David McConnell & Marilyn Loveless on Nature and The Environment in Amish Life (Q&A + Book Giveaway)

Is Amish life “earth-friendly”? How do Amish view and treat animals? How does the Bible influence Amish perspectives of nature? Do Amish people eat an “all-natural” diet?

Nature & The Environment in Amish Life is the new book by David McConnell and Marilyn Loveless. The authors investigate these and many other topics in great depth. One thing is clear: the answers to many of these questions are not cut-and-dry – and are sometimes not at all what you might expect.

In today’s Q-and-A, David and Marilyn answer questions on the Amish, nature, and the environment. They went above and beyond in responding to my questions in much detail. I hope you enjoy, and a special thanks to David and Marilyn.

Win a copy of Nature & The Environment in Amish Life

You can also enter to win a copy of the book. To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post. I’ll draw the winner at random next week.

David McConnell & Marilyn Loveless on Nature & The Environment in Amish Life

Amish America: What does the book cover? Where did the idea come from, and how much Amish participation was there?

David McConnell & Marilyn Loveless: The book provides a comprehensive look at how the Amish think about nature and how they engage with the natural world at home, school, work, and recreation.

We wanted to get beyond the misconceptions many outsiders have (for example, that the Amish are organic prophets or that they all mistreat their animals) and present a more balanced and humanized view.

Overall, we found that their rural lifestyle provides the Amish with numerous opportunities to be outdoors, but that their “closeness to nature” takes place within a very specific cultural idiom that sees nature as a manifestation of God’s handiwork, created for the benefit of humans.

Spraying the fields. Photo by Doyle Yoder

The idea for the book came during birding trips that David took with Amish friends while he was working on his previous book, An Amish Paradox. And Lyn got interested during a week in Arizona that she and David spent with an Amish family (dad, mom, and three teenagers) when David drove them west on a birding trip.

We had a lot of Amish participation—over 150 interviews with Amish in 12 states and 35 settlements and a survey of Amish and English residents in rural Ohio. The face-to-face conversations were by far the most interesting and fun part of the project! We also accompanied Amish friends or acquaintances to many outdoor events.

Amish America: When people ask if the Amish are environmentally-minded, what answer do you give?

David McConnell & Marilyn Loveless: We tell them that although many Amish practices appear to be, and sometimes are, “environmentally friendly,” they usually don’t have that intent. It’s the English who try to make the Amish into model environmental citizens.

The Amish believe that the natural world was created by God for human use. The Amish see no need to alter their behaviors to try to somehow protect the world they have been given, because God is in charge.

Amish homestead in Rexford, Montana. Photo by Marilyn Loveless

The Amish do pay attention to their natural surroundings, but they don’t subscribe to an environmental agenda. They usually don’t see that their behaviors have caused any problems. Although they mostly comply with regulations about manure management, food safety, and so forth, they generally regard them as unnecessary government overreach, costly and a waste of time.

The Amish we talked with were dismissive of the idea that we are experiencing an environmental crisis. They saw environmentalists as “tree-huggers” and “animal-rights activists” and felt they were guilty of worshipping the Creation rather than the Creator. Where natural resources are concerned, human needs should take precedence over preservation.

Which “Amish practices” are most ecologically-friendly?

The Amish are focused on their family and church district in almost all aspects of their lives, and they draw many of the resources they need from their local landscape. Their patterns of consumption are close-to-home and minimize the transport costs of goods and services that are typical of non-Amish consumers.

We found that Amish were much more likely than English to get their meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products from their own or neighboring farms. They had large gardens, canned and preserved food for later use, and often gathered and hunted wild foods and game. In these ways, the Amish were “locavores” in ways that most English were not.

Canning in an Amish kitchen. Photo by Doyle Yoder

The Amish also have a more ecologically-friendly transportation profile, in spite of increased van travel and public transport in recent years. Some of the more liberal Amish families may clock 2500 to 5000 or more miles per year, on average, in vans, but they still have a far lower transportation footprint than their English neighbors.

We also found that, compared to their English neighbors, Amish in liberal affiliations were more likely to use solar panels for some home energy needs—but usually not because of an environmental commitment to renewable energy. Rather, solar panels were one of the few methods permitted by the local Ordnung for generating electrical current for small tasks, like recharging batteries.

