Sunday, September 12, 2010

Your Darn Right It's A Matter Of Trust

One of the biggest problems both the Ag industry and the animal rights’ groups deal with is a lack of trust. They don’t think we have an ounce of compassion, and our side feels they will go to any lengths to make us look bad. Let’s face it, we don’t trust each other to do the right things, and that starts where our core beliefs are based from. But when neither side will give on things like the use of animals for food, what do we do?

Well, for starters, we can take a look at our own industry and critically think about the decisions that we make. Now I’ve discussed some of these before so I won’t go back over all of them, but NO NEEDLESS SUFFERING.  Enough said.

But the one that I’d like to address here is our trusting of the anti-ag folks. Unfortunately it isn’t always in our best interest to be all that trusting.   They say that when we deny access to facilities we must be hiding something.  We, as an industry, have been burned by radicals from the other side who fully feel the ends justify the means. I know we need to start a dialogue with these folks, but to what extent? Do you, like me, feel that you distrust them and while they might love animals, they don’t feel as warm and fuzzy about us in Ag?

I found a bit of an answer to that in an unlikely place, Popular Science, in their August edition, page 58. Within an article called “Science Confirms the Obvious “is a smaller article called”Environmentalists Can Be Smug Jerks”. It asked the question, if going green translates into “more redeeming behavior overall”. Subjects were exposed to green products, and were found to be more charitable, a halo effect. But when someone purchased one of these products, it seemed to be a license for hypocrisy. After a purchase they were more likely to lie or steal.  It would seem that buying green gives people a sense of moral capital (aka a superiority complex).  Does this kind of attitude sound familiar?  I touched a bit on this in the blog “who cares”.

Now admittedly I’m making the stretch to apply this same thinking to animal rights.  But it’s a parallel that looks to me, to fit. But why the attitude? In a recent  discussion with an animal rescue proponent, I got put down, talked down to and more or less beat up for supporting Ag, even though they had no idea where I stood on any ag issue. I know they say they love animals, but they don’t always treat their fellow man very well. We shouldn’t be making the same mistake. Treat them with the respect that all people deserve, but cover ourselves where the trust issue is concerned.

What's A Food Chain?

Recent conversations with a group of animal rights folks, has led me to believe that the food pyramid is going to be changed. Or rather, thrown out.  As in do over, baby out with the bath water, start from scratch. Why you ask? The American public eats way too much meat, waaayyy too much. ITHO (In Their Humble Opinion). We aren’t the top of the food chain, somehow we are above or separate from it.

Well, we eat more because of demand, availability, convenience etc, but are modern farming methods forcing the food pyramid/ food chain? I personally find that quite a reach. But the argue goes that people have nutritional options and because we are caring, the most caring people among us will decide for the rest of us what that is.

But I digress. The opinion that we are no longer part of the food chain is what really intrigued me. That we have evolved into higher beings. Conversations have been held where we are told that the way modern farming method treats animals, isn’t natural and thus can’t be right. I don’t disagree that it isn’t natural, nature is much more brutal. Death is certain for all of us, but for animals in the wild that moment is very uncertain and they live in a state of constant vigilance and fear. Domestic animals are domesticated for a reason, they’ve been bred to live in conditions that don’t resemble nature in any way. An environment void of predators, weather stress, and ample food is something that animals don’t encounter outside of captivity.

But if we raise animals for food, we are causing them to suffer for no reason other than for our own ends, and we have options. Suffering is a part of life. The two are inexorably linked. I asked Megan, if her own life included any suffering and got a curious, “well yes” response. If we are unable to eliminate suffering in the lives of the people around us, it seems to me to be unreasonable to expect us to rid the production of animals for food from “ALL” suffering. It’s an unrealistic standard that no one can attain.

So does that mean we do nothing? Absolutely not. It is our obligation to care for the animals we raise, and to do it in a way that values their lives.  Take only pictures, leave only footprints, is a great motto for national parks, but as we humans leave our mark, time will tell what that means.