Normally I feel pretty optimistic about agriculture and raising food. It’s a timeless vocation, and everybody needs to eat. What makes both my brain and my heart hurt are those who want to determine through fear what we should and should not eat.
Animal rights extremists are part of the picture farmers can no longer ignore. While I fully believe in caring for and treating animals well, I also believe in eating meat, milk, eggs, and other animal products. This unfortunately puts me at odds with many animal rights groups who, if you look closely, really aim to end all animal agriculture.
Don’t get me wrong — if someone wants to eat a purely plant-based diet they should absolutely be allowed that choice. I should be sensitive to that, and there’s no need for me to judge. In many cases we can get along and even learn from each other.
But everyone needs to be allowed to make their own food choices on the spectrum. When organized groups start trying to scare and manipulate people into avoiding animal protein, then I take issue.
Things get further confusing when you realize groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), give comparatively little to pet shelters and spend lots on lobbyists trying to influence policy against livestock farming.
As a side note, if you care about homeless pets, PLEASE give directly to your local shelter or rescue. They will put those dollars to work in your community, and you’ll avoid fattening the budget of misleading groups like HSUS. I’m an animal and pet lover as well as a farmer, and I’ve come to realize it’s so important to research the pet and animal charities you give to.
When groups do release videos of animal cruelty, we as farmers are left saying again and again that we don’t condone animal mistreatment. These cruel images are not the norm. A vast majority of farmers have a lot of integrity for what they do, and they care about their animals.
And I really believe that’s true. So many farms of all sizes have been in families for generations. Pride, responsibility, and a strong work ethic permeate the farming culture. Families raise their kids on the land, they drink the water, and they teach their children to help with animal feeding and care.
Still, people are left wondering where these videos keep coming from. If they’re not the norm, why don’t they go away?
To this, I think the answer is two-fold. First, it can be very profitable to be an animal rights group that scares people. Groups like PETA and HSUS take in millions every year and spend large amounts on fundraising and salary to continue the cycle. Sensational videos tug at people’s emotions and get them to open their wallets. Beyond that, I’m sure some of the people within these organizations really believe the hype. They may think farms are truly bad places, they completely misunderstand them, or they want to stop everyone from eating animal protein. They’re working for a cause, and they’ll do whatever it takes to advance that cause.
This brings me again to the real question . Where do they keep getting these videos?
I’ve been thinking about that lately, and a simple example occurred to me. So just follow me for a minute…
If you take a picture of me with strep throat or the flu, I’m going to look a lot worse than I would on an average day when I’m doing normal things. I’ll probably have a blotchy face, red nose, and appear to be unhealthy.
Or, if you took a video of me the day after a 20 mile run, I’d probably look sore and stiff on my legs. That’s not representative of how I normally walk and move, but that would be what you see.
I think this parallels what extreme animal rights activists are doing as they dig and dig to find disturbing images to release. They get their people to pose as normal workers for varying periods of time and discreetly film (and sometimes create) situations that looks bad. They will quit or disappear once they finally get their footage – without ever reporting any problem. Some of this disturbing video may indeed be a frustrated worker making a bad decision or deliberately causing harm. And they need to be held properly accountable for that. Much more is likely an unfortunate situation where an animal is sick or hurt. It stinks, but these things happen to people and they happen to animals too. It’s not fun, but on our farm we do our best with the resources we have to treat any animal that needs. Sometimes farmers have to put an animal down. That’s not fun either. Awhile back I called it the worst job on a farm.
Some things on a livestock farm are dirty and bloody, and there’s just no way around it. But more often things on a farm are about country living, contended animals eating and resting, new babies being born, and regular people going about day to day chores.
I suppose that’s why I blog about topics like this — so we can remember. If I don’t talk about it, if other farmers don’t talk about it, nobody will.
I wish you all a great autumn week as we head into October. If you’ve got questions or comments on this topic I’m all ears!