Which are least ecologically-friendly?

We were surprised at the very high Amish use of natural gas in home heating and lighting, which significantly exceeded that of their English neighbors. While the conservative Swartzentruber households still heat primarily by wood, most other affiliations, including the Andy Weavers, have allowed access to natural gas for home heat.

We speculate that this is partly due to home size. Amish homes were significantly larger than English homes, and families tended to crank up their thermostats. Of course, Amish families also are larger than English families. This may help explain their high heating bills.

In our survey, 70 to 80 percent of non-Amish families reported recycling common materials, compared to much lower rates among Amish households. While 30-40 percent of Amish said they recycled metal and aluminum, for which recycling facilities pay, relatively few Amish families recycled paper, plastic, glass, and cardboard relative to English families.

In part, this may be due to the fact that many Amish do not have curbside pickup, and thus lack infrastructure for easy recycling. When asked, Amish often said that they reused plastic bags, but household recycling was not a strong behavioral pattern among our survey respondents.

How has Amish agriculture changed over time?

One important change that we discuss is the Amish adoption of artificial fertilizers and pesticides in the 1940s and 1950s. Chemical intensive farming was heavily promoted by agricultural extension agents at that time, and it fit with a cultural preference for neatness and straight, clean fields. Today, even the conservative Swartzentruber Amish will allow sprayers in the field.

However, there is a small, but growing, Amish organic dairy and produce movement, which started in Ohio in the 1990s, but has spread to other areas. In our book, we profile one Amish organic farming cooperative in Ohio named Green Field Farms, and we show how the co-op benefits from outsider perceptions that the Amish are wholesome and all-natural.

Green Field Farms is an Ohio-based Amish organic farming co-op. Image courtesy of Green Field Farms

Technology use on Amish farms has also changed, but in an increasingly diverse manner. The conservative groups have largely held the line on new technologies, while farmers from liberal affiliations have expanded their herds, begun relying on seed consultants, and adopted many technologies that enable them to stay competitive in the Grade A milk market.

Another big change has been the rise among the Amish of poultry and hog farming using a confined feeding approach. Some of these poultry operations raise more than 30,000 birds at a time. Amish farms still don’t approximate the size and technology of industrial agricultural operations, but it does seem necessary to re-think the label “small-scale” as it applies to some Amish farms.

In what ways are the Amish involved in the wood products industry?

Wood is incredibly important to Amish communities. Many Amish are skilled carpenters and cabinet makers, but others work in less obvious parts of the wood products industry, such as on logging crews or in sawmills. In some Amish communities in the eastern U.S., 50 percent or more of families work in the area of forestry and wood products.

Most of the available timber in the eastern U.S. is on private land. Amish timber buyers travel widely to find potential woodlots and negotiate with landowners for rights to harvest their timber. Amish logging crews then cut the timber based on the contract with the landowner. While a few Amish still do horse logging, most Amish loggers use chainsaws and gasoline-powered heavy equipment, such as grapples, tractors, and log loaders, in the woods.

Traditional Amish loggers do a relatively heavy cut, taking every tree larger than a certain size (sometimes 12” in diameter, sometimes larger). Forests cut in this way take a long time to recover. Some Amish loggers harvest more conservatively, using best-management practices, to leave the forest relatively intact for hunting or for future harvests.

Logging in the woods. Photo by Marilyn Loveless

Furniture makers work largely from components, which come from a huge number of small shops throughout the settlement. Some shops make only chair legs; other specialize in table tops; others make drawers to set dimensions. Assembly shops then utilize these components to craft final products. Shops throughout the community have agreed on a standardized set of styles and stains, so consumers can be assured that pieces from different retailers will match.

In western Amish settlements, the wood products industry is totally different, because western conifer forests do not produce hardwoods. Most timber in the west is either in national forests or in huge private holdings of major timber companies like Weyerhauser. Amish mills cannot compete with big timber companies for access to logs. But some Amish cut pole-sized Douglas fir, and there is a local industry in rustic log furniture and fence poles in the Montana and Colorado Amish settlements.

How are the Amish involved with animals from a business or economic standpoint? How does the Amish view of animals differ from, or resemble, the “English” view?

