Interview with inseminator
Can you tell uninitiated people more about your job and how does it look like in practice?
The majority of readers probably have no idea that people who inseminate cattle even exist… How did you get to this job?
First I examine a cow if she is rutting. After that I defrost bull’s sperm, which I lead in with a pipette to the end of the womb neck, meanwhile I control the whole process with the other hand through rectum.
I studied agricultural-technological high school – veterinary in Kroměříž and I absolved breed course. At first I wanted to cure animals, but I had not been accepted to veterinary faculty before I went to the army. After the army I was more oriented into literature.
Your job brings, at least from our vegans’ point of view, a lot of ethical dilemmas. How do you look at the practice of large-scale breeding – where the calf, born after you had artificially fertilized the cow with bull’s sperm, is taken from the cow and that cow’s milk is then served to other species – humans, and then the calf goes to slaughterhouse or to further “production”?
Large-scale breeding did not fall from the sky. Family farms were more popular in Europe, but American large-scale business from one side and forced Soviet collectivization from the other side made it’s impact. Without the best bulls, without the lowest costs for veterinarian services (the calf is taken from the cow as a prevention, so there is low chance to pass pathogenic germs), today you do not have a chance to compete in the dairy competition. However we live in democracy. If the majority of population agrees on donation of longer stay of the calf with it’s mother, including the losses for milk, because every mother holds her milk especially for her calf, we can make the breeding more ethical. French poet, animal lover and hunter Francis James wept beautifully upon a calf at the beginning of the last century (“It was horrible that poor calf, / towards slaughter it was pulled, how it defended itself – transl. K. Čapek). I weep with him.
With regard to the fact that you write poems about animals, you have to have a strong relationship with them. Do you give them a value only based on their usability for men and what they can give us (materially-meat, milk or leather; or sentimentally), or do you think that their lives have price regardless of us, the people?
Every being, every plant, every stone has a value for me by itself. However, Martin Buber wrote in The life of Chasids: “With man’s use and care of them in holiness, he frees their souls.” Close relations may get closer. I think that Euroamerican civilization is built on this triplet: a church, a house, and a barn. If one of these constants is weaken, disharmonies arise. For example – without farmland manure the soil loses it’s humus, the rain is not soaked, it only pours, etc.
What is your opinion on anthropocentrism?
Polish poet, Nobel Prize winner for literature, Czeslav Milosz noted: “Who would want to criticize anthropocentrism in countries / of anthropocentric religions / or anthropocentric disbeliefs as well?” (Translated J. Mlejnek) However I try to realize it at least. Not to stick on it…
What kind of meaning had christening in your life, which you underwent after you had studied yoga?
Social realism of those times was not enough for me. I was looking for something deeper. As a judo fighter I was always attracted by yoga. But I am not a theoretic. I have been practicing it throughout my whole life: asan exercise, breathing meditation, cleansing of the organism, home planting of vegetables, chewing of each bite etc. It gave me a lot, suddenly I was more concentrated, more vital (my caries was cured), but after some time I felt growing disaffection from my family and from the life around me as well. I felt that I was losing love. Simultaneously as a strict vegetarian and later macrobiotic (seminars with Mrs. Průchová and Dr. Jonáš) I started to have health problems. I had disorder in my chemical exchange, my whole body was itching and I had to treat myself with hormonal ointment. I found an expert from PPV (friends of natural nutrition) and then, marginally (2-3 times a week) I started to eat meat which was closer to people. My health condition adjusted gradually. Yoga, Buddhism, or reading Bhagavadgita helped me to sense the world more spiritually, but maybe I was looking for even more personal relationship… after that I went through Krishna to Christ and I renewed my christening from childhood. Christening is happening always, during church mass, or every service for fellow people. It is needed to change everything egoistic into “heavenistic”.
In our correspondence, you expressed a thought about dignity of the victim, which, by your words, is: plants to animals, animals to people, and people to God. However, God does not lock people in near cages, does not transport them into slaughterhouses, or does not take our children after they are born and he does not drink our milk… as we do to animals. In what do you see the sacrifice that people give to God?
I said that it was simplified. I will rather present example. If I want to have eggs, I have to have chicken. Chicken eats grain, in this way the plant world sacrifices to the animal world, because plants are alive and feel (poet Milada Součková, got her RNDr. degree for text about spiritual life of plants). When chicken stops laying eggs, I thank it for life (in personal and liturgical Lord’s prayer combination), I kill it as kosher as I can (I wish not only Jews had kosher butchering) and I prepare it for my wife for cooking. And as the chicken served to me and my family (I have four daughters), as a farmer I try to truly subjugate to God. See, not to have abortion, to stay in marriage, love enemies – or even to write simple poem – does not that all require sacrifices?
There was a lot said about sacrifices in the Old Testament. Grandly said, the God from the Old Testament was ruthless and jealous. Uninitiated person could see him as some sort of a pagan God. How do you see this contrast with the New Testament, which emphasizes more the aspect of love and mercy? And do you think that man should exercise love and mercy towards animals as well, or just among his own species?
The New Testament does not cancel anything, it just brings things within. God (“merciful and gracious, forgiving and gentle beyond measure” Psalm 103, 8) is still the same and he sacrifices his son Jesus as a sign of forgiveness to people. Paradoxically it seems as today Christian accepted, non-blood sacrifice (non personal, packed frozen meat in supermarket) discreetly causes that we do not think that we should accept the food as a sacrifice before we eat, and we do not think that we should behave selflessly towards the whole creation after the meal as well.
