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Downton Abbey & Livestock Farming


“Farming needs a kind of toughness, doesn’t it?  There’s room for sentiment, but not sentimentality.”  Lady Edith Crawley, Downton Abbey Season 2, Episode 2

Soon after I confessed on Facebook that I’m only on Season 2 of Downton Abbey, I heard Lady Edith philosophizing on farming.

Now, Lady Edith is not my favorite character.  She can be outspoken to the point of being downright cruel.  But I admire her can-do attitude and the gumption with which she hopped on that tractor and got to work.

And when she uttered those words – “There’s room for sentiment, but not for sentimentality” my view of her quickly improved.

lady edith farming

I, of course, googled “sentiment” and “sentimentality” to make sure I understood the difference.

Sentiment is a feeling or emotion.

Sentimentality takes that further.  Sentimentality is excessive tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.


And I’m sure that Edith is right.

“Farming needs a kind of toughness.”  And I truly believe that toughness comes after working on a farm.  Some might say that farmers are born with it, and some probably are, but it can be acquired over time.  I am proof of that.

You see, a livestock farmer inevitably sees animals ill, injured or suffering from time to time.  And that stirs up sentiment.  Even experienced, veteran farmers hate seeing an animal suffer.  Then, when it is time, farmers willingly send their animals to be slaughtered.  That also brings about sentiment.

But not sentimentality.  As Edith said, there is no room for that. 

And I would take that further.  There is no reason for that. 

It’s not that farmers don’t care about their animals.  It’s the opposite.  Farmers care so much for their animals that they have no guilt when an animal dies.  Even if the farmer has to “euthanize” an animal themselves because of illness or injury, they know that they are doing what’s right.

But off the farm?  Those of us who don’t have first hand experience working on a farm are the ones who lean towards sentimentality in regards to livestock farming.  Remember, I was not a farm girl.  I’ve been on both sides of the fence.  And when we started farming, sentimentality got the best of me sometimes.  Seeing an injured or ill bird is hard, and although I’ve never had to put an animal down myself, the thought is quite unsettling.

That’s why so many anti-agriculture ads are so compelling.  They push viewers through sadness and guilt all the way to sentimentality.  They make us think that there is no middle ground…there is either sentimentality, or animal cruelty.  And because only 2% of Americans farm nowadays, most people don’t know any differently.


That’s why I keep writing about farming.  I know most of my readers probably don’t care (and if you’ve read all the way to this point, you deserve a cookie.)  But I care.  I care about farming, I care about our animals, and I care about whether or not you care!  I want you to know that there is sentiment in farming.  But there is no room reason for the sentimentality that Chipotle, Panera and HSUS want you to feel.

The only sentimentality I feel is because of how much consumers misunderstand modern farms.

Would you like to comment?

  1. So well said! After getting up at nights in all kinds of weather to watch for cows calving, especially the heifers, and then still lose a calf, it's hard! Raising a steer from birth because his mother died and then have to sell with the rest of the fat cattle, it's hard! But we are farmers and that is what we do, we can feel sad but we know we did the best we could.