Raising livestock has always been part of the Amish tradition, but as farming has declined, other kinds of animal husbandry have become an appealing alternative. These operations don’t need much land, and the business can be run from the home, often with the participation of the whole family. Animal breeding can also be very lucrative.

Dog raising has gone from a small sideline to a major occupation for Amish in communities across the U.S. Many raise AKC breeds, while others specialize in popular hybrid puppies that are appealing to the English market, like labradoodles or pomskies. Amish dog kennels have come under scrutiny in the past for focusing more on profit than on the welfare of the animals. Regulations have been tightened recently in many states, and Amish are becoming more attentive to English sensibilities in dog breeding.

Feeding a calf. Photo by Doyle Yoder

Well-bred horses are also new to the animal breeding landscape. Amish breeders may specialize in draft horse, standard-breds, or trotters, making careful crosses to enhance favored traits. In the case of trotters, colts with racing potential are either sold or sent to trainers to groom them for the track. After their racing career is over, they often return to the Amish community, where they are in demand as “fancy” buggy horses. Horses have taken on a new role in more liberal Amish communities as sources of recreation, status, and investment.

Deer breeders use similar principles in their captive herds to produce young bucks with impressive antlers. Like fine stallions, bucks with outstanding headgear are widely sought after, and a buck with dramatic antlers can earn his owner a substantial income as a breeder, through the sale of semen straws or does bred to the buck. Two or three-year old “shooter” bucks are sold to high-fence hunting operations, where they are in demand by hunters who pay large sums for the chance to harvest a deer with a spectacular rack.

The Amish think of animals as elements of the natural world that have value and that can provide them with a good living. Animals are commodities; they are livestock. The Amish are generally unsentimental about animals because they do not have souls. In most cases, animals are handled humanely, since losing animals to poor treatment is bad business. But some Amish may cut corners, in order to keep expenses down.

Trotting sale. Photo by David McConnell

Many Amish regard their animals with a certain affection. However, they are not given the coddling that many English, especially dog owners, lavish on their pets. And some Amish are critical of these occupational choices. Said one Amish man, “Is there an opportunity there? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t feel right. If we go back to our roots, this isn’t what we want.”

In what ways do the Amish engage in nature as a means of recreation?

The Amish are engaged in lots of outdoor recreation at home and in their travels, and their enjoyment takes on many forms: camping, volleyball, softball, hunting, gardening, stargazing, fishing, birding, foraging for edible plants, looking for sheds (deer antlers), and much more. Their travels and outdoor hobbies introduce them to a wide variety of landscapes and social settings that expand their cultural experiences with non-Amish lifestyles.

Amish recreational activities are often gendered, but one growing co-educational option among the Old Order Amish in Ohio and Indiana is recreational horseback riding. At one benefit trail ride, we watched in amazement as the Saddle-up Cowgirls, a group of 13-15 year-old girls, did a choreographed riding performance, four girls dressed in pink and four in blue, with matching leggings for their horses. Because girls typically ride in jeans or sweatpants under their dresses, however, concerns about modesty prevent some Amish groups from encouraging this hobby.

Many Amish in the more liberal affiliations are also writing about or drawing nature, and they are publishing their works in a growing number of Amish-edited subscription periodicals. These Amish nature writers draw from a cultural toolkit, which usually includes relating a personal experience in nature, presenting factual information about nature, and using nature to tell a morality tale or to celebrate God’s handiwork.

With the exception of well-known Amish author David Kline, however, Amish nature writers rarely venture into the territory of “environmental writing,” which explores the collision between humans and the natural world.

Could you tell us something about two popular pastimes, birding and hunting? How widespread are each of these? Are they seen more often in certain Amish communities, age groups, or genders (etc.)?

Hunting is a longstanding and widespread pastime, but it has changed a lot in recent years because of technological advances. Many Amish now hunt with state-of-the-art crossbows, and one man told us, “Trail cameras–just about every Amish hunter uses them.” It’s not uncommon for Amish to buy or lease land near their home only for hunting. Amish girls sometimes hunt with their families, but they usually stop once they marry.

