Friday, December 10, 2010

Leadership Values

While trolling Animal Rights sites recently I found some interesting thoughts on leadership. It started innocently enough in a conversation about animal care. The site administrator was berating a couple of farmers for the fact that they were exploiting animals. The comment was made that if you were making money from animals, you were exploiting them, and you should be stopped. The farmer in the conversation then asked if those thoughts were the stand of the HSUS. The administrator said they didn’t know, they didn’t work for HSUS, but they were just huge fans.

Over the past several months, this same group of people has been photographed with the president of HSUS. They have received acknowledgement for their efforts in fighting Humanewatch. But they don’t know if the stand they have taken is the same as the official stand of the HSUS?

I’m not sure if I think they believe that statement or not. But that isn’t the question.

Every organization, given enough time, comes to mirror the values of their leader. It works that way, or it should anyway. Find a strong leader and you will most likely find a strong aggressive company. If the company motto goes along these lines,”it’s great to want to soar with the eagles, but at least weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.” you’ll find a company that has questionable abilities and ethics. Company heads surround themselves with people who will help push forward their agenda, and mirror their values.

So when the HSUS tells us that it isn’t in any way against animal agriculture, but it gets repeated over and over again by their supporters, people that the leadership doesn’t distance themselves from, what are we supposed to think? I’m aware of the fact that they’ve done some good things, but when the leadership uses ads that demean all of animal agriculture by association, that doesn’t seem like they are going out of their way to work with the average farmer/rancher.

I know they will tell us that their position is well thought out, scientific, that they are working with ranchers and farmers and are in no way anti ag, I’m going to take that with a grain of salt.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Have A Merry Civil Christmas

Ho, Ho Ho and all that other merry crap. I'm not a huge fan of Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I love what Christmas is really all about, but unfortunately it gets lost in all the noise. And more and more, all of the noise is unfortunately feeling like a year round thing. It used to be that Christmas was the time when everyone went out of their way to be just a little nicer than they were for the rest of the year. Now a days being nice at all would be an upgrade.
Trolling some conversations lately, it seems the tolerance level has reached a level of intolerance that makes almost any conversation impossible. It seems that if I don't agree with you, it must be that I have an agenda, I am a horrible person, or you are a waste of resources. Both sides of the animal rights argument are guilty of this kind of intolerance. Are we so short of patience and kindness these days that we can't be civil to each other?
In the time I've spent  recently on Facebook, I've been trying to slow down and be a bit more aware of what the people that I'm interacting with may be going through. People have a lot going on in their lives that we may not know about. There is so much hurt out there that it blows me away. And that gets me to my wish for Christmas.
It's time for us to focus our energy on caring for those around us, not beating each other up. Be a spouse to your spouse. Be a parent to your kids. Be the friend that you wish you had. Find and interact with someone who you think needs a person to talk to. Each of us knows someone who needs that friend. It costs nothing, and the rewards for sharing the love of this season could very well be eternal. :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

What is Natural Behavior?

So in some recent conversations with some of my animal rights friends, the topic of animals needing to exhibit natural behavior, a dust bath, perching, etc. came up. It got me really wondering about that whole topic.
How many of us, as humans, exhibit what we would call “natural behavior”? Isn’t what we do molded by the restraints that society places on us? A humorist whose name escapes me at the moment, suggested once that left to his own devices, a man would drink beer, chase women, and scratch himself insistently. But society has placed on us limitations for what they feel is morally and socially acceptable for a thriving community. In the same way that we aren’t allowed more than one spouse, we aren’t allowed to murder, rape and pillage. Societal values shape our lives and actions.
So if we need to allow animals to exhibit their natural behaviors, what does that mean for agriculture? Even more, what does that mean for the livestock in our care? While I’m making a few assumptions here, most people, imho, (in my humble opinion), see what they want to see in regards to animal care and behavior. It’s easy to see when you look at the warm and fuzzy videos posted by many animal rescue groups. A 400+ pound sow is taped lying on a bed of straw being petted by her caretaker, and has never shown them any signs of being aggressive. Yet put her in a group setting and she can get mean. Real mean. Cows out on pasture are all calmly eating and they wouldn’t hurt a flea, but they have a fairly complex hierarchy, one that involves pushing the more timid cows away from the choicest feeds. A mother turkey spreading her wings over her flock. Not the picture of her losing her chicks in tall grass, or to predators. The list goes on. The animal rights crowd sees the warm and fuzzy, but overlooks the more brutal part of animal behavior.
So what does that mean for us in animal Ag? It means an uphill climb. How do we show people with no connection to the farm, this side of the farm? I really don’t know, but making videos that are all happy and sunshine, while important, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Some of that is going to require that we put ourselves out there, let people see what we do, all of it. And in a move I can’t believe I’m saying, ask some of these animals rights folks to work with us, read that beside us, to further their understanding of animal behavior and how we in animal ag are working with that.. And if you want to talk about unnatural behavior, well there you go.