Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lights, Camera, Action?

Recently video came to light that showed a hired hand in Ohio abusing, well more or less everything on the farm. A certifiable sadist that had no respect for life in any form. Yep, the animal welfare folks went crazy. Everything from we told you so, to factory farming is inherently cruel with no respect for life. Calls went out for mandatory third party verification of surveillance camera footage. I mean if you don’t have anything to hide, why would you object, right?

But an interesting difference in philosophy came to the forefront. Calls from the Ag community for the prosecution of the cameraman started to come out. With the thought process that anyone who cared about animals would have put a stop to the abuse first and foremost, tell the boss and then the boss can fire him. The animal welfare community couldn’t believe the Ag community wanted to shoot the messenger, after all he was risking his life to see justice done, and I mean the owner was seen violently kicking a cow to get her up. The owner can’t be expected to fix this; he’s part of the problem.

It is my feeling that both sides of the argument have their valid points. Animal abuse cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute. There is the general feeling among the animal rights folks that the laws have been watered down by big Ag to prevent anyone from being charged. The Ag community feels that people who don’t understand animals, think everything we do with animals is inherently cruel and that animal rights groups should not be setting the standards of animal care.

No one involved in Ag argued the hired hands abuse, some defended the owner, but we lost the most ground with attacks on the cameraman. I’m pretty sure if the cameraman was involved, law enforcement will find the connection and take the appropriate measures.

We do have some challenges in the area of animal abuse laws. The abuse filmed in Ohio isn’t a felony under Ohio law. Is it abuse in my state? I’m not sure, but it should be. The question that comes out is what constitutes abuse? A swift kick, a swat with a hand, a cattle prod, or a pitchfork? The phrase that comes to mind was a quote on pornography. When asked for a definition of pornography, the speaker said, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” The routine handling of animals shouldn’t necessarily leave itself open to that question.

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