Birding has caught on in many Amish communities in the past couple of decades, and parents may promote it as a healthy pastime for their sons who they see as too focused on competitive sports or “running around” with peers. Amish birders tend to go “all out” when they are in the field, and they’ve gained a reputation among non-Amish birders for spotting and reporting rarities at a very high rate. But few Amish women are birders.

Amish birders on Lake Erie. Photo by J Daniel Paxton

Hunting and birding are definitely seen more often in certain age groups and communities than others. The younger men tend to do the big-game hunting trips out West; in Rexford, Montana, we were told that young Amish men often move there just to pursue their hunting passion. For a variety of reasons, birding got started in the Holmes County settlement and remains very strong there, but birding hotlines run by Amish are also popping up in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.

What are some of the differences across the different Holmes County Amish groups, regarding their practices and attitudes towards nature and the environment?

When we surveyed Amish and English in rural Ohio about their attitudes toward environmental issues, we found that Amish from the Andy Weaver, Old Order, and New Order affiliations all demonstrated a relative skepticism toward environmental issues. In contrast, English respondents were, on average, more environmentally concerned.

For example, all Amish groups tended to disagree that the human population was reaching a limit; they felt that the earth had plenty of resources, and they tended to disagree that the needs of other species should be considered in human decisions. On such matters, the underlying belief system among different Amish affiliations is rather similar.

However, we also discovered a spectrum of practices that followed the “conservative to liberal” gradient. In general, the more conservative groups do not travel as widely or freely for recreational purposes, and they are less conversant with global environmental issues. They are much more likely to have remained in farming, and their interactions with nature are far less mediated by technology. They are likely to have larger gardens, can more food, and in general have a more self-sufficient home economy.

Our study made it clear that the most conservative Amish do, in fact, practice a lifestyle that is local, relatively energy efficient, and low in consumption. This is the “ecological” ideal that the non-Amish imagine; however, it is based not on concern about earth’s resources, but on an Ordnung that strictly emphasizes separateness, tradition, and pre-technological ways of living.

Amish children’s stick horse race. Photo by Marilyn Loveless

Members of more liberal affiliations are much more likely to pursue nature-based occupations that cater to the desires and the purchasing power of non-Amish society. Some of their practices are difficult to distinguish from their non-Amish neighbors. They travel more, have higher consumption rates, and engage in more frequent interactions with the English world.

Overall, we were amazed by the wide diversity of practices that we found among Amish in different affiliations and settlements across the U.S.

What surprising or unexpected insights or discoveries did you have while researching and writing the book?

We encountered dozens of surprises but here are a few that stand out:

Some Amish consume a lot of commercial vitamin and mineral supplements! And they often use scientific language to justify their use of “natural” medicines.

Most Amish children maintain daily and direct contact with animals and nature and have thus far likely escaped the more negative effects of a sedentary, media-saturated lifestyle.

The Amish are very observant of natural phenomena but generally interpret them in ways that fit with their biblical framework, such as the idea that snakes are the embodiment of the devil, or that more frequent strong storms might presage the “end times” of Revelation.

The large majority of Amish do not accept the science around climate change, regarding it as a hoax, despite their close observations of the natural world.

Many Amish farms in the Midwest have come under increased scrutiny by regulatory agencies for their roles in contributing to watershed pollution, but there are some encouraging examples of Amish cooperation with local government agencies to combat agricultural runoff.

In general, the Amish we talked with were not very familiar with native wild plants and, with a few exceptions, didn’t know plants outside their garden very well.

Most Amish are suspicious of science, because they worry it will take them into territory that will challenge their biblical beliefs. But they use the fruits of science all the time, though they do so selectively.

The Amish world is very interconnected: people everywhere know people everywhere. Personal networks are very active and strong between communities across the U.S.


Nature & The Environment in Amish Life is available at Amazon among other places.

UPDATE: We have a winner for the book giveaway. I drew a number at random using random.org. The winner is comment #37, Maureen. Congrats Maureen, just email me where you’d like to have the book sent. Thanks to the authors and everyone who participated, and I hope you’ll check out the book.

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Join the Amish America Patreon for bonus videos & more!

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    54 Comments

    1. Rose Robeson

      Luv reading about Amish!

      I sooooo luv reading and learning about Amish. This book sounds fantastic! I’d love to win a copy of it!

      1. Brendan Murphy

        This book looks like a fascinating and fun read. I hope I win!

