Posts Tagged animals

RIP Homestead Easter [April 22, 1973- April 2, 2014]


Easter made it through the winter and nearly to her 41st birthday. As anyone in New England knows it was a long and arduous winter with tons of snow and ice. She slipped and pulled a stifle muscle in March, hurting her already weak left hind leg. Several years ago she tore the tendons on that leg when she got caught up in a fence. She used to be able to come and go into her stall at night as she pleased. After that accident, a walkout was built for her. She then was closed in at night into her stall and walkout combo.

She also got tick bites year round and may have had Lyme disease again because she certainly had neurological issues. After the stifle pull she received several steroid shots because she’d been walking askew but then seemed to be doing better, eating a bit and happy. But then I saw a few days when she was just melancholy and not herself. On Monday she seemed okay but not great. She wasn’t eating and was out in the conservation field by what I call the “death tree.” It’s as far as she can get away from anyone. At night she didn’t want to come in. The next day she never got up and had to be euthanized.

2013-07-05 12.33.11

This pony. We owned her for 32 years. My parents bought her for me when I was 12. Easter was 8. She was a registered Welsh pony. 13.2 hands and was running in a herd of other ponies when we bought her. But she always had an independent spirit and was an individual. She did her own thing. No matter what. I’d been riding a few years and was in pony club and 4-H and competed in shows and events. Riding and having ponies and horses can be a sign of privilege for many but I missed out on many things. I didn’t participate in school activities because equestrian events were year-round. So when you show up at a high-school reunion and no one remembers you because you weren’t on the soccer team or involved in theater but were a competitive equestrian no one really gets it. Not even in my community. Easter helped me through the dark days of junior high when I was an outcast: alone and unpopular. Not that I’m that popular now but I’m an adult and more equipped to handle myself than during the pressure-filed years of junior high.

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I wrote this poem about Easter that was published in Highlights magazine:

My pony of the darkest black,
Let me hop upon your back.
We’ll fly off into the sunset together,
Floating, like a feather.

My junior high English teacher joked that he hoped to never read another poem or story about Easter again when I left his class.

I rode Easter year-round. Sometimes bareback. Seven days a week. Riding lessons, trail rides, alone, with friends. We went to tons of horse shows. She wasn’t a “made pony.” She wasn’t an easy ride. She taught me a lot. She had a mind of her own and could be difficult and stubborn just like me. I loved that about her. She had a great sense of humor.

Horse show in 1982:


after winning Weston pace event with my friend Pam Cheney and her horse Chip:

pace event weston. 1982

We got along well because she was independent, smart and sassy like me. Being a registered Welsh pony she was hearty and that’s why she lived so long. When I was sad she knew I was sad and would be there for me. She’d stalk me sometimes. She was patient if I just wanted to cry in her mane or hug her. She was a pretty good listener at times, a good companion.


Easter taught many other children to ride when I outgrew her, which I quickly did. She loved children and despite her independent spirit was quite patient unless a child wasn’t that experienced or paying attention. I went on to ride Cricket and then I owned Senator Scythe, a registered Quarter Horse. I rode in horse shows and competed in eventing– dressage, x-country and stadium jumping. My mom kept Senator when I went off to college. When Easter became too old for lessons and showing, my mom took her back to be with Senator. Unfortunately Senator had Cushing’s disease and he died in 2005. Easter moved to another barn and that mare died several years later of Cushing’s as well. Easter stood over her body all day.

napping in snow.2014

This pony was unpredictable for the most part. If you expected her to be one place, she was another. If you thought she was in, she was out or if you thought she’d be in one field she’d be in another. She followed the sun like a sun-dial– smart as she was black and would be warm and comfy all day. She loved to lie flat-out and take naps even in the snow. After snowstorms she’d get right out into the fields and make paths for herself.


If I lay down she’d come over, sniff me and nuzzle me to be sure I was still breathing. Some days you could barely drag her in from the paddock and other days she’d be waiting for you in the walkout at 4:30 for her dinner. The days she’d knicker hello you knew she was in good spirits. Sometimes she just wanted to look out of her stall.

