When a supplier faces charges

West Wind Acres in Charlton. Photo from West Wind Acres Facebook page.

This is not about the larceny some purveyors get away with by marking up paper goods. These are real charges facing a real purveyors.

At home and camp, we occasionally purchase beef from West Wind Acres in West Charlton. Local newspapers last week reported its owner, Josh Rockwood, was charged with 13 counts of not providing animals with proper sustenance. He has a court date tomorrow.

I was disappointed upon seeing the charges, and I nodded along as I read what he was accused of throughout the investigation —unlicensed dogs, pigs not having access to fresh water during especially cold days, animals without an unheated barn.

I was also disappointed when Josh’s reaction included a short video laced with an unnecessary profanity, no doubt borne of his frustration; it’s now been about a month since the case began.

But I’ve been thinking more about it, watching the Internet world react.

Sara Nicolai, who runs a great farm in Palatine that we’ve purchased herbs from — and happens to be her town’s highest elected official — came to his defense in the Daily Gazette newspaper.

“You dump the ice, you crack the ice, if the animals are thirsty, they’ll drink it right up. If they’re not, it just freezes, and they’ll drink it right up that evening. So the fact that some of these animals are being taken away for something that happens on all of our farms every day is really terrifying for us.”

Author Jon Katz, who has a farm in Hebron, Washington County, also weighed in with a thoughtful response:

“The charge that his animals were abused because they were in an unheated barn is simply astounding. It tells us again that the people who purport to speak for animals and the people who report on them know nothing about them. My barn would be impossible to heat, even if I wanted to,  and not healthy for the sheep and donkeys if it were. I know of no real farmer who heats his barns or who believes that would be appropriate for animals like cows, donkeys and sheep – they can live in the wild, need fresh and unfiltered air, and always prefer to be outdoors unless it is icing or raining in an extreme way.”

So on further reflection: Is it any different from our care of our pet rabbit, Reeses? His water often freezes overnight. He does have a heated cage, yes, but he also burned himself on the lightbulb. Is that cruelty?

Some more reading if you’re interested:

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