Our ever evolving relationship with plants and animals, as well as our responsibility towards the land and the creatures that populate it, has become increasingly complex. Hence, the online course "Animals, Health & Resilience: Our responsibility for the land and the diverse role of animals" conducted by the Agriculture Section in September proved to be extremely meaningful for our times. Alysoun Bolger, Johannes Wirz and Jean-Michel Florin expertly facilitated our journey as we delved deep into the soil with the earthworms and soared into the air with the bees. The cows of course kept us well grounded!
We looked at the question: What makes these creatures so relevant for the health and resilience of the farm organism? During the course of 4 weeks we were encouraged to look for the subtle, more intimate relationships that bind us to each other. Through break-out sessions, creative exercises, nature observations and meditations; we explored the interconnectedness between the beings that inhabit diverse elements on earth. As we understood the special soul qualities and characteristic skills of animals, we were also made conscious of the gifts each one brings. How can we honour these precious gifts?
As human beings, we are the largest force transforming the earth. Our impact therefore, should be a positive one. However, over the past several decades, we have methodically destroyed the diversity that is so essential and beneficial for life on earth. We have contributed to the loss of habitat that several wild animals face. We have also removed domesticated animals such as the cow out of open pastures and placed them in confined spaces under horrific conditions. By reducing animals to functional production units, we have ignored their sacred relationship to the earth and to our food. This has come with devastating consequences. The wounds we have inflicted upon our ecosystem are festering and need urgent attention. What is our role and responsibility now? How can we repair the delicate relationships that connected us to the earth as a living, breathing organism?
When we domesticated animals, we also became responsible for them within the framework of a robust and resilient farm organism. With biodynamic farming we can truly fulfil this responsibility. As a first step, it is necessary to understand animals, their qualities and their contribution. In the words of Steiner, “we must observe these more intimate relationships of Nature when we are dealing with the life, together on the farm, of plant and animal.” In this context, is methane really a hazardous greenhouse gas emitted by cows or have we, by throwing things off balance, created a dangerous situation for ourselves? How can we restore the balance we have disturbed?
Many of our discussions revolved around the importance of encouraging biodiversity, keeping animals in their context by providing the correct habitat and allowing animals to express themselves in a manner best suited to them. By treating animals humanely and cherishing their gifts, we humans rise above being consumers and create something beautiful with animals. By valuing and honouring the animal, in life and in death, we establish a personal relationship with them. When we look at optimal conditions rather than maximum yields, we can truly profit in a myriad ways.
As this course concluded; we agreed that it was vital to move away from the boxes and systems that divide us. Instead, we must start looking at the connections that bind and strengthen us. Even the simple act of milking a cow can become a sacred one; helping us to forge a connection with the farm organism and bring deeper meaning and richness to it.
Tannaz Daver, India. October 2023
Born and raised in Kolkata, Tannaz studied English Literature and worked in advertising. Sensing a need to create greater awareness about environmental issues; she wrote a book for children called “One Night in the Sunderbans”. She is the founder of Kokopelli’s Song – an eco venture promoting sustainable living and environmental consciousness. Tannaz has taught gardening in a Waldorf School, has conducted biodynamic training programmes for farmers and actively supports biodynamic farming initiatives in India.