By Bishop David Anderson
When I was considerably younger and the Rector of an Episcopal Church in South Dakota, the manager of a beef processing plant asked me if I would like a tour of the facilities. I am by nature a curious person, and so, just as I had said yes to a tour of the Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, SD, I said yes to this tour. These two tours were, of course, quite different.
Let me preface my remarks by saying that I like to eat beef, and in my earlier life I helped to brand and neuter young bulls belonging to the church’s ranching families. This beef processing plant had a large fenced yard where cattle were brought in by truck and then unloaded and counted. Another part of the large containment area had progressively smaller pens with secure runways up to a ramp that led into the plant proper. What the cattle didn’t know was that as they were encouraged to move up the ramp, they passed through a narrow portal into the plant where a device struck them in the forehead. This device caused their immediate death, and machinery then took hold of the cow or steer and began the process of turning them into sides of beef cooling and aging in the cold locker at the far side of the plant.
This is enough description for my purpose of comparison. In life, we don’t always know where a given path will take us, and sometimes if we did we certainly wouldn’t take it. Cattle on a hillside eating grass look happy enough, but then at a certain point they are brought together and confined in a feedlot. Although there is a loss of freedom, there is great abundance of tasty grain and other feed. At each step in the process, no one sits down with the cow or steer and explains the road map of where all of this is going, and if they did, and if the cattle could understand us, they would jump or break down the fence and quickly leave the area.