America’s 4-H creed of teaching truth, kindness and sympathy is in tatters

NEWS AND COMMENT: This story is very concerning to anybody interested in animal welfare and the welfare of children in this instance. In America there is a program called 4-H which is a network of youth organisations. Their mission is “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development”.

The goal is to “develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility and the life skills of youth through experiential learning programs and a positive youth development approach.”

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Cedar’s story

Cedar was a pet goat loved by a nine-year-old girl, E.L. Cedar was part of a 4-H program where children raise and then sell the animals for slaughter but E.L. came to love him during the programme and therefore did not want to part with him.

E.L. and Cedar when they were together. Now Cedar has been eaten and E.L. is sad.
E.L. and Cedar when they were together. Now Cedar has been eaten and E.L. is sad. Image believed to be in the public domain.
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The parents offered to buy back Cedar from the fair authorities which was rejected (as I understand it) and so were forced to take the goat away instead of allowing Cedar to be slaughtered.

What followed was a pursuit by two sheriff’s deputies over 500 miles on leaving their jurisdiction in Shasta County (northern California) and crossing approximately six separate county lines. They pursued E.L. and her mother as I understand it as common criminals for the theft of the goat. Words such as embezzlement were bandied around.

The deputies ultimately seized Cedar and turned him over to the Chester District Fair where he was butchered and barbecued. This left the 4-H programme in tatters because it taught the kids the exact opposite to the objectives of the programme. Where was the compassion? Where was the decency and common sense? Where was the citizenship which includes being kind to animals and children?

To add insult to injury, I’m told that Attorney General Rob Bonta is now suing the girl’s family. It seems that the 4-H livestock programs teach children that humans have dominion over animals as per the Bible. There appears to be a religious context here.

I’ve got to comment on that because the concept of ‘dominion over animals’ is from the time of Jesus Christ and at the root of much animal abuse. The world has moved on hopefully over 2,000 years and now the mantra should not be dominion over animals but living side-by-side with animals, to treat them more as equals, as sentient beings, to seek ways to make their lives better as we seek to make our lives better in parallel.

It would seem that the police, in this story, lost sight of the bigger picture. They seem to have been blinkered by this Christian narrative of dominion over animals. Perhaps they couldn’t see that a nine-year-old child could relate to a goat as a pet and love him. The police didn’t care that they were going to take this beloved pet back to the fair for slaughter to be barbecued of all things.

I would think that E.L. now considers adult humans to be nasty and uncaring. She’s learned a lesson – and it’s a bad one – that people can be stupid and cruel. That religion can be indoctrinating and cause unpleasant behaviour. That’s what she’s learned, not positive life skills as part of the development of her character to become a better citizen; the objectives of the 4-H programme.

What’s this got to do with cats? It’s got everything to do with animals and our relationship with them. That’s the connection. If adults don’t relate to animals decently they are not going to relate to domestic cats decently either.

It is shocking that this occurred in California where I believed there was a more enlightened approach to the human-to-animal relationship.

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2 thoughts on “America’s 4-H creed of teaching truth, kindness and sympathy is in tatters”

  1. This was one of the saddest thing I’ve ever seen cops do. They had no right to take the goat. It was auctioned fair and square and the buyer could do what they wanted. Nothing says the buyer must slaughter the animal. 4-H has always taught the children cruelty. Had a vet who’s also a farmer, she had a black lamb rejected by her mother and she was bottle feeding it. When she said it would be slaughtered I offered to buy it but because I wasn’t going to kill it for food she refused to sell it to me. She has 5 kids so you know what she’s teaching them.

    • Thanks Tamara. I’d never heard of the program but obviously you know a lot about it. It is new concept to me and what the police did seems horrific to me. I find their behavior baffling. Where is the decency and sensitivity towards the child’s feelings?


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