Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why Ohio Won't Go Away

You have seen the video, or have seen the story.  You may have chosen NOT to view the video, that to me is a wise choice if you are already aware of what they are talking about.  I personally didn't need a visual reminder, my mind can drill down and drag up all sorts of images without the help of YouTube.

If you don't know what I am talking about here are some links that discuss the story from a couple of sides:

One worker has been charged but this wasn't the work of one person, this is a system of abuse that shows a blatant disregard for animal well being, worker well being and welfare.  The news stories may quote this as a isolated incident or as something out of the norm.  And industry really wants to believe this, but how can we be sure?  How can we, as an industry, stand up and say we are doing our best when videos and stories like these come out?  How many 'exceptions' can there be?

We've had Chino with downer cows, we've had Death on a Factory Farm for hogs and now we have Ohio with dairy calves and cows on farm.  These stories are not going to go away, especially Ohio because not only were they abusing animals, but they abusing calves. Blunt force trauma may 'do the job' but that doesn't mean it is the right way or the best way.

The physical welfare of the animals is compromised, the welfare of the workers is devalued as they are taking on tasks that they are untrained or unprepared for, or worse, becoming desensitized to.  There is a devaluing of life that is going to be pushing citizens (consumers and producers) into legislative changes which may or may not be in the long term best interests of the animals or the agriculture industry.

When we consider the numbers of calves born daily to dairy operations and the numbers of calves which are put down (I do not consider blunt force trauma to a calf euthanasia - argue with me if you will but I just don't see it as a 'good death') because there is a shrinking veal industry and no finishing market for dairy steers there is a lot of room for devaluing life, for cruelty and for abuse.

When you consider how some animals, any species, are treated you can see how the welfare for animals can be compromised because their well being has NO CASH VALUE. The missing factor here is perception.

If you have read my blogs before you know that my belief is that perception becomes reality.  What people believe about us comes from what they see - do they see you doing your job well?  Then even if you goof it up they will believe you are doing a good job and that you care.  If you do a great job and you are not seeing as caring then your work won't have the same impact.  This holds true in policing, politics and farming.

Face it folks, are your farm practices up to the scrutiny of YouTube?  Can you honestly say you feel comfortable showing your practices to the world because you KNOW you are doing the best you can for the animals and for your farm.  I believe that any sector on any given day can be one video away from the sort negative attention that can only hurt agriculture.

If we are doing a good job why aren't we saying so?  If we, as an industry or sector, are confident that we can stand up for what we do - why aren't we?