Pets and Livestock
Copyright © March 17, 2008 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All rights reserved and all rights protected under international copyright law.
While my brother was alive (picture on right) he occasionally said he would willingly die if it became necessary to protect his dog. And he meant it.
Although my brother was married several times during the course of his life, he never had any children of his own. But my brother did have several dogs during the course of his lifetime. When each one of his pet dogs passed away due to old age, it would not be long before he would have another dog to take its place. My brother eventually passed away at the age of 60. He had been in poor health for several years and he did not have a dog when he died. However, if my brother were still alive today, he would be in complete disagreement with everything that I am about to write about pets.
During the course of my own life I have had several pets, and I have had children and eventually grandchildren. Therefore, my perspective on the value of human life in comparison to the life of a family pet is based on a different set of life experiences than my brother.
During normal times there are a variety of good reasons to have a pet, such as loneliness, companionship, or the need for a seeing-eye dog if you are blind. There are also two other common reasons that people give for having a dog:
During really hard times there may still be some valid reasons to have a pet, but there will also be some equally valid reasons not to have one.
- Almost everyone says their dog is a good guard dog because the dog barks when anyone or anything approaches their home or apartment. However, during a hard times event this barking will attract attention to you and your resources and it will probably result in your demise as opposed to your salvation. On the other hand, if you have a dog that has been trained not to bark but to alert you of approaching danger in some other way, then your dog may be of some value during the coming hard times.
- Even if you have a "hunting breed dog" that dog will not know how to hunt unless it has been trained. Training a hunting dog takes a lot of time and patience. If your dog is already a very successful hunting companion, then it may have some value during the hard times ahead. However, in my opinion, a good set of steel traps would be a more effective way to catch wild game than to go hunting with a rifle and a dog. A good set of steel traps will cost about the same amount of money as a good dog. However, unlike a dog, you will not have to feed the traps every day. The traps will feed you.
At the very beginning of a hard times tragedy event, no one will consider it unusual to see a person or a family with a pet. However, as the hard times gradually continue to get worse, fewer and fewer pets will be seen for the following two reasons:
New York Times - June 26, 2008 - "Hard economic times in U.S. spell trouble for pets."
- Starving people have a different perspective about dogs and cats than non-starving people. A starving person sees the animal as a meal and if the animal is alone and unattended, then the animal quickly becomes a meal. Although a starving person may have been repulsed at the idea of eating a dog or a cat during normal times, after prolonged and acute starvation the starving person's perspective gradually becomes more practical. During the Great Depression of the 1930's household pets became a rare sight and they were usually only seen in the homes of wealthy families.
- People who are experiencing hard times eventually run out of money and food. When that happens they take their pet to the Humane Society, or they simply take their pet several miles away and turn it loose to fend for itself. Of these two options, the Humane Society is the better choice during hard times. A pet that is simply turned loose to fend for itself will eventually become someone's meal, or that pet will become a member of a "wild dog pack" which will surround and kill anyone and anything they can in order to survive. (Note: This paragraph was written on March 17, 2008. Click on the link below for a New York Times Article that was written on June 26, 2008.)
Several weeks after the onset of a serious hard times tragedy event, most pets will be gone. The only pets that will remain will be the pets that are living with individuals and families who are not experiencing the hard times. These will be the people who not only have enough food to feed themselves, but they will also have enough extra food to keep their pet alive.
Pets make noise. That noise will attract attention to your family. It will not be possible to keep a low profile and remain out of harms way if your family has a pet. Eventually, not only will your family be attacked and killed, but your pet will be eaten by someone. People who have already decided they are going to keep and protect their pet during the coming hard times need to think very carefully about the eventual consequences of their decision.
For example, during a serious hard times tragedy event many people will die, including many children who will starve to death. How do you think someone who has lost a child due to starvation will feel if he happens to look out his window and he sees you walking your dog and your dog stops to take a really well-deserved bowel movement. He will instantly realize that you have enough food to not only keep yourself alive but also to feed your pet. He will also realize that you did not consider the life of his little child to be as important as the life of your pet. If you didn't care about the life of his child, why should he feel guilty about rounding up several of his starving friends and then attacking you and killing everyone in your household and taking everything that you own?
I have already told each of my children that they may bring their spouses and their children and come live with me in our small 1,800 square foot home if really hard times make it necessary. However, I have also told them that they absolutely could not bring any of their friends, or any of their inlaws, or any pets with them. I don't have the space or the resources to provide for the number of potential individuals that would entail. And I do not wish to be put into a position where I have to decide which friends and/or inlaws are welcome and which ones are not. I am also not going to put the safety and well-being of my wife, my other children, and all my grandchildren at risk for the sake of one or more pets. If any of my children believes that their pet is more important than the lives of people (similar to my brother's opinion), then I do not intend to try to convince them otherwise. They may simply go somewhere else to live with their pets but not here. I fully realize that many of you who are reading this paragraph will call me hard-hearted and cruel. May I suggest that you wait until two or three months after the onset of a serious hard times tragedy event and then call me names.
