Rewilding our Relationships with Domesticated Beings - PART 3 - "LIVESTOCK"

Rewilding our Relationships with Domesticated Beings – PART 3 – “LIVESTOCK”

(Beings from whom we take flesh, blood, milk, and eggs; fibers such as bone, skin, feathers and fur; waste for fertilizer, and use for other purposes such as manipulating plant growth through grazing practices).

Here are some questions to get the conversation started - please add any others you can think of!

*what does your current relationship with “livestock” look and feel like? Is it direct, or indirect?

*what might transition culture look and feel like in the contexts of these relationships?

*what might rewilded relationships look and feel like? (further down the path of transition - future goals)

*what types of personal or cultural ethics and values should be considered?
(spiritual? religious? concepts of “right” and “wrong”? peace and nonviolence?)

*thoughts about the ways we use the terms "livestock” vs. “pet” vs. “companion / family member”?

*thoughts about the concept of “ownership”?

*should other than human animals have “rights”?

*is it “right” to keep animals in captivity to serve our purposes?

*what responsibilities might we have toward domesticated beings during the transition toward wildness?

*what types of practical considerations should be addressed?

*what about the effects our domesticated “livestock” have from an environmental / ecological perspective?

*when we look at the relationship between civilization and the practice of agriculture, does rewilding require that we abandon this relationship? Phase it out? Trace our steps “backwards”…?

*how does “animal agriculture” fit into your personal path of rewilding? into the path of a community or larger group?


These are interesting threads! currently I don’t have any real relationships with domesticated animals, apart from with a dog at the place where I live. That said, I have lived on different homesteads and interacted with chickens, turkey, cattle, and sheep people. As with plant relationships and cultivation, to me interacting with animals other than humans is an interesting area that hasn’t gotten nearly as much discussion as it deserves. It’s easy to draw some kind of sharp divide between agriculture and hunter-gatherer without considering indigenous methods of land tending. While I’m personally much more familiar with tending to help plant foods, there are also examples of animals that have been seemingly domesticated in cultures where there is otherwise no instances of this. Take the Salish Wool Dogs, kept by Salish peoples of so-called Washington and BC, a now extinct breed of dogs thought to have been kept specifically for their hair used to produce blankets and other clothing items. In general I despise domestication, but find it hard to locate exactly where that line is drawn… to me it comes down to a connection to bioregion and ecosystem and individual species that have their own spirits and must be respected… what this a healthy relationship looks like is up to both members.

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Thank you for your thoughtful comments :sun_with_face: you make an excellent point that it is not an “all or nothing” between H/G lifeways and modern agricultural practices. I would very much like to explore Indigenous relationships to domesticated beings in this series of discussions. Are there particular cultural practices that you would like to discuss?

I see that there will definitely be some overlap between categories too, so I’ll try to link conversations where appropriate.

I am curious about your last sentence “what this a healthy relationship looks like is up to both members”.

by “both members” do you mean the human and their domesticated being/s? If so, do you see an example that I’m not seeing, in which the domesticated being (in this case specifically livestock) has any control, influence, or choice in the nature of that relationship or even in the qualities of her / his existence?
Thanks :relaxed:

posting a link on the Salish wool dogs in the “DOGS” thread and here:
Thanks for sharing that example :relaxed:

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I’m not sure exactly what I even mean haha. I like to think that apart from practical systems/structures that keep people from over-exploiting plant or animal species, a rewilded relationship would also involve some measure of autonomy on both sides of the relationship, prey/predator, herd/herdess, both animals having as much control as possible over their own lives… so with domesticated animal relationships it seems like there are some interesting ones between the relative imprisonment of small pens and simply hunting wild animals. I guess one example might be the Sámi people who herd reindeer or other pastoralists. This is one method between agriculture and hunting or fishing, yet seems to be limited to certain areas to be practical or sustainable. Where nomadic herding is practical following a seasonal migration (e.g. the Great Basin ecosystems) this may work but I still think the ecological effects of herding are fairly severe once they get past a certain point. Like for example all of eastern Oregon used to be in much better shape before settlers unleashed livestock on the land and essentially destroyed the soil. Some of these may have started out as hunting and then changed to semi-domestication, much like some plant species such as acorns or chestnuts may have simply been gathered, then enhanced by fires and pruning, etc. It’s important to think about how or where the limits are set, because as civilization demonstrates, too much domestication is bad. This is where I think once again it comes down to retaining the respect and intimate relationship with species instead of turning them into an object to be controlled… through stories, mythology, ritual and even daily attitudes that must be changed. This would be interesting in the context of a transition from civilization to wildness, that is, how can one get from where we are to a healthier world? Anyone have any thoughts on this, like how if one keeps chickens for example this relationship would change? Can domesticated and wild relationships mix, and what does the continuum look like between domestication and wildness in terms of animal species? So much to think about…

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Yes! an incredible lot to unravel and examine! Thank you so much for engaging in this conversation with me, i feel strongly that this is a crucial aspect to rewilding transitions individually, locally, globally… :sun_with_face:

My husband and I have chickens (5 hens, 1 rooster) since about a year. I never had any before (he did, several kinds).
They have quite a bit of space and I find it interesting to see that the more room you give them, the more varied their behavior. I love watching them. Sometimes they get total freedom, though not always because of our agricultural surroundings and a nearby road. At night we close the coop to keep them safe from foxes etc.
The rooster certainly helped me rewild a little: at some point it started attacking me (not too violently, fortunately), so I had to become more vigilant and hit/kick back. Someone (who never had chickens) suggested non-violent ways and rewarding good behavior… but well, the rooster taught me that with chickens it doesn’t really work (only) that way.

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You probably already know my opinion on this topic. But I thought I could add a little controversy anyway :slightly_smiling:.

I’ve never seen a “sustainable” animal agriculture system that could be scaled to any degree. By that I mean that they are inherently destructive to ecosystems and typically require the importation of resources. Having said that, my backyard garden is not sustainable either. I import lime and spent coffee grounds, among other things. But I think in a utopian fantasy world, there is more potential to make plant-based diets sustainable - assuming we continue to rely on agriculture at all.

I also have never seen a scenario in which livestock were not deprived of their ecological and biological identities. That is something that I think is irredeemable, especially when applied to sentient animals. The same goes to some extent for plant species, but I think there is more ethical wiggle room with plants since they don’t suffer in the same ways that animals do (apparently).

I believe that all species are equally valuable, and that each has intrinsic value beyond what they do for humans. But I also believe that the interests of individuals (as opposed to species) varies. For example, I think micro-organisms have a right to exist, but an individual bacterium has very little ecological value and virtually no personal interests (as far as I can tell). The interest of a bacterium is that its species survives and evolves. That may not happen, but I don’t believe one species (humans) should be able to make that call for all other species. However, individual sentient animals who have the capacity to suffer emotionally and physically have an interest in their personal well-being. So I draw an ethical distinction there. To me, all of this makes sense from a biological standpoint. Species whose evolutionary strategy is to produce many generations very quickly with a high mortality rate and short lifespans have less interest in meeting an untimely end. They also have less capacity to suffer.

That’s not to say that killing is wrong. I see killing as a bewilderingly necessary part of life. If there is some sort of creator, I’d like to know why they made death a prerequisite for life. Its cruel, but that’s the way it appears to be. I don’t celebrate it though. I have the privilege to choose whom I kill. The world would be a better place if none of us had that privilege, but its one of the last that I’d like to give up. And as long as I have it, I’d like to think I can choose not to subjugate, enslave, and slaughter those who have the capacity to suffer from my actions.

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Anyone read this .pdf by Rewilding Europe on this subject?

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Anyone have thoughts about our relationships to livestock grazed on public lands? Imported?

Nathan shared this article in the fb group, and i thought it might be interesting to explore it here: