Friday, April 16, 2010

Spring Farm Safety: Children

Welcome to our first of a series of Farm Safety Blogs by guest blogger Glen Blahey, CRSP, Provincial Farm Safety Coordinator. Thanks Glen!

The sun is out and so are the children.  With more vigour then last year and a curiosity that has grown by 10 times.  So what should we be doing to protect them?  The gut reaction is to say they were here last year and they know.  But the question is; are they really able to recognize all the risks that exist on your farm and are they able to understand cause and effect?

Most child development professionals will tell you that young children have relatively short attention spans and they can not perceive consequences such as a critical injury.  So we should be doing a few things to help our children grow and thrive.

Firstly, boundaries need to be established – no wandering around the farm yard, workshop, barns, sheds and so on unsupervised.  The best solution is a safe play area – an enclosed space that keeps the toddlers from wandering off.  They need a space where they can play and be safe.  The Manitoba Government has a grant program for farm families to help offset the cost of building such areas –

Secondly, children should only accompany adults to work areas when there is someone to continually supervise that child.  If the supervisor is busy working who is watching the child as they explore – and perhaps disappear from sight behind a wheel, into a pen or to the edge of the lagoon?

Thirdly, we all want to share with our children what we do, and they are like gigantic sponges that soak up the mechanical things we do like turn the key in the ignition, unlatch a gate or flip a switch. But before we get too carried away showing 4 year old Johnny how to start the tractor and shift it into gear, we need to remember that it is not a toy, Johnny will remember what we show him, but he will not understand what to do if he wanders over to that tractor when no one is watching and starts it and shifts it into gear.

Our children are our most precious ‘crop’ – protect it. 

The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his states and all their clans are preserved.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Protecting Our Comfort Zone

Do you have these signs up around your industry, your cause, your work?  I'm sure you do!  We all do, some are small and only in certain areas (personal or private information, places where we are just ourselves).  Others are industry or cause wide. They stop us from doing important work because they limit our audience, our scope, our very reach to do our work.

You say, "Not us!" or "Not here!" but yes it is you, and yes it is here.

This is what I have learned, from the inside to the outside, from the outside in.  There comes a time when we run out of converts in our own church (horse industry, pork industry, beef, dairy, sheep, goat, GMO seeds, pick yours).

There comes a time when you have to choose between meeting the outside world and speaking out for what you stand for, believe in and work at.  Or choose to say inside your comfort zone, put up the yellow and black tape and hide away - hoping that the big bad media, activists, consumers, competition just magically get smart or go away.

Folks, I am here to tell you that when you end up with no one but the converted to talk to, it is time to stop talking and start communicating outside the comfort zone.

Horse industry - are you for or against horse slaughter?  Are you for or against welfare?  Are you for or against eventing, rodeo, trail riding, pony rides at fairs?  Are you willing to stand up outside your comfort zone and say that?  Are you for or against owners of horses who do not belong to an organized horse group? What is your stand on spade bits, tie downs and quirts?  Do you have a breed preference that is blinding you to horse industry wide issues?

That gasp you heard, the one that sucked all the dust off of everyone's key boards is the collective gasp of someone being told to get the lead out.  Suck it up, you won't be popular for speaking out.  Suck it up, you won't even be able to convince everyone your point of view has value.  Speaking up isn't about popular nor is it about consensus.  It is about sharing what you know, the information you have with those who do not know it, have it and need it.  It is not about you.

Speaking out is about  sharing information, providing resources, telling another side to an issue, advocating for your industry to someone other than your industry.

Pork producers telling other pork producers they are doing a great job means nothing - nothing to anyone who isn't a pork producer!  Prove to me, a consumer, that your world is changing to meet the needs of your animals, your customers.

The beef industry telling other beef producers that they are making a difference means nothing to me.  The auto industry telling its own members how good they are doing things for the consumer means nothing.  The messenger cannot spend all their time speaking to other messengers.  

Talk to ME.  On my own grounds, in my own media, in my own language about why what you are doing matters, why what you are doing should count in my score keeping, why what you are saying should be weighed any differently than anything else that is said by sources I have come to trust.

"We are concerned but really it isn't our job to do anything, it's _______'s job.  We are here to support an industry that ________ of _________.  It means jobs, it means money.  It wouldn't be an industry if no one supported it." No one wants this type of media friendly, teflon covered, wiggle word double speak.  Your media relations people LIED.

That isn't communication. That isn't a message I care to hear.  It tells me nothing except where you've taped up your "comfort zone" signs.  Tell me how I can make a difference where  I am not where you are.  

