Yesterday I was getting a pedicure at a local nail shop when I overheard the woman next to me talking to her pedicurist about her feet. They were very dry, she agreed, they were “fair feet”. She had spent the last week at the local fair because her daughter, sitting in the chair next to her, had exhibited a pig.
There were congratulations and questions all around. How much had she gotten for the pig? Lots of money, yes? And that was about the end of it. I wondered if the 14-year-old daughter had been attached to her pig, if she was sorry to see it go. But the conversation soon turned to soccer and finding the right clothes.
It wasn’t the first time I felt like I had no way to get into this conversation. I was eavesdropping to begin with and I was not sitting directly next to the daughter. Perhaps if I had been it would have been different. I thought of a friend who works with young adults every day, and who took it upon herself to visit not one but two fairs and not just once. She went for the animals. And she went to talk to the children. Her account:
I decided to visit the fair this year and deliberately visited the 4H and FFA programs. While in the livestock section I could not help but notice the children and how much they appeared to love their animals. I engaged in a few conversations. One young lady and I got on the topic of how she did not want to eat animals. She said her mom makes her. She said, “I don’t want to eat animals.” I responded, “Can I tell people what you just said?” She responded, “Yeah, just don’t tell my mom.”
It occurred to me that the children’s parents may not fully grasp this program. In an effort to please their children and allow them to participate, they are missing a valuable opportunity in teaching compassion. Clearly, the parents were very supportive. But I found it hard to grasp how the parents can help them learn to love and respect an animal and then sell the animal for a high price only to be slaughtered.
And that is key. The children are getting a high cash price but are they actually paying “the high price?” Is that their motivation? If they were not making any money would they still participate?
On my way out I stopped by a young lady’s pen and noticed she was stroking her animal’s head and staring at her. I asked her what her animal’s name was and engaged in a little small talk. At the end she said; “I’m really going to miss her.” To me that said it all!
We can’t forget about these programs. The children need us to visit them and know that there are people who love animals so much that they would never consider raising an animal and sending it to its death.
Watching children participate in this program is challenging to talk about and watch. But in the end, the children could use the support and the animals sure could use more people who only look at them with adoration.
Please consider visiting your local fair next year. It is easy to engage in a conversation with the children. It’s as easy as, “is this your animal? What’s her name?” You will be delighted to know that most children want to and love to talk about their special friends. And this is absolutely priceless!