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Posts Tagged ‘humane’

If you read the animal rights web sites, the essential message is that today’s livestock producers are a bunch of sadistic, money-grubbing jerks who get rich by exploiting and routinely mistreating their animals (a.k.a. “food-production units”). As one who grew up on a livestock farm, has friends and relatives who raise livestock, and knows many various types of producers, this is so absurd it might be laughable if it weren’t so blatantly false, misleading and downright slanderous. Truth is, the great majority of producers not only treat their animals well out of their own self interest, but also because they have a real affinity for the animals they raise. And that fondness comes early and stays late. Just a few examples:

• The memories of baby chicks, pigs, and calves will stay with me forever. I used to love hanging out in the barn with my dad while he milked the cows, largely because I just liked cows. Several decades later I still background (pasture) some beef calves. My goal is always to try to make a little money, but truthfully, even more than that I just enjoy having them around.
• A story that’s been in my family for about fifty years now is about my cousin, who at three years old liked his family’s pigs so much that one day they found him sitting buck-naked and armpit-deep in a mud hole (the way pigs used to keep cool in the old days) with a couple of his porcine buddies. What does he do now? He and his son raise hogs.
• I belong to a Quaker church where an important part of the service is “open worship,” where people have the opportunity to stand and share a reflection on the sermon, a thought, a problem or whatever’s on their hearts. I’ll never forget the time in the early ‘80’s when a fifty-something dairy farmer stood and shared that he had decided to participate in a USDA dairy herd buyout, which was designed to reduce the national milk surplus by buying the herds of participating producers. He wept uncontrollably as he shared the grief of giving up his lifelong work with his beloved cows. A month later he died unexpectedly.
• I know a couple of transplanted Dutchmen who own some of those supposedly big, bad CAFO’s. Both had been dairymen in the Netherlands on a much smaller scale, but when asked why they work so hard and manage so much risk, both answered (independently, in their best English) without hesitation—“I’ve got the cows in me blood.”

My experience is that livestock producers tend to gravitate toward whatever species they raise, not just because of the profit potential, but because they happen to genuinely like that animal—they like to be around them, enjoy working with them, and get a kick (figurative, mostly) out of them—rather than getting their kicks by treating them badly.

Are there farmers who mistreat their animals? There probably are, and if you go to the right web site, the animal rights people will be more than happy to show you some examples. But those are the exceptions. By far.

Bottom line? If the animal rights crowd wants to foist that farmers-mistreat-their-animals crap on people who are unfamiliar with agriculture with the help of some twisted facts and clever photography designed to play on emotions, they can apparently fool some of the people quite a bit of the time. But not this one. I’ve been there and it ain’t so.

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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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