Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Sheep May Safely Graze*

On this Earth Day, while we are remembering the wild places and those who dwell in them, please spare a moment to think about domestic livestock. In our “hurry-up” world we have begun to reduce the types of, for example, turkeys so severely that a single genetic disorder would wipe out Thanksgiving.

And yet, there are several breeds of turkeys, the Bourbon Red, the Royal Palm, and the Narrangansett and more, who are not closely related to the familiar Broad-Breasted White, which could add much needed genetic diversity – assuming the breed is still around when it is needed.

But, you say, I live in town. I can’t breed turkeys! No, that’s true – but you can buy them for dinner. In nearly every state there are small farms which breed many heritage breeds of cattle, sheep, turkeys, chickens, and others. Many of theses farmers are involved in Community Supported Agriculture and other programs to get these animals onto the public’s dinner table. Strangely enough, eating these guys is actually saving their breeds.

There are rare breeds of horses, donkeys, and goats as well, all of which have many excellent attributes now lost among more "popular" breeds.

The American Livestock Breed Conservancy needs and deserves your support on this and every other day. I don’t plan to shill for every charity that comes down the pike, but this one preserves more than just animals. By their existence they are helping American history itself to survive.

"...when the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another Heaven and another Earth must pass before such a one can be again." - William Beebe
* Johann Sebastian Bach: Schafe konnen sicher weiden aria 5 from Was mir beghat, ist nur die muntre Jagd, 1713)

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