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Archive for February, 2010

I have a beef with the animal rights people. They’re telling lies about my relatives. But before I get too far into that, just a little bit of personal historical perspective.

My great-great-great grandfather, John Borden was an original settler and farmer in Miami County, Indiana in 1848. John’s son was Oliver, Oliver’s son was Joseph, Joseph’s son was Everett, and one of Everett’s daughters, Maryellen, married my dad, George Boone. They all raised livestock—pigs, cows, chickens. My grandmother’s father, Charles Edwards (other side of the family), was an outstanding and well-known dairyman in his day.

They were all good, honorable people. They worked hard, were good citizens, served as township trustees, county commissioners, school board members and leaders in their churches and communities. By raising livestock, they were practitioners of an ancient and honorable profession, and were respected for it. Although some of their methods are considered antiquated by today’s standards, in their time they treated their animals well to the best of their ability.

Time passed. In my generation there were six grandsons. Instead of everyone going into farming as they had for generations, four (yours truly included) went off to college in search of a “better life.” Only two are farmers today—one raises crops only, the other raises livestock (pigs) with his son.

Despite the fact that my present-day, pig-raising cousin uses methods that are scientific, tested, and far advanced to anything that his and my forebears could have imagined, he, and tens of thousands of excellent livestock producers like him, are receiving more undeserved bashing than the previous five generations combined. Things like “They exploit animals.” Or “They practice inhumane methods just to make money.” Or “They abuse the animals.” Or “…those factory farms.” And the list goes on.

Why this reversal in a matter of just a few years, in spite of the fact that my cousin’s pigs today are raised in conditions their (the pigs’) ancestors never dreamed of? Because it’s a well-orchestrated, extremely well-funded, public relations effort designed for one single purpose—to discredit people like my cousin and drive them out of business, in order to further their vegan agenda. They want to snatch the burger or ham out of your bun, or the milk out of your glass, and replace it with some veggie concoction—all because of their fanatical opinion that people shouldn’t eat meat.

They’re masters of deception and distortion. Are there abuses in the livestock system? Sure, and I believe the genuine abusers should be run out of business. But those are the exceptions, by far.

But these masters of deception and distortion would have you believe that standards that have been proven humane and healthy by scientific research are cruel and sick by twisting the facts and appealing to people’s uninformed emotions. And that the rare abuses that do occur are the rule, rather than the exception. Applied to other situations, it’s the equivalent of suggesting that OJ Simpson is stereotypical of retired footballers; that Bernie Madoff is a typical investment counselor; or that all cruises are the Titanic.

It’s a lie. It’s wrong. And it makes me want to throw up. But they’re getting a lot of people to believe it because: 1) they’re slick, excellent manipulators of the facts; 2) most people today are several generations removed from being able to visit Grandpa’s farm, and consequently don’t recognize garbage when they hear it; and 3) farmers are an easy target—they just want to do their jobs and take care of their animals—not be PR people.

I said earlier that I was one of those who chose to go another direction other than raising livestock for a living. I’ve lived in both camps (farm kid and non-farming adult) and feel I have some perspective on this subject. To this day, there is a part of me that wishes I had raised livestock for a living because I genuinely enjoy working with and around animals. And there’s another part of me that says that with all the complexities— risk, stress, volatility and now bashing— involved in modern livestock production, I don’t know why anyone would want to do it.

But one thing I do know—today’s livestock producers are getting a very, very bad rap. It’s one of the most calculated, undeserved hatchet jobs I’ve ever witnessed, and in my own small way, I want to say “enough!”

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