Farmers and Ranchers Care about Animal Welfare

The following is a Focus on Agriculture column I wrote for the American Farm Bureau:

Farmers and ranchers might not consider themselves animal welfare activists, but no one cares more about the treatment of animals. Who else gets up in the middle of the night to check if any new calves were born? Who else wakes up at daybreak every morning, 365 days a year, to feed their livestock before enjoying their own breakfast?

The dedication and animal husbandry that has always been associated with agriculture is outstanding. Ranchers care about their livestock not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s their way of life. Healthy animals are the most productive, so it makes economic sense for producers to hold their animals’ wellbeing as a top priority. But, there’s a lot more to it than that. While agriculture is a business, livestock producers don’t pick their career path to get rich quick. They also love the rural lifestyle, the land and the animals.

Farmers and ranchers attend workshops, read literature and seek veterinary advice to ensure the wellbeing and comfort of their animals. Agricultural organizations work with producers to continually provide professional development in this area. For example, the National Milk Producers Federation, along with Dairy Management Inc. and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, recently provided dairy farms across the country with barn posters listing, in English and Spanish, the 10 top considerations when culling and transporting dairy animals.

Industry organizations work with scientists to develop these handling recommendations. The United Egg Producers boasts more than 80 percent voluntary participation in its UEP certified animal welfare program based on recommendations from an independent scientific advisory committee, which included representatives from the Agriculture Department, scientists and academics.

Similarly, any regulations regarding animal production should be based on peer-reviewed scientific research that evaluates economic feasibility. Unfortunately, groups that oppose modern livestock production practices are notorious for employing emotional appeals to push animal welfare-related bills. Often their ultimate goal isn’t evident when campaigning for these bills. Too often, people hear their stories but are not informed how proposed regulations would negatively affect farmers and ranchers.

By raising healthy animals, farmers and ranchers produce healthy food for American families and others around the world. Unnecessary regulation – based on emotion instead of science – makes food production less efficient, ultimately leading to higher food prices for consumers. Adding unnecessary costs to U.S. production also will increase the amount of food imported from other countries that often have an inferior record on food safety and animal well-being.

As consumers and voters, it’s important to distinguish the real-life accounts of farmers and ranchers, who take great care in providing for their livestock, from the emotional appeals of people not actively involved in animal care. Look for information provided by animal scientists and veterinarians. Most importantly, listen to producers’ stories. They’re the ones closest to the farm or ranch, and their daily care of their livestock and poultry proves animal welfare and providing safe, healthy food is always on their minds.

A Colorado native and graduate of Kansas State University, Chelsea Good is a public relations intern at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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2 Comments

Filed under Advocacy, American Farm Bureau, Animal Welfare

2 responses to “Farmers and Ranchers Care about Animal Welfare

  1. Ashley

    By “emotional appeals” do you mean showing real footage of pigs squished into gestation crates or veal calves who can’t lie down due to lack of space and chronic anemia? Yes, how irresponsible to inform the public about what really goes on behind the heavily-guarded doors of factory farms. Better to keep consumers misinformed by reading by PR spin such as this blog entry.

  2. Leopardess

    Ashley, have you ever been to a real farm? I’ve visited several farms and met with farmers, and none of them treat their animals like trash. They told me abuse ruins the quality of the meat and wouldn’t fetch a good price. Yes, factory farms do exist, but they are small in number. Most farms are family farms, even some very large ones. If farmers intentionally abused their animals, they would be put out of business very quickly. The images you see of farm animals basking in the sun and wading through knee-deep straw are nothing but fantasy. Farming has always been a very difficult job. You have to really work hard to keep the animals in tip-top shape, and the weather can make that difficult, not to mention it can be very dangerous with the possibly of being trampled by cows and even pigs. Great care is given to make sure the animals are comfortable and not showing distress. Any abuse or neglect that does occur is usually unintentional. When drought occurs, animals are less likely to get enough food since it is drying up, but to accuse a farmer of intentional neglect because of this is ridiculous. About those videos that show animal abuse on farms, many of them have been known to be staged or very old and outdated. When a video showing horrific animal cruelty is missing sound, has too many cuts, or doesn’t have the source of where it is from, I don’t trust it. I don’t doubt that abuse and neglect do exist on farms, but they aren’t very common. I highly suggest you visit a real farm, not believe what some videos show you. Maybe it will change your mind on how farmers really care for their animals. Remember that there will always be employees of farmers who have no regard for animal welfare laws protecting farm animals, but most farmers do care about their animals.

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