The second topic in this short article is about farm livestock, such as chickens, rabbits, dairy cows, pigs, sheep, and goats. If you already live on a farm and you are responsible for the care of these animals then you probably already know what I am about to write.
The purchase price of the farm animal is only the beginning of the story. You will also need to provide space to keep the animals, feed to supplement the animals' diet, and medicine when the animals get sick. You will also need to clean up the manure that the animals drop every day inside their stalls, and you will need to protect the animals from their natural predators and from thieves. Finally, neighborhood dogs love to attack and kill chickens and to chase the other farm animals around.
All types of livestock make noise. That noise will attract attention to your place. During hard times the starving people who live all around you will hear your livestock. Do you think you can defend your place and all your livestock from hundreds of starving desperate people? Perhaps you can. I know I could not. I live in an area where a few of my neighbors have chickens, and some have horses, and some have dairy cows, and some have goats. But the vast majority of my neighbors do not have any type of livestock. When the hard times tragedy really begins to unfold, one of two things will probably happen:
I hope that most of my neighbors select option two above. However, I live in the real world and I suspect that at least a few of my neighbors will select option one instead.
- The families without livestock will steal and eat the livestock of their neighbors, or
- The families without livestock will try to purchase or barter for some livestock from their neighbors in order to improve the future food production potential of their own little homesteads.
Therefore, my recommendation is to not invest in any livestock at this time, unless you live in a very, very secluded area. You would be much better off investing your money in pre-packaged foods, such as non-fat powdered dry milk, canned beef, chicken, and tuna, and an assortment of canned vegetables and fruits. These foods are already packaged for long-term food storage and they will not make any noise that would attract attention to you, and they will not require any daily care.
However, sooner or later everyone will run out of stored food. Before that happens you should re-evaluate the costs and the benefits of the different types of farm livestock. Depending on the area where you live, and the situation in your area at that time, it may then make good sense to acquire and manage a few farm animals. In order to have a reasonable chance of success at that time, I suggest the immediate purchase of the following book: Backyard Livestock, by Thomas and Looby, any printing from 2007 or before. Read the book from cover to cover but wait to make your investment in livestock until the worst part of the hard times tragedy event has passed.
(Note: Rabbits do not make any noise. However, I spent two-years raising rabbits before I quit. Based on my own personal first-hand experience, the amount of meat I got from my rabbits was not worth the time and effort and money I invested in them. During a two-year period I invested at least ten times more money in those rabbits than I received back in return in the form of rabbit meat. I would have been far, far better off if I had just invested my money in some canned beef, chicken, ham, and fish. If anyone asks my opinion about raising rabbits then I reply that it is much easier and cheaper to use steel traps to catch the wild rabbits in my area. Wild rabbits do not require an investment in rabbit cages, or rabbit feed, or cleaning up rabbit poop.)
You should also purchase and store some vegetable seeds. However, it would probably be prudent to plant just a few of those seeds each year in order to replenish your seed stock each year, and to gain some first-hand experience with the specific gardening problems normally encountered in your geographical area. After the worst part of the hard times tragedy event has passed, then you would have a better chance of planting your seeds and harvesting your crops without attracting unnecessary attention to your family and your home.
Footnote About Objectivity
The number of "survival" web sites, blogs, and forums that strongly recommend that you invest in some type of livestock is overwhelming.
And the reasons that are given are copied and pasted again and again and again.
Please believe me when I say I don't mind if you have pets or if you invest in farm livestock.
You have a right to make your own decisions in this matter just like you do in all the other matters that pertain to your life.
Most of the emails I receive about pets and livestock are from individuals who:
For the better part of the past 100 years people have been leaving their farms and accepting jobs in nearby towns, cities, and factories for all the following reasons:
- Are trying to convince themselves that their opinion is correct.
- Repeat the same information that can be found almost anywhere on the internet or in any good book on animals.
- Do not present a balanced perspective on the topic but focus exclusively on the positive issues and neglect to mention any of the negative issues.
If you speak to an experienced farmer or rancher then he or she will be able to show you all of his or her scars that were acquired while working on the farm.
- Farm work is very hard work. It is hard work every day, seven days per week. Farm animals require a farmer's attention every day.
- Jobs in town or in factories are usually much easier than farm jobs.
- Jobs in town or in factories usually pay much better than farm jobs.
- A town job usually means a dependable paycheck on a regular basis.
- On the other hand, a farmer doesn't get a paycheck on a regular basis.
- And sometimes the farmer doesn't get a paycheck at all due to crop failures or because of the loss of his livestock for one reason or another.
I find it amazing that the people who recommend farm animals on the internet always neglect to mention their scars.
If they don't have any scars then they either have no real experience or very limited farm animal experience and they are just copying and pasting what they read somewhere else.
If they do have scars then they aren't telling you everything you need to know about farm animals and they are intentionally omitting their heart-breaking tragic stories.
July 1, 2010 - Added Footnote about Objectivity.
July 1, 2008 - Added Link to New York Times Article about Pets.
March 17, 2008 - Created this new web page.
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