WE VISITED OUR relations in spring last year. They raise their living from the central western plains of New South Wales, near Forbes. This is not the kind of country where city folk buy hobby farms, or aspire to holiday homes. A day’s drive from Sydney, it is not easy or pretty. It is working-farm country, straightforward and pragmatic, although the flat pastures and waving wheat have their own beauty in good times. These are not good times.
Lambs were fetching four dollars a kilogram at the Forbes saleyards in the week of our visit. That is how they are sold – not on the weight of the bleating animals, but on a calculation of what their carcasses will yield in meat once the hide is removed, the internal organs scooped out, the blood drained away and the head, feet and tail disposed of. Only we city slickers, leaning over the railings of the yard, smelling the manure, watching the animals roll their eyes and push in fear as the auctioneers shout, see a chasm between the cold calculation of ‘dressed weight’ and the reality of living creatures.
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