Second Look – Be curious, not judgemental

I remember it vividly, but how could I forget? With my eyes focused forward, I carried my youngest daughter under my arm like a sack of potatoes. From the dairy aisle of the grocery store to our car parked at the far, end of the lot, we stood out. I ignored all onlookers’ and gawkers’ stares at her massive tantrum – complete with bloody murder screams, flailing arms and legs. With determination, or maybe desperation, I buckled her in the car seat. We sat and waited on her mother to finish shopping. A woman approached us and asked if everything was alright, but I knew what she was thinking. She’d already judged my daughter and I based on what she’d seen. Was I a bad parent? A kidnapper, or worse?

We are judged by what is known; what is seen.

If this woman had been shopping inside with us, she might have noticed that my wife and I had tried all methods of bribery (animal crackers). We had instilled disciplinary action (I’m warning you) that would be appropriate to, if nothing else, keep her quiet as we finished. Our girl, perhaps tired or otherwise, would not hear to any of this, and went nuclear.

I can’t help but think of some of the videos or memes posted on the internet that seem to show farmers abusing their animals in the same context as me leaving the grocery store with my daughter. That five or ten-second video or photo allegedly gives us all the information we need to know about this farm and the farmer.

Before we condemn dads, farmers, friends, neighbors, and strangers we should ask more why’s

Judge Less

The phrase above caught my eye. Its loosely attributed to Walt Whitman’s “Be curious, not judgemental.” Perhaps before we condemn dads, farmers, friends, neighbors, and strangers we should ask more why’s – learn more.

  • Why are they doing what they’re doing?
  • What have I not seen that might further inform me about the situation?

Maybe we could have more faith in people and give more of them the benefit of the doubt.

If you’re going to have cows then you’re also going to have sick cows. That’s a fact of farm life. Whether it is a cow with sore foot, stomach problems (like constipation, yes, even in cows), or post calving issues, there is usually some animal getting extra TLC on a farm. More often than not, these are isolated from the other animals so they don’t have to compete with others for feed or space. They’re not much different than you and I when we’re sick and spending more time recovering on the couch or in bed. We don’t look our best then, but hopefully, we are improving.

No two farms are alike in management styles. Like parents and their children, every farmer wants their animals to do well. Therefore, caring for them is a top priority, but we all do it differently. I know I am not a perfect parent, and I have made mistakes. I also like to think that I’ve learned from those mistakes, and hopefully won’t make them again. The same can be true for how farmers care for their animals, and I hope every day we’re all doing a better job.


About Ryan Bright

A fifth generation farmer, Ryan Bright works daily alongside his father and uncle on their ninety cow dairy. He received his degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and serves on various farm organization boards. Despite being a father of three, Ryan makes time to detail the happenings of farm life on two blogs. A self-published author, he is currently finishing Calculated Cruelty, his second rural detective book, due soon.

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