A Respect for the Living

A Respect for the Living

Intern Talia shares some of the ways in which her perception of buzzards has changed as she’s gotten to spend time observing the black vultures that call Chenoa home.

Stepping on the property of Chenoa Manor means entering a world where animals have agency over their own lives. Sheep graze where they want to graze, pigs forage where they want to forage, and vultures fly where they want to fly. While vultures may not be the typical
creatures expected on a farm sanctuary, they cannot help but take up much of the landscape and skyline of the manor. A whole committee of vultures, all burdened with their negative reputations.

When people think of vultures, they cannot help but think of death. The stigma of vultures includes carcasses and meat, gore and carnage. I am not going to pretend that I was not uneasy by the many, many scavengers milling around the lively and enchanting farm animals with whom I was already forming a connection. While I was assured that they would not attack me and were happy and willing to move out of my way when I walked by, only when I closely observed the creatures was I able to form a greater understanding of them outside of the image from the media.

For a reason unknown to me, the vultures really like hanging out with the big pigs. One early Monday morning when filling up the pigs’ trough of water I noticed a lone vulture inching closer to the largest pig, Yolanda. Subconsciously I began to panic. What would I do if the
vulture decided they did not want to wait until death to pick into Yolanda’s fleshy stomach?

And, just as my fears predicted, the vulture took another hop forward and pecked at Yolanda’s back. But, unlike my fears, they were not doing it in order to take advantage of her, but rather only wanted to clean off an insect crawling up her stocky back. At that moment I realized that I have been viewing the vultures unfairly. They do not have a lust for death, but rather a respect for life.

Humans often lack that respect for the beings around them. The respect that comes from withholding from flesh that is not yours, from waiting and appreciating the life that comes with the body. Much like humans, the life that all creatures have is essential. Whether it is a goat spreading a plant’s seeds unintentionally by rummaging in a bush or vultures assisting with the decomposition of a departed animal and enrichment of the soil, each individual contributes to the continuation of the world.

So, next time you look at a vulture stop and think. Think about their patience in death. Think about their symbiosis with the pigs. And, lastly, think about their deep and true respect for the living.