When I was a child, one of my favorite places to go on Long Island was the Long Island Game Farm, a perhaps-antiquated name for what is a small children’s zoo where you can pet, feed, and cuddle with a number of silly creatures.
My mom and I took the boys there recently, and what a time we had!
One of my favorite features of this particular place is that there are certain pens you get to go in and out of freely, including one with small deer and one with (squeal with me!) baby goats!
Looking back at my face in these pictures, I’m thinking that my opening line “when I was a child…” is inaccurate. Apparently I’m still a child.
The actual children had a great time, too:
But it was truly three generations of animal love:
With a long (ish) history:
I love places like this. I really think they can help children experience a sense of wonder at and compassion for God’s creatures. But I’m always stunned by two things:
1. So many junky toys being hawked.
2. So much junky food.
I don’t want to pet sweet creatures and then go eat hot dogs made from their mistreated buddies! This is an absurd disconnect!
(Not saying no meat. But Certified Humane chicken fingers and hot dogs might be an appropriate step…and would it kill them to offer a veggie burger!?)
I wonder if places like the Long Island Game Farm could do more to offer a fuller vision of what it looks like to coexist peacefully with animals–even without being vegetarian. As Wendell Berry writes:
“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration.”