Easter served as the neighborhood watch pony. She watched the kids across the street get off the bus and go in the house. Stood like a sentry at times watching over bikes and cars passing by on the street. She knew who came in and out of the driveway. She recognized my car, my mom’s and the people who owned the house (they fed her every morning and let her out). The guy across the street and the older lady a few houses down liked to come over to visit Easter. She was quite popular in the neighborhood. Easter shared her fields with a blue heron, deer and occasionally fox kits. Never phased her. She just went about her business and they went about theirs.She loved to be the center of attention. Why wouldn’t she?

She spent her last day down for about eight hours. When I arrived mid-morning she looked at me and nickered. She tried to get up several times but her legs had just had it:


I wanted Easter to live to be 50. I wanted her around forever but I also wanted her to be happy and healthy. I’m lucky for every moment I had with her. I just hope she had a good last few days before she died. I hope I made her happy in the last years of her long life.


love you Easter. xoxo.

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book review : Eating Animals

eatinganimalsbookcoverTitle: Eating Animals
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
ISBN: 978-0316069908
Pages: 352 (hardcover)
Release Date: November 2, 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Category: non-fiction
Review source: Hachette Book Group
Rating: 5/5

As my son began life and I began this book, it seemed that almost everything he did revolved around eating. He was nursing, or sleeping after nursing, or getting cranky before nursing, or getting rid of the milk he had just nursed. As I finish this book, he is able to carry on quite sophisticated conversations, and increasingly the food he eats is digested together with the stories we tell. Feeding my child is not like feeding myself: it matters more. It matters because food matters (his physical health matters, the pleasure of eating matters), and because the stories that are served with food matter. These stories bind our family together, and bind our family to others.

At age 12, I stopped eating red meat. Before then I ate raw hamburger [you know, rolled up in a ball] and the chicken livers that my Nana cooked. At 18, I gave up all other meat. I ate fish off and on until a few years ago. Now I’m a non-dairy vegetarian. I’m not vegan because I cannot afford to be. It is a complex and complicated undertaking and can be very expensive. If Alicia Silverstone wants to come to my apartment with a personal chef, I’m more than happy to go vegan.

Eating Animals reads as a cross between a memoir and an investigative journalism expose on factory farming, the humane treatment of animals, and making wise choices in the food that you eat. In between the plethora of facts, Jonathan Safran Foer mixes in his own memories of food, his decisions to become a vegetarian, and his thoughts on the entire United States food industry. Eating Animals is an ambitious undertaking and Jonathan Safran Foer spent three years researching the book, interviewing all kinds of people and traveling throughout the United States in his quest for knowledge. He goes on a rescue mission to a turkey farm with an animal rights activist. He visited Paul Willis’s hog farm in Iowa and also “heritage” poultry farmer Frank Reese. He wanted to become an educated consumer. Safran Foer is clearly anti-factory farming. And honestly, who wouldn’t be? Is Eating Animals going to be a vegetarian manifesto for some? Sure. Many people will not pick up this book because they do not want to know about the food that they are putting in their mouths. I read a passage to my mother and she didn’t want to hear it. Ignorance is bliss, as the saying goes. If people go around not thinking that the food on their plate once roamed a verdant pasture or was crammed into a minute stall just so that they could have tender meat to eat, maybe they’d think twice.

This is why when fully conscious cattle at the (then) largest kosher slaughterhouse in the world, Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa, were videotaped having their tracheas and esophagi systematically pulled from their cut throats, languishing for up to three minutes as a result of sloppy slaughter, and being shocked with electric prods in their faces, it bothered me even more than the innumerable times that I’d heard of such things happening at conventional slaughterhouses.

To my relief, much of the Jewish community spoke out against the Iowa plant.

Ultimately Eating Animals is for people to read who know little about our agricultural business and want a brisk, thoughtful, exhaustively researched book. It lacks preaching and serves to deliver the goods and let the reader debate the pros and cons of factory farming and food production and to purchase and consume food with a conscious state of mind. Do you know how that chicken got to your table? Did that lobster feel anything when it was thrown into a boiling pot of water? Is the slaughtering of cows as painless a process as the meat industry claims? The reader will find these answers in Eating Animals. If you’re at all squeamish and love your veal, lamb, foie gras, pate, juicy steak, hamburger and just plain old chicken, Eating Animals is not going to be a pleasant or palatable read for you. However, do not let that deter you. The wonderful, sensitive approach of Safran Foer eases the reader into each topic, one toe at a time. It’s an important topic. Along the way, you will also find out about Safran Foer’s own journey to vegetarianism. He writes with honesty, humor, and straightforward clarity.

