I occasionally get questions from customers about how the Amish farming family I support treats their animals. It wasn’t until last week that I realized why this is a recurring question. A customer forwarded me an article about a woman who witnessed an Amish man who beat his horse to death. She made a video and it went viral. I took huge issue with the article because it repeatedly refers to the man’s Amish religion, (e.g. this “Amish criminal”) as if this behavior is typical of Amish. Imagine an article titled, “Jewish Man commits XXX crime.” I’m sure there would be outrage, but somehow not in this case.
Part of me gets it. I think we have all interacted with people whose religion is different from ours and we’ve come to learn over time that they’re not that different from us after all. But I don’t think that many people have interacted with the Amish, so the stereotyping feels more acceptable – especially since it’s less likely to offend any of our peers.
But still, this association between Amish and animal abuse makes me sad because of one family I’ve gotten to know, who does not fit this stereotype at all. Sadly, I knew an animal abuser earlier in my life. Everyone who knew her at least moderately could tell something wasn’t quite right with her. But the family I support? No way. For the past 2 years, I’ve had weekly phone conversations with this family and several visits. No, I don’t see everything, but I do feel that they let their hair down around me. I hear the gossip and the venting about each other and they open up about their mistakes and weaknesses too. I saw how they reacted to that very aggressive cow who snorted and scratched as if she were about to charge me for getting too close to her calf. Jake used calming talk with her and explained that’s why she’s separated from the others. I once asked them about how they load an unruly animal into the trailer and they said, “You don’t. You have to relax them.” Animal cruelty is the farthest from what I would ever expect from the Zooks.
Certainly there are bad apples in the Amish community. They are human like the rest of us. But remember that, as a community, they depend much more heavily on animals than us – for example for their daily transport. So the incidence of animal cruelty is understandably higher than for the rest of us who interact relatively little with animals aside from our pets, which we don’t expect much from. But look across all farmers in this country and ask yourself – if you were a domesticated animal, would you rather live the life that 99% of domesticated animals in this country live in factory farms? Or would you rather live on an Amish farm? If you’re not sure, then get out and visit some farms. I think you’ll make up your mind pretty quickly.