulate and change for better keeping conditions, during the domestication process, they lose their innate behaviors and have problems with the social structure of their kin. Removing the horns is taking away their power, and possibly as Sepp Holzer notes, an external source of waste for possible pollutants, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, smog or processed and gmo chemicals and substance that enter the body, the same way humans do in their nails and hair. On the castration issue, I think this stands as obvious, that we must treat animals with consideration, and it is straight mutilation to do such a thing. Ask yourself what you think about circumsicion, or female clitoral cutting at birth, as well as that of castration, this is mutilation, a form of punishment or conditioning, a medieval torture method.

I generally go against domestication of any kind, including the human kind, and in my opinion, the ideal farm would be left partly feral, just tended to from the wilderness with space for animals to live in a natural ecosystem, not a paddock or pen. I could almost feel the pain of this unsuspecting goat, who was chosen to have its man parts removed for the sake of a quick sale. This goat is now sterile, essentially removing it’s lineage forever. It will lose its testosterone, and its meat will take a lesser quality, not to mention he may suffer from arthritis from the lack of strength in his elder years. He will be more susceptible to problems if he accidentally consumes infected grasses, poisonous mushrooms or chemicals that somehow infest its feed from the monsanto type companies that control much of the farm feed at its source. I am completely against this move, and ask others to consider what they would do with their livestock, and animals, and consider them like family.

A special note to add, only some centuries ago, our Celtic and Germanic Ancestors, of Northern Europe did not have a separate room for their cows away from the house, it was attached to the main building, and on specifically cold nights, they would sleep one or two on each side of the cow to keep warm. The cow was clean at all times, and not looked at as a kind of bestial creature, made for living in the muck. They had a name and a place. They were a valued member of the farm.


4 thoughts on “On the Question of De-horning Livestock, and Castration

  1. I agree. The mutalations are wrong. This is why I disingage, as much as possible, from the systematic abuse, torture, and murder that is modern animal agriculture.
    Stay strong brother! Til every cage is empty.
    Into the Wild.

  2. I’m stoked that your quoting Sepp Holzer! Have you read Rebel Farmer?

    Also, I’m a big fan of Fukuoka. If you like Holzer and his rewilding bent, check out Fukuoka. One Straw Revolution was amazing for me to read, and Natural Farming was even better. He is all about nurturing a system that ultimately heals and takes care of itself. Highly recommended reading, especially if you’re looking to own your own land! If you haven’t read Fukuoka, I’d be more than happy if I could send y’all some books!

    On another note, there’s a book called Tending the Wild (I think the Authors name is Anderson?) about indigenous California Elders remembering how the people here used to cultivate the land. In fact, though anthropologists have sited many of the tribes here as among some of the most “primitive” technologically, when native interaction with the land was abruptly ended, the ecosystem changed dramatically. It turned out that much of the incredible biodiversity and richness that settlers first dicovered when they arrived was directly attributed to intensive human involvement. The idea of “untouched” wilderness is generally incredibly misleading in this regard. Here in CA, the oak groves,mwhich were a main food staple, are marked to dissapear, in part because no one is here to do controlled burns, and the predators have all been killed so the deer are able to eat any new oak trees that try to establish themselves. What I found most interesting is that, more than once, elders skoffed at the notion of “wilderness” v.s. horticulture. In one account, an elder points to the encroachment of Civilization as true “wilderness” – basically civilized folks don’t tend there relationships, and there is no careful attunement to the intricate nuances of the greater network of life, no cultural impetus to encourage ever greater abundance and deeper relationship. The Ur-Law of life is not heeded.

    Our own people have a cosmology that is very much attuned to horticultural/principals. I know the Germans have always had a historical green thumb – there is much potential here! I’m particularly interested in our relationship with oak trees, and that our ancestors took certain species with them when they settled Europe, with acorns that are particularly palatable and conducive to human consumption. I’d be curious to know when Europeans stopped eating acorns. The permacultural guild of swine and tree crops is truely ancient in Europe. I’m also interested in the continental forest cattle of the Germans. I think Tacitus describes them as small and especially hardy.

