Our first glimpse of Helen Browning's Totally Organic is a slice of pure absurdity: one pig on a motorcycle (!) and another watching on in bloated contentment. Their interlude occurs at night, with no farmers visible, no fences to keep them in. And yet, they play. Livestock at leisure. It's a farm farce: "It Happened at Happy Meat Farm."
The problems with Helen Browning's extend past the ridiculous imagery, however. We can see more of these problems and take their measure when we look at the farm's "Good Veal Guide." The Guide is a hymn of conscientious stewardship, of a deep and abiding love of animals. Here, let's see what the Guide has to say.
The zeal with which organic farmers pursue their animal welfare does not stop at dairy cows—they rear their dairy calves with the attention they devote to their other stock... The typical male dairy calf will never turn itself into a great beef animal, but good farming will produce superb meat from these livestock, at a younger age. (Emphasis added, dizzily.)
“…will never turn itself into a great beef animal.” There are worlds contained within that phrase. The key to an entire way of life, to its towering, teetering philosophy, can be found inside it. Imagine it! The sense of failure felt by the “typical” male dairy calf! How it stings, knowing he lacks the wherewithal, the grit, the starch to turn himself into a great, walking chunk of meat!
The Guide gushes on:
This is robust… mature meat, pink in colour, aged for flavour and a good bite. Food to grace any table. This is not veal from dimly lit crowded pens.
These animals enjoy a very full life, with plenty of space and light, inside suitable buildings over winter and outside at pasture for the rest of the year; a varied diet; and the care of a foster cow when available.
We want to remove the stigma attached to these animals. With a life span of six months, they live twice as long as even the slowest growing chicken; they have the same life span as a good organic pig, and longer than many organic lambs.
According to various sources, a cow with a less “zealous” upbringing could expect to live as long as 25 years or so. (The world-record holder appears to have lived for 48 years!) But Helen Browning’s crows about the “very full life” they afford their "veal" calves. Six months! Note that they compare their track record with others in the industry, not with people who have a vested interest in providing long life to animals.
Return to the pigs-with-motorcycle image. Does doing so make your mind feel funny? Do you wish there were something solid to hold onto? Such a loopy juxtaposition—the carefree pigs, the nocturnal motorcycle jaunt, and the calves granted their "very full" six months.
Of course, this sort of bracing dissonance is the suicidefoodist's stock in trade. H.B.'s is also the institution that stages Pigstock every year, an event featuring both spit-roasted pigs and, for the kids, a "petting pen."
And may we please take a moment to appreciate Helen Browning's clever dig against the cretinous vegetarians, those who—what perversity!—would rather not spit-roast the pigs after petting them?