Thursday, August 19, 2010

Defend What?

So after the recent videos that surfaced showing a herdsman abusing cows, I really had to think long and hard about how those of us in Ag respond to abuse cases.
What is the proper response to wanting to beat some ignorant abusive idiot half to death twice?

I know what you are thinking, this guy is an order of fries short of a happy meal, and he is going be profound? Yep, made me laugh too, but with a little help from some friends, I have this to offer.

Condemn, Defend and Debate.

Condemn the abuse we see unconditionally. While the details might look like they are entirely too convenient for the animal rights crowd, the cold hard fact is that animals got abused. That, in and of itself should be enough to make our blood boil, and for us to want justice too. We need to let the justice system do its job. If there are details that look too neat, it makes us look bad if we are the ones looking for the black helicopters. The details usually come out.

Defend the common practices we use on the farm, and know why we do them. Clipping eye teeth, docking pig tails, debeaking hens, or castrating livestock. And really know why we use them. Be able to produce pictures of a young piglet that has had its’ face ripped up by another piglet who didn’t get his teeth clipped. Maybe a little graphic but, the animal rights folks need to see the consequences of their actions as well.  We need to understand that the animal rights folks won’t like many of the practices that we use, and that’s okay, but we need to know the details of our decisions.
Debate.  There are things that go on at a farm that we need to talk about. Veal Crates, gestation crates, and battery cages are all things that we presently use, but have we asked all the questions that we need to about animal comfort?  The whole realm of what an animal finds important is also important to use, but is really hard to define. Hard scientific facts on happiness? What makes me happy, stresses you out. If we can’t define degrees of happiness, or guarantee the total absence of stress in humans, making that determination in animals is really hard. When we get into debates about this stuff, it is too easy to question the experience that the opposition is using to make their calls. So many of them have never been to a farm, met a farmer, yet instinctively “know” what is important to an animal. And to some extent they may be somewhat right, wrong is wrong, and their feelings can’t be denied. But not knowing animals and animal behavior can make them see one thing and interpret it through human eyes and emotions.
But in my interactions, I’ve found most of the animal rights side will listen to a reasonable discussion. Some won’t, don’t waste your time on them.

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