Saturday, July 28, 2007

I usually put mostly shiny, happy things on my blog, but Rowan and I had some uncomfortable moments at Davis' Farmland, and we agreed I shouldn't leave those pretty pictures there without talking about how we felt.

I'll preface this by saying that Rowan and I are not zoo people. Putting animals in cages or 'habitats' just doesn't sit right with us.

The very first animals we saw were kittens. They were laying on bottles of frozen water, looking quite uncomfortable. The next animal we saw was a rabbit. It was in an open area, and there was a brush available so that people could interact with the rabbit. Unfortunately, there was no farm worker watching to make sure it wasn't being mistreated. There was a group of children chasing the rabbit around with their hands - not maliciously, just not knowing any better. She was cornered and looked terrified. The kids' parents were outside the area at a picnic table, having lunch and paying no attention. I asked the kids to please give the rabbit some space because it looked very scared, and then Rowan and I just had to leave.

In the first goat pen we went to Rowan had lots of fun feeding a mama and her baby. A few minutes later she was thrilled to see that baby nursing. Davis' has a room set up for nursing mothers: "For your added privacy we have a nursing room located at Udder Rock." God forbid anyone should see a boobie. (That keep-it-out-of-view-it's-dirty attitude certainly didn't help me listen to my own instincts when I had my babies.) Anyway, Rowan asked why it's ok for the goats to nurse in public but not the humans. Good question.

That goat nursing was pretty much the last natural thing we saw on the farm.

It was incredibly hot the day we went and very few of the pens had any more than a tiny bit of shade. Many of the pens had these small white plastic dog-crate-shaped things for the animals to go into, but they had no air flow and when I stuck my hand into a couple it was hotter in there than outside. The animals were trying to lay in the small bit of shadow these cast, which was not enough to shade them.

At one point we heard a pig crying (sounds odd - I never knew pigs could cry - but they most certainly can). Ends up a farm worker was putting sunscreen on her and the pig didn't like it. We talked to the farm worker about why she was doing it and asked why they didn't give the pig any mud. Then we wandered around looking at the sheep and goats, the alpaca and some deer.

We stopped to sit down under a canopy (they set up shade for the humans, but not the animals) that ended up being next to a big fake cow with big fake udders that squirted water. Taye was happy to hang out there, so Rowan and I went for a walk to get some freeze-pops and drinks and then we had a nice sit-down with Amy and the baby cousins.

Next thing we knew, they were putting a goat in the pen next to us up on a little platform and securing her head so they could let kids milk her. So kids lined up and grabbed hold of her in various uncomfortable-looking ways. The whole thing really bothered Rowan and she wanted to know, "What do they do with her milk?" I found someone to ask and was told that they used to bottle feed it to her babies, but now that the babies are grown they just throw it away. I could feel Rowan's discomfort with the place get a little deeper.

While sittting, we had seen some tiny baby goats across the way. We decided that would be our next stop. As we walked in we heard the most pitiful crying coming from just outside the pen. There was one very little goat, separated from the others by a fence, all by herself on some grass. We overheard a worker telling someone else that they separate the babies from their moms for two hours a day so they can get used to being around people without their moms. "Sounds like school," I said. When I went over and petted the baby she mostly stopped crying, so it was pretty hard for me to leave her knowing she was going to be alone for, we were told, another hour. Rowan's hurt was coming off her in waves. If we had known where the baby's mama was I would have scooped her up and put her back where she belonged.

That was pretty much it for both me and Rowan. It just didn't feel like a very happy place to be. We thought we'd check out the water park with Amy, Taye, and Darius, though, so we walked over. Rowan couldn't get in the spirit of it, so we ended up leaving, and on our walk back to the parking lot we passed a worker who was bringing the baby goat back to her mama, who was making such heartbroken noises I don't think I'll ever forget them.


timmy's mom said...

I am sorry that Rowan was sad. I have been so excited to show Timmy all the wonderful and different animals in the world that he wouldn't ordinarily get to see (at least yet), but it is good to be reminded that it is not natural and the animals may not be as happy to see us. Maybe Timmy and Rowan can go on an African safari and see animals the way they should be seen. I also can not believe that people just don’t understand that they can not be mean to babies around you…animals/human/alien…I know I would NOT want to be the MORE-ON, but I guess not everyone is smart…

Rue said...

Safari sounds cool. Kind of a crappy position: we love animals and want to see/learn about as many as we can, but it's hard to find ways to do that in a setting that's happy for the animals.

I should come with some sort of warning sign, I suppose. Why don't you come up with something for me?

marcia said...

It breaks my heart to see animals like that. That's probably why we don't want go to zoos very much.

If we keep animals in captivity we *have* to provide the very best for them at all times !

Laura said...

Hi there, I ambled over here from someone else's blog. This whole post makes me sad, and I can feel the emotional weight of your experience as i read it. Have you considered writing a letter to them? A respectful letter about your concerns? It probably won't change much, but you never know - and it might make your daughter feel better, having tried something. Just a thought.

Rue said...

I like that idea, Laura.

The workers we saw were gentle with children and very affectionate with the animals. Everyone we dealt with was very pleasant. So I think I could write a relatively balanced letter and still get my point across. And I know I would feel better for having done something.

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