The debate over animal agriculture

Those of you Farm Bleat readers who also read the Daily Globe will notice a story in today’s edition regarding the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and its attack on animal agriculture.

It was the subject of a program offered Thursday morning at the International Poultry Expo here in Atlanta, Ga., and continued to be discussed throughout the day between those of us who attended.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t write about everything during the presentation – it lasted for nearly two hours – but I would like to use this blog to talk a little bit more about HSUS and the concerns our Minnesota farmers have regarding their propaganda.

Obviously, for me to use the word propaganda, you must realize that I don’t think very highly of the PETA people and other animal activists. My perception of them is that they know absolutely nothing about raising pigs, they can’t tell the difference between a dairy cow and a dairy goat and they wouldn’t have the slightest idea on how to properly hold a chicken.

Then again, they probably think I’m just a stupid farmer’s daughter. Apparently they think that of everyone who choses to live on a farm and work hard for a living.

Dr. Wes Jamison, associate professor of communications for Palm Beach Atlantic University, presented some rather interesting statistics regarding HSUS and the lengths they are going to in order to stop animal agriculture.

State by state, they are spending millions of dollars in lawsuits and lobbying efforts to get propositions passed. In Ohio, they were behind a proposition to end the caging of poultry. In Arizona, they were the instigators in getting farrowing crates banned. And in California, they may single-handedly destroy the poultry industry within a matter of a couple years.

But what about Minnesota? Is HSUS coming here?

The answer is yes. In fact, some of HSUS’s top officials have already visited with representation from Minnesota Farm Bureau.

John Zimmerman, a turkey, corn and soybean producer from Northfield and fellow MSR&PC See For Yourself mission trip participant, said it’s just a matter of time.

"In the last few years, we’ve seen more activity on the HSUS front," Zimmerman said. "We know they’re going to start coming into Minnesota."

What’s their agenda? Well, among the Minnesota farmers on the SFY mission, talk is that they want to end tail docking in the dairy industry. In Minnesota, approximately 80 percent of dairies have implemented tail docking in their cow herds as a means to improve sanitation.

Tails tend to get filled with mud during the spring thaw and summer rains. Cows don’t like the way those clumps feel on the end of their tail, so they swing them to knock the dirt loose. Those tails not only hit their hips and their rear udders, they also hit the automatic milkers and other sterile equipment used in milking parlors.

For dairy farmers, tail docking makes economic sense. Without the worry of mud getting into equipment, they have fewer worries about somatic cell counts being impacted, and the price dock that comes with higher bacteria levels.

There are other issues besides tail docking. Minnesota producers also use farrowing crates and poultry cages, both of which could come under attack.

In his presentation, Jamison said farmers need to band together and develop a common message. Whether that’s to counter-act HSUS and hand out T-shirts that say "I Love Meat," or to develop a positive media campaign that engages America’s consumers in the animal industry, farmers can no longer afford to sit back and stay quiet.

American agriculture … Minnesota agriculture … needs a strong voice.

10 thoughts on “The debate over animal agriculture

  1. I don’t have a problem with the actual docking procedure, however, don’t cows use their tails to swish away those confounded flies and mosquitoes? Without their tails, how can they keep the flies and skeeters from driving them insane? I know people would go insane probably without the ability to swat away the pests. Have you seen the documentary called Food Inc.? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. It was truly eye opening. Try watching King Corn as well.

  2. Thanks for your comments Cheeky. I have seen King Corn, but not the other. As for the swishing tails comment, cattle can find other ways to shake off flies. Goats, naturally born with short tails, often use their muzzle or scratch with their hind legs. They also have the ability to make a shivering motion to scare the flies away. When I was growing up on the farm, Dad had this contraption that the cattle could walk under that dispensed fly repellent powder. I don’t know if that is used any longer. Perhaps the farmers out there could better respond.

  3. It’s good to know that cows can do something to keep the pests away even without tails. Can cows muzzle reach their …um…behind? I was worried they would go mad…pun intended. ;) I am an animal lover, but not to the crazy extent of PETA. I just don’t like to see animals suffer needlessly. So if you say they aren’t suffering by docking their tails, I believe you. They should have a good life while they are on this earth. No sense in making their lives unbearable just because they are headed for the dinner plate.
    Since you seen King Corn, what is your opinion on that? I really had no idea how far reaching corn was in our daily lives. I’d really like some grass fed beef. Do you know where someone can get it?

  4. There are several farmers in the area who rotationally graze cattle. Your best option may be to call one of the small-town butchers in the area and inquire.
    I hesitate to give an opinion on King Corn, it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen it.

  5. I am not a peta member either… However I do recognize and respect the lives of sentient beings. The idea of using/slaughtering 10 billion land animals for an UNNECESSARY “food”, is troubling enough… That these animals should be tortured beforehand is unthinkable.

    Want to create a better world? Eat like you mean it – Go Vegan

  6. To Bea: I do eat like I mean it … I eat meat, and I enjoy it. We still raise cattle on the farm, which are processed humanely by a local locker. What is troubling to me is that you think animals are being tortured. I’ve toured several processing plants and have seen firsthand the practices used to ensure a quality meat supply for human consumption. What I witnessed was not torture. Perhaps if you would tour a processing plant sometime, you would agree.

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