How high is your respect towards other opinions? For example towards people who find usage of animals for meat and milk disturbing. Or how high is your respect towards animals, who would not agree too much with the fact that they are viewed as worthy sacrifice – from their point of view the transportation to slaughterhouse and slaughter, we give them only pain and misery. They would hardly let themselves convince about the concept of worthy sacrifice when they look at the butcher that this is good and natural for them.
"It is said that we are what we eat (Michio Kushi). If someone can be pure vegan, it’s beautiful: they become part of the plant world. It was not possible for me. Maybe my surname Volf tells me genetically that I cannot be herbivore. That is why I think that veganism is not the solution for all people of this world. And I have one note from the view of in-depth psychology: a person indentified with pure veganism should not forget to ask himself, whether, throughout his life, it has come to so called marriage with a Shadow, acceptance of his, or her dark sides and repression of these sides. If he, or she with his, or her outer attitude does not displace everything biological, what bleeds, sweats, or smells as animal.
I know a lot about transportation to slaughterhouses and about the slaughter itself. I used to work as a driver and buyer of cattle for slaughterhouse in Kroměříž for some time. When you run pigs off to a ramp, every time one piece “sticks”. It requires high demands to stay calm and to handle this situation.
As veterinary students during practice we counted how many hits with a mallet could bull handle. There were bulls which stood up fourteen times. Luckily, usage of mallet is banned by law and we can use electric sticks on battery. But when I see some footage on the internet in which people amusingly manipulate stray with fork-lift truck, I do not wonder that someone stops eating meat. People are not lambs – besides, you can find strict vegetarians among the toughest criminals, but just because some people harass their children, I will not stop to have my own.
What is your opinion on the ability of animals to sense emotions – positive and negative as well? You write about it in your poems, but on the other side you live from animal production, which, especially in case of large-scale breeding does not care about animal emotions at all. Its motivation is the maximum profit – from meat, or milk. Do you see this commercial view as correct?
Scientists, especially in the latter years, have soundly proven that the differences are rather quantitative, not qualitative… It has been thirty years this year since I have fertilized cows and I can agree on a lot of positive changes, which have come about. For example: the change of stabling from tied to free, installation of fans and air fresheners, acceptance of the law Nr. 246 about protection of animals against cruelty.
Breeders themselves realize that welfare in the barn has positive effect on milk yield that high stress through slaughter declines the quality of products etc. But I will return to your basic inner question which you keep modulating…if killing animal is not the same as killing a person. I think that in this case the difference is qualitative. That spiritual stress which a man goes through only after he expiates himself, is much bigger if he kills a human (even unborn) than if he kills carp, or sheep, which even Jesus ate. But the rule is: Only God can judge.
You think a lot about your job and you write about it in poetry – for example your recently published collection” Barn lyrical poetry”. What is the approach of your colleagues, do they think about it as wel,l or do they take it as a routine?
Four of my collections of poetry and one poem diary “Heart” have been published. There are a lot of animal motifs in it, especially about cattle. Barn lyrical poetry, with the secondary title “animals leave our lives” is my editorial try. It is a poetic anthology from our and world poetry on the topics of animals, barns, yards, pastures, slaughterhouses, accompanied by the pictures of our world-famous photographer Jindřich Štreit. I wanted to support the basic relationship between a man and an animal in which domesticated animals play a major role. It is an illusion if someone who says he loves animals, but he has never bled when the animal bled, never puked when the animal puked, never has cared for animals and never has been afraid when the animal had fled. A man who works with animals seems to me as real. Psychotherapeutists do not send mentally ill people to animal farms (animotherapy) just for fun. Yes considering the large scale you meet people who fall into routine. But most of them are rather in debts (milk price under the costs), than to leave agriculture (soil, land). And Stanislav Zedníček, a poet, prisoner of communism and former caretaker in zoo said wisely:“ Who does not love /animal in animal/ loves animal in himself.”
What is your relation towards Ecology generally, not just towards animals? Do you think that the nature is here just for people to use it to the maximum and take from her anything they want, or do you find the Gaya concept more attractive, the concept of mutual connection?
"I like the Indian approach…. If I watch shots of dying fauna and flora for example caused by catastrophic dryness, I thirst with them, but I do not turn my back on Mother Nature. My own wisdom. And it is soundly proved in books from Josef Šmajz (Endangered culture), it calmly releases higher life. A saint who is according in this with me is St. Francis from Asissi who calls the sun his sister and wolf his brother. Theologian, a priest and nature scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin preaches about “the holy matter”. Mankind is working itself from “destruction” to the freedom of “making” (cloning, gene manipulations). It will be necessary not to forget about humbleness and the “church”.
Note: It is a paradox that Zdeněk Volf succeeded to describe the whole concept of Vegan Fighter in one answer: and that is when he writes: “a person indentified with pure veganism should not forget to ask himself, whether, throughout his life, it has come to so called marriage with a Shadow, acceptance of his or her dark sides and repression of sides. If he, or she does not with his outer attitude does not displace everything biological, what bleeds, sweats or smells as animal.” Exactly these answers are given to us by martial arts and our attitude towards the world whatsoever. We search our marriage to the Shadow among others in fair, equal fight with opponents who stand against us in the ring or cage. We do not search the marriage with Shadows in killing and torturing defenseless animals.
If anything, in our opinion, takes away natural instincts from people, it is the power, which they have thanks to the technological advantage over other living beings and which people use against them. And people displace and do not want to see everything that comes along with it. Meat is, how Zděnek Volf writes, only nice, sterile package in the supermarket. And it is as far as it can be from living creature who had been suffering for a long time and died because of this package.