    2. Tina Bolyard

      I love to read about the Amish and their lifestyle. Would love to win this book.

    3. Very interesting

      The Amish usually can be trusted to see things without the influence of the media and from the proper perspective. I would really like to continue to read about them and this issue.

    4. Isabel Freeman

      Interesting-would like to learn more

      I have been reading about the Amish way of life through recieving the newsletter emails. This book would be a perfect addition to help my understanding of Amish culture

    5. Joe Zygala

      Amish birding

      As a birder myself, I know it can take quite a bit of traveling to get to good birding locales. How do the Amish handle this? I noticed one photo in the article of Amish birding on the shore of Lake Erie. I am guessing they hired a van for this trip, but what do they do about local birding?

      1. David McConnell

        That’s an interesting question, Joe. As you suggest, most Amish birders hire a van to take them on longer in-state trips or on out-of-state birding expeditions. But not always. Bicycles are sometimes used by birders from more liberal affiliations for shorter trips, which affords the opportunity to listen for bird calls as you ride. Among young Amish birders, the “bicycle big year” has become a regular category of competition, with some hardy souls cycling thousands of miles a year in search of rarities in a given county or multi-county area. I know of a few teenagers who even took their bikes on trains out west or to Florida. I have also seen birders from the Andy Weaver affiliation (which does not allow bicycles) using buggies or scooters to get to their favorite birding haunts. Finally, there have been a few examples of Amish birders chartering a bus for a birding trip to a favorite location. So while hired vans are probably the preferred mode of transportation, there are a lot of other creative, and less costly solutions.

    6. Book give away!

      I have always been interested in the Amish way of life. I read a Lot of Amish romances and I know a Lot of it isn’t true but, I am fascinated by their life. Thank you for considering me.

    7. kim

      Thanks for sharing, very informative reading.

    8. Kay Garrett

      Thank you for your insight into the Amish way of life in ways they are different and yet the same to everyone else. It gives more of a a realistic view of the Amish life and dispels a lot of the bad publicity of some issues.

      I would love the opportunity to read “Nature & The Environment in Amish Life”. Sounds like a wonderful book and well worth reading. Thank you for the chance to win a copy!

    9. Julie Armstrong Muth

      Enlightening

      Thanks for the information. Would love to “win” a copy. If I’m not chosen, will look to buy a copy in coming days

    10. Jenny lynn Fricke

      Amish Living

      This book sounds very interesting. I love reading about the Amish.It would be a blessing to win this book.

    11. Marilyn Sullivan

      So interesting

      I always enjoy reading these posts. We have lots of Amish neighbors and hire the Amish frequently. I think understanding leads to better friendships.

    12. Steve Myers

      Great Article

      What a great article. After visiting many Amish communities over the years, and reading their history and other books, I was surprised to learn more in this one article. I can imagine the book will be a winner for the careful research and details concerning Amish life. It is a welcome addition to the continued understanding of Amish life.

    13. Sheree McLean

      Great Read

      I enjoyed reading the blog post. I read so many things regarding the Amish lifestyle because it instills a sense of tranquility in me. I would love to add this book to my collection.

      Thank you,
      Ree

    14. Jim Berry

      Amish Birders

      The Amish of Wayne and Holmes Counties in Ohio have been birders for many years and are well known as such in the English birding community. They often report rarities and encourage English birders to share these sighting s with them.

    15. A Goodand Informative Read

      Enjoyed what you wrote above. Will recommend the book to my Amish Friend who owns a bookstore. Am sure she will check it out.

    16. C Heather

      Amish book giveaway

      Thank you for both the blog interview and a sampling of pictures and type of content we might expect to see in the book.

      I enjoy very much learning about all things Amish and seeing how they live.
      Would love to receive a free copy. Thanks for the site and your consideration.

      Blessings,
      C Heather

    17. Susan

      Book

      I visit Lancaster County usually once a month. I am always interested in reading about the Amish and this book sounds like a great book to own.

    18. Cyndie Miculan

      Great article!

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. It was much more in depth than I expected. I would love to read the book!

    19. Jeff Smith

      Interesting lifestyle.

