I was quoted in the Independent as having said, “I have great respect for cows and I like hamburgers.” When I saw this, I understood why my friends thought it was strange. The quote was floating by itself in a box at the bottom of the page. What kind of “coastal preservation activist” statement was that?

My plan for attending the Las Varas development meeting was to address lot-line adjustments that would set the stage for future development potential of 14 ranchettes with pools, guest houses, etc. It seems that this would shift the character of the Gaviota Coast from agricultural to real estate market.

I spoke toward the end of public comment so I had the opportunity to listen to others. One rancher stated that he would not allow a coastal trail on the bluff-top property because hikers would endanger the cattle operations by throwing trash on trails. Another rancher said he would worry about animal rights terrorists threatening his livelihood. That is when I decided to go to the defense of trail hikers. When it was my turn to speak, this is part of what I said:

“The Gaviota Coast is like a cathedral to me – one I don’t own. When I hike at Naples, I look for trash to pick up and it is hard to find.” (Those who have been to Naples know there are cows.) “I have great respect for cows and I even like hamburgers. I see myself as an average hiker.” Then I went on to address the issues I had planned to speak to.

OK, so I only implied that, as an “average hiker,” I am not a vegetarian terrorist. Perhaps it would be helpful to expound on my experience with other hikers, many of whom are vegetarians, as thoughtful people who have a certain amount of reverence for the natural world. Many people, like me, get a thrill from watching cattle grazing in open pastures rather than held up in crowded feedlots and stockyards. We need to know how important it is to be responsible for our behavior around all animals – humans included.

There are always those who will abuse their privileges but this will happen whether or not there are trails. If we advocate for public trails, we must also participate in their well-being; I believe most hikers would agree. If agriculture is displaced with large homes, then there will be no cattle to worry about. What would our community prefer?


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