I’ve restricted myself to mostly discussing how our food choices affect the ecology of our planet and the lives of its animals, but I could have just as easily made the entire book about public health, worker’s rights, decaying rural communities or global poverty—all of which are profoundly affected by factory farming. Factory farming, of course, does not cause all the world’s problems, but it is equally remarkable just how many of them intersect there. And it is equally remarkable, and completely improbable, that the likes of you and me would have real influence over factory farming. But no one can seriously doubt the influence of US consumers on global farm practices.

Let me share some of the highlights:

Ten million land animals are slaughtered for food every year in America [pg. 15]

Many scientists predict the total collapse of all fished species in less than fifty years—and intense efforts are underway to catch, kill, and eat even more sea animals. [pg.33]

Most male layers [chickens that lay eggs] are destroyed by being sucked through a series of pipes onto an electrified plate.  [pg. 48]

Perhaps the quintessential example of bullshit, bycatch refers to sea creatures caught by accident—except not really “by accident,” since bycatch has been consciously built into contemporary fishing methods. . .The average shrimp trawling operation throws 80 to 90 percent of sea animals it captures overboard, dead or dying, as bycatch. [pg. 49]

A University of Chicago study recently found that our food choices contribute at least as much as our transportation choices to global warming. [pg. 58]

Fish build complex nests, form monogamous relationships, hunt cooperatively with other species and use tools. They recognize one another as individuals (and keep track of who is to be trusted and who is not). [pg. 65]

Killing chickens: The conveyer system drags the birds through an electrified water bath. This most likely paralyzes them but doesn’t render them insensible . . .The next stop on the line for the immobile-but-conscious bird will be an automated throat slitter [Netflix Food Inc. and it shows this clearly]. [pg. 133]

In 2004, a collection of the world’s experts on emerging zoonotic diseases gathered to discuss the possible relationship between all those compromised and sick farm animals, and pandemic explosions. [pg. 138]

In parts of the world where milk is not a staple of the diet, people often have less osteoporosis and fewer bone fractures than Americans do. The highest rates of osteoporosis are seen in countries where people consume the most dairy foods. [pg. 147]

Killing pigs: After getting stunned and hopefully rendered unconscious on the first, or at least the second, application of the stun gun, the pig is hung up by its feet and “stuck”—stabbed in the neck—and left to bleed out. [pg.155]

Conservative estimates by the EPA indicate that chicken, hog, and cattle excrement have already polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in twenty-two states (for reference, the circumference of the earth is roughly 25,000 miles). [pg. 179]

According to The Handbook of Salmon Farming: Six sources of suffering for salmon are: (1) water so fouled that it makes it hard to breathe; (2) crowding so intense that animals being to cannibalize one another; (3) handling so invasive that physiological measures of stress are evident a day later; (4) disturbance by farmworkers and wild animals; (5) nutritional deficiencies that weaken the immune system; and (6) the inability to form a stable social hierarchy, resulting in more cannibalism. [pg. 190]

Here’s a list of some famous vegetarians:

Alicia Silverstone        Abbie Cornish

Portia de Rossi            J.M. Coetzee

Benjamin Gibbard       Zooey Deschanel

Alanis Morissette        Shania Twain

Jim Carrey                   Pamela Anderson

Morrissey                    Dennis Rodman

Chris Martin                Liv Tyler

Casey Affleck             Kristen Bell

Chelsea Clinton           Billie Joe Armstrong

Emily Deschanel         Lisa Edelstein

Kevin Eubanks            Traci Bingham

Natalie Portman          Nastassja Kinski

Sir Paul McCartney     Stella McCartney

Cilian Murphy             Damon Albarn

Kate Bush                   Jane Goodall

Thom Yorke                Julie Christie

–review by Amy Steele

Jonathan Safran Foer will be speaking as part of the Brookline Booksmith Reading series on November 11.


GREAT NEWS: HACHETTE BOOK GROUP is graciously providing me with THREE copies of Eating Animals to give away.

To Enter: Leave email in the comment section and if you dare, answer this question: are you a vegetarian or have you considered becoming a vegetarian? Why or Why not?


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