      With an ever-increasing complexity in modern living, I’m envious of the Amish and their (more) simple and natural view of life. For years I’ve been riding my motorcycle through Amish homestead regions and gaining glimpses of their mysterious way of life. No one or group is perfect, but I’d say the Amish live an existence as close to the way we were intended to in the modern world. Looks like an intriguing and insightful book. Thanks for the informative article.

    20. Vickey Cordoba

      Live Green

      I am an active Live Green Ambassador where I work so would be very interested in reading this book.

    21. John Lueders

      God Centered

      I appreciate all the informative work the authors did for this very interesting book. Thank you for enlightening us to the beliefs of the many different amish groups. When your lives and world are God centered it’s easy to understand their views on nature and the environment.

    22. Tammie Edington Shaw

      Very Informative

      This is very interesting. Thank you for sharing this information about the McConnell & Loveless book. Enjoy your website.

    23. Grace McCain

      Beautiful book

      If I were to judge a book by it’s cover…I would say that this will be a sweetly fantastic book! 🙂 Would love to win a copy! Thank you!

    24. Emily

      I want to win!

      I read every post and have never posted a comment but I reeeeaaalllyyy wanna win a copy of this book!!!

    25. Nature & The Environment in Amish Life

      As an Ënglish” person, I tend to think all Amish are the same. This article clearly showed that Amish beliefs and practices can be very different. Would like to read more.
      Thank you.

    26. Dawn Hedrick

      Love reading everything on the amish. Would love to read more on this book.

    27. Loved

      I have read a few Amish books but none were like this. Nothing was a repeat from reading other books. Loved it. Keep up the great writings.

    28. Lisa Moore

      Davis & Marilyn

      Book sounds very interesting would love to be able to trade it

    29. Neal Franke

      Amish and nature.

      Very true. I deal with them and most are just trying to survive. They have to take care of their stock. It’s their llively hood.

    30. Pamela Miller

      Sounds Like a Great Book!

      I have read many books on the Amish lifestyle, but from what I have read
      about this book, it seems like the authors have found information on
      the many different Amish communities that I have not seen before.
      I would love to win this book.

    31. Elizabeth Butler

      I love anything to do with the Amish

      This book sounds like it is going to be a good book.I love anything to do with the Amish, I think it’s is very neat and earth friendly how they live and I would love to be Amish.

    32. Walter Boomsma

      Connection...

      Interesting… the word “connection” seems important when thinking about the Amish. They are connected to each other and, in a very real way, to nature and agriculture. Perhaps they practice a more practical form of environmentalism! Living it is different than talking about it.

    33. Vivian Furbay

      book giveaway

      Enjoyed reading your article and the pictures.

    34. Stephanie H.

      Insight of the Amish World

      I always love learning more about the Amish and their ways of living. This book seems to bring insight of the Amish world and I can’t wait to get a copy to read it. Thanks for the giveaway!

    35. Dana

      interesting

      interesting insight, as usual!

    36. Jo Ann Betts

      I treasure reading these posts. Love learning the culture. Two years ago I had 8 old order Amish visit me. The rented a tdriver. I would visit the same home every year on Bird In Hand to an Amish lady who sold from her basement. We got friendly year after year. So I invited her to come. She came with her girl friend and they drought 6 children I took them to the ocean and the sound on longhorn island. They stayed two nights. It was wonderful

      I love your posts. Two years ago I had 8 old order Amish come visit me on LI. They rented a driver with a van. I met them 6 years ago and went to her store I. Her cellar every year. So 2 years ago I invited them. She came with her friend Eva and 6 children between them. They stayed 2 nights and I took them to the ocean and sound. My daughter drives and I drive so we took them. One lady son builds sheds on the island and she asked us to drive to where he was working that day. It was a great visit

    37. Maureen

      Aced It!

      Erik,

      David McConnell & Marilyn Loveless capture a a true assessment of being Amish in present times.

      Thank you so much for this read that, to my way of thinking, clarifies Amish lifestyle which is far less simple than The English imagine.

    38. Lee Annette Natarelli

      Love this in-depth article

      This is a very in depth article. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer Erik’s questions. I’v learned soooo much more about the Amish as a whole.

    39. A long time Amish lover

      I would be so honored to receive this book. I have admired the Amish way of life, since visiting the Amish community in Lancaster, PA with my family in the early 1980s.
      Thanks so much for sharing!