I read the news, I see the cruelty that is done.  What I don't see is proactive steps for change.  I don't see you on Facebook, I don't see you blogging, I don't see you reaching any new audiences.  We matter.  We can choose.  We can read and research and make decisions.  Go to a social networking site and do a search - how many groups, fans and discussions are going on? Hundreds? Thousands? More?  Where are you? Where is your voice?

What you need to understand is that  if you don't do your job we will assume you either cannot do it or are uninterested in doing it outside your comfort zone.  Which one is it?  You cannot speak out for horses, you cannot share resources and reach the people who are outside the easy bounds of your comfort zone?  Or don't you care enough to try?  Is the disinterest an indication of your lack of regard for the audience or an indication of your fear?

You tell me.  Really, please do.  Tell me why social networking, blogging, advocating, speaking out, reaching past the comfort zone is so threatening, dangerous and hard to do?  I'm inviting you agriculture industry to tell me.  Please show me where is your fight.  Please show me where is your passion.  Please come out of the comfort zone into the world with the rest of us.

I'm mean you animal agriculture groups, I mean you commodity groups, I mean you welfare alliances, I mean you lobby groups, I mean you....

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

“It’s disgusting that people would do this,” she said. “It’s sick. This is one of the worst cases (of neglect) I’ve ever seen.”

The bad and the ugly is taking an older dog, such as Tribe, not letting her walk enough to wear down her own nails, leave her starving on the side of the road.  The ugly is her being hit not once, but twice by cars.  The bad is her condition.  The really bad is that Tribe is not alone, there are many dogs, cats, horses and other animals experiencing abuse, neglect, outright abandonment and cruelty this very moment!

The good is Animal Control Officers like Bonnie, the good is people like Sally Hull of Hull's Haven Border Collie Rescue, Darcy of D'arcy's Arc in Winnipeg, the people who have joined forces to have a single voice for small shelters and all rescues in Manitoba.  Manitoba Voice for Animals has been working to find Tribe a foster to care for her and help her golden years be her best.

The comments you see expressed on social networking sites, blogs and in emails express our outrage (entirely justifiable), our horror (completely understandable) and our disgust (if you aren't then stop reading right now).  They show our displeasure and strong feelings about this dog and all animals who have been treated like her with no love, no respect and no care.

The old saying, "The more I get to know people, the more I love my dog (cat, horse, fish, ferret, etc)!" can be no truer than when you hear the voices of animal lovers united in outrage.  I would love to be able to harness that sense of outrage and channel it in a slightly different direction.

When we feed the negative, when we build comment upon comment we do get our feelings out. No doubt about it.  We also don't get a chance to use that energy to say, "Hey someone cares!" or "Hey, someone is looking out for animals, let's help!"  It doesn't give us a chance to say good things about rescue, about animal control officers who truly put welfare first, about shelters working hard to have a no-kill world.

As loud as our voices can be in outrage, the do NO GOOD!  We only add to the UGLY, we only remind ourselves and others of the BAD.  We don't get the chance to speak out, and be heard, about the choices people have.  About the resources available to them that the side of the road is not acceptable and here's why...fill in your reasons...

We don't get to use our voices to shout out about rescues needing fosters, shelters needing loving forever homes, we don't get to speak up for the animals.  When we spend out time on the outrage too long it passes and our voices are lost in the noise of the day.  No one is left with an idea, a clue, that there are better choicesbetter options and we lose a chance to gain a friend, a foster, an adopter.

When we get past the first few chances to speak with outrage we have a small window where people pause to get their breath - a moment that the media and the public share - where we can fill it with good information.  We can use that small window to paste a link, post a blog, write a comment, volunteer our selves and our voices for the greater cause of caring for our animals!

Responsible pet owners do not do this to their animals.  This act of cruelty is going to be a rally point for people.  We as people care enough to share our resources, our knowledge, our passion and fill that window with something other people and the media can use.  Links to rescues, links to vets, links to Facebook groups and fan pages where the questions of "What can I do?"  and "How can I help?" meet face to face with the people who can properly answer them.

We can choose to turn the outrage into something that can bring good, we can choose to use our space of time to be heard in a way that gives people tools, choices and resources.  Options for something better for themselves and animals.  

Be outraged!  Be angry!  Be offended! Be careful...the hateful words you say today could drown out the information you would wish to share tomorrow.  The unfocused anger could leave us with no energy left to speak out and advocate for change.

It's okay to say this is terrible but it is even better to follow it with but together we can do something to change it!