    As for the goats, yes, hearing them scream when they get their horns cut is terrible, especially if they are being mutilated to become “better pets”. When you have over a hundred animals in a barn over night, one begins to see why cutting their horns might be necessary. I’ve personally had to take aside several animals whose horns became a painful handicap, and saved some whose horns got them tangled and made them vulnerable to predators in the pasture. There’s also a growing movement of rewilding folks in the states who travel with and subsist almost exclusively on their goat herds. Managing a herd to feed yourself and your family is very different than wanting to create a marketable product or a pet for someone. I’ve been having this dillema with the city dogs I work with, too. The difference between the Anatolian farm dogs I’ve worked with, and the city dogs I herd around at work is HUGE.

    Take care!


  3. Heckenwolf, first to say that your responses here always leave me with a mine of information to implore, and leave me with a humbling honor at your knowledge and commentary. I’ve not yet read Rebel Farmer, and actually this is the first hearing of this offering of his. I discovered Sepp quite a few years ago through a documentary, when I became interested in what was going on in Lynchburg with the WoV, back in 2011 I believe. I just went on a massive intake for anything I could get my hands on surrounding permaculture, biodynamic farming, and natural homesteading. I came across another book just now that caught my interest, called Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front

    “Drawing upon 40 years’ experience as an ecological farmer and marketer, Joel Salatin explains with humor and passion why Americans do not have the freedom to choose the food they purchase and eat. From child labor regulations to food inspection, bureaucrats provide themselves sole discretion over what food is available in the local marketplace. Their system favors industrial, global corporate food systems and discourages community-based food commerce, resulting in homogenized selection, mediocre quality, and exposure to non-organic farming practices. Salatin’s expert insight explains why local food is expensive and difficult to find and will illuminate for the reader a deeper understanding of the industrial food complex.

    With some quick research, I managed to find the Masanobu Fukuoka titles in .pdf format, the One Straw Revolution and Natural Way of Farming, so I shall be digging into those immediately, and if the Rebel Farming is in your personal library and would not mind lending it, then I would be privelaged to read it as well. I see the hardcopies do not come cheap. Actually you are not the first to mention this Japanese farmer. There is another volunteer here on the farm, whom I regularly speak with when we perform the farm chores of the day, and he has studied permaculture for roughly the same amount of time I have, though mostly through books. He brought up Fukuoka, and swore by his works. He is very knowledgeable about creating cohesive natural systems, growing alternative plants and fruit in the maritimes like pawpaw, persimmon, sea buckthorn, haskap, saskatoon berry, and heirloom cultivars, so I yield a lot of valuable wisdom from our conversations. I will also ask him if he has any of the other Holzer books, or Fukuoka’s work in print. We were discussing Mark Sheppard from the States, and there is a worthwhile and lengthy documentary called the Permaculture Orchard-Beyond Organic on building food forests. This other work you mention about the California Elders also sounds intriguing, and it is telling how the biodiversity in a natural environment was not merely planted to serve a temporal goal, but was maintained from its ur-source. As you wrote so beautifully in your last journal
    “Become, arise, and fall into one’s self. We are building soil. Ur-Mutter, I submit to you. I grow.”
    We are the forest, the forest is us, we are what goes in the soil and the food we eat, your kingdom outside is the temple that becomes within.

    Speaking of oak, I made a really dense black oak bread, and acorn coffee a couple years back in England, the processing is intensive, but I wouldn’t say any more intensive that almond harvesting, or any other nut for that matter. I think it has to do a lot with monoculture plantations, and cash crops like Jack Pine and Sitka Spruce that take the natural habitat space of other indiginous broadleaf, and fruit and nut bearing trees. It becomes apparent when looking on the labels of the nuts and seeds we consume, mostly coming from South and Central America, or Mexico.

    The other volunteer and I were speaking about alternative farming just yesterday, and I suggested the prospect of ‘wild farming’ essentially, tending to a natural wilderness, just cleaning up a little, adding some features, like terraces, wood bridges, and earth tunnels, mushroom logs, bug houses, and rewilding. All livestock, if chosen to keep them would live in a much larger enclosure, and essentially kept feral Then when it came to harvest the meat, the animals would be hunted, rather than coralled or herded into a paddock for easy slaughter. I believe you are right that documented permaculture or what we see it as today stems from a much older source, probably even back to Mesopotamia, but indeed well into pre-industrial European age.

    Back on the horns subject, could we really imagine a world with the horned goat? and for that matter, cows, sheep, ram, and other horned farm animals, they just wouldn’t be what they are.

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