    40. Erik K

      "Don't breed or buy while shelter pets die"

      My title refers both to a bumper sticker I occasionally see and to a philosophy. It would be interesting if these book authors followed up their book by asking for Amish opinions about that philosophy. The raising of in-demand dog breeds discourages people from adopting shelter pets. Some people think this is wasteful or senseless. I also wonder whether any Amish think it is vain and worldly to care about the appearance and breed of pets, and whether they think that breeders should not cater to such vanity/worldliness. Erik, is it possible to ask the authors about this?

      1. Good questions you raise Erik, the book does discuss dog breeding in some depth. I don’t have it in front of me right now to see what it might say on these topics, but I will bring your question to the authors’ attention.

        1. Maureen

          An "English" thing

          “Erik K” indeed asks excellent questions. From what I know, Amish do not interact with their pets in the way the English do. I have seen them at horse auctions, admire qualities in horses – in terms of mostly age, strength, and endurance. I know Amish who have boarder collies for their terrific herding traits, several I know have male female great Pyrenees to guard their farms. I feel confident in saying that Amish I know hold animals’ worth as what they can do for the Amish in terms of “work” – getting the job done. Indeed Amish cater to the English that want a pure breed dog, and who do not want to wait or pay the high price of a well bread, healthy dog of any classification – toy, hound, herding, working, sport, etc.

          The Amish know “the English” show their pet breeds for “looks” as well as traits,. I do know they find it amusing seeing a dog in a stroller [as many English do as well]. The Amish in this area never seem to have their dogs on leashes, and are more barn dogs.

          Moreover, New York state has the most retail stores for mostly dog sales. [Many here are looking to change this fact]. These sick, poorly bred dogs come from puppy mills where dogs are bred in horrific conditions, underfed, never see the light of day, and stacked in crates. They’re sold cheap and sick, living in awful conditions. Dogs in these retail stores are never coming from respectable breeders following ACC specifications.

        2. Marilyn Loveless

          Amish dog breeders

          We never heard any of our Amish interviewees mention the idea of adopting pets from a shelter. Amish specialty dog breeders do this as a way to earn a living. There is an active market for particular breeds of dogs, and they can meet that demand while making a good income. In general, they do not question the reasons why their customers want particular breeds, but they are attentive to what other breeders are providing and make decisions about what dogs they will breed in order to capitalize on perceived demand. The notion that their dogs might prevent customers from adopting shelter animals is unlikely to be something they even consider.

          There are some Amish across all the affiliations who are quietly critical of dog breeding by church members. They see it as inconsistent with Amish values, in part because it is highly lucrative, and also because it means shaping your business around English tastes. It would be better, they would say, if Amish earned their living in ways that meet the daily needs of families and communities, not by catering to commercial demands from the outside world. These internal critics are also concerned about reports of poor practices by some breeders and worry about the negative publicity that dog breeding has brought to the Amish. But we don’t have a sense that they fault Amish dog breeders for complying with the desires of non-Amish customers for particular specialty dogs. While the Amish by choice seek to avoid worldliness and vanity, their economic pragmatism outweighs any potential concerns they might have about how these desires are expressed by the outside world.

    41. Maureen

      Amish Dog Breeders

      Marilyn you said this so well and exact.

      There is something not right – beyond contrary with Amish who say nothing about other Amish making lots of money catering to the English taste for pure bred dogs via the cruel, inhumane puppy mills.

      I cannot be convinced that Amish do not know they’re is something amiss in breeding dogs that are kept in brutal conditions. Plainly it’s wrong to breed over and over and keep dogs – living, breathing creatures in horrendous conditions for their lifetime. Polar temperatures, stacked in cages, living in the dark, without medical treatment, filthy drinking water, and barely enough to eat. Everyone knows this is wrong. For a highly lucrative profit? Conveniently no conscience.

      This highly religious group playing blind and mute to a sin against God’s creatures, catering to the English taste for lucrative dollars, is far from being plain, kind, and gentle people.

      Both you and David McConnell gave true assessments on the Amish and their way of life, that gave me more insight to ponder. Thank you.

      1. Marilyn Loveless

        Dog breeders fall on a spectrum

        Maureen:
        Thank you for your comment and for voicing your concerns.

        Amish dog breeders represent a broad spectrum of practices. The publicity that Amish dog breeders have faced, as a result of criticisms like those from “Oprah” and from the Humane Society, has caused many breeders to make significant changes in their practices. Over the past decade, several states have enacted legislation to improve the minimum conditions in breeding kennels. It is still possible for breeders, both Amish and non-Amish, to get around those requirements, but we found that many Amish breeders in Ohio are making changes to their kennels to bring their practices more in line with what non-Amish might expect. Dogs are receiving better veterinarian care; they are increasingly provided with outdoor exercise and better caging situations. We visited one Amish kennel which was truly state-of-the-art, with heating, air conditioning, outdoor runs, and a high level of cleanliness. Although there are still horror stories, both among Amish and non-Amish breeders, it’s important to be aware of the diversity that you can find among different dog operations.

        As we note in our book, the Amish are much less sentimental about their animals than most English pet owners might be. Amish attitudes toward animals are very much analogous to the ideas we might have found in our own, non-Amish rural ancestors who lived a farming life. To the Amish, animals are God’s creations, but animals do not have souls, and thus can be viewed in more instrumental terms. Like other livestock, dogs are a source of livelihood. But many Amish have come to understand that their non-Amish customers expect that their breeding facilities are humane and treat animals well. If an Amish breeder sells directly from his farm, buyers can ask to see the breeding facilities, and can get a clear sense of how the breeding dogs (as well as the puppies they might buy) have been treated. It is more problematic to track breeding conditions if you are buying puppies from a pet store, where you don’t have the opportunity to see the conditions under which the puppies are born and raised.

        1. Maureen

          Dog Breeders fall on a spectrum

          Marilyn, this in an honor.

          Like your book, your post had a calming effect on my soul.

          Speaking of souls, this Amish “reasoning” that animals lack souls has been explained to me by the Amish as well. But good sense dictates this “reasoning” has no relevance with the basic needs of a living creature.

          Anyone running a puppy mill for profit, both Amish and non-Amish, , know better than to breed dogs in deplorable conditions. As you point out legislation has been put into place in several states, and as you said; “It is still possible for breeders, both Amish and non-Amish, to get around those requirements….” Here’s that thing. Many non-Amish trust the Amish. Many non-Amish believe the Amish are a kinder, gentler, more passive people. So they would never imagine Amish trying to “get around those requirements”.

          So when The English are on vacation, driving the country roads of upstate New York, or Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indianapolis, Wisconcin, etc., and they see a sign, “Puppies For Sale” and two young Amish kid’s are petting a puppy by the sign – “The English” are filled with all kinds of emotions. Quite a aly marketing technique on “The English”. Then the vacationers get their pup home, and it’s very sick! Or not quite the blood lines they were told. This is shady business altogether..

          I thought better of the Amish. This is my ignorance. Your book gave me a better understanding.

    42. Victoria

      Amish in Kansas

      For 40 yrs. I have lived in the country outside of Wakefield, Ks without many neighbors. Some Amish from Pennsylvania have bought 1000 acres here & houses are going up all over my area. Feeling a bit overwhelmed. I need to know about these people. I have tried waving at them when they go by in horse/buggies but they do not respond to me being friendly. They don’t even look at my house when they go by it. I have a fear of the unknown & the Amish are unknown to me. I really need this book to better understand, what I’m up against. I’d like to know just how many of them are moving here & how many houses will be built. ANY information about these Wakefield,Kansas Amish would be greatly appreciated. I’m just an old woman, who needs to be able to relax about her new neighbors. Thank you for any help/information you can give me. God bless

    43. joe mauk

      I have always fund the amish to be an interesting group. would ove t win the book. thank you!

    44. Jamie Vaughn

      Book

      I would love to read this book!

    45. Doty Klein

      Very good to read about the things that are happening in the Amish communities ... much more than I ever realized . thank for educating us all

      Very good to read about the things that are happening in the Amish communities … much more than I ever realized . thank for educating us all

    46. Joao Pedro Souza Matos

      I would like to download this book to learn more.

    47. Maggie

      I have been reading the Amish gardening and am excited to get started with my own gardens. I will be looking for canning tips