Today's topic is a unique one that I came up with after a heated few days of animal science class debates. I will open by saying that today's farmers are like those of the past, doing what they can to make sure we have a good, quality food supply that is safe and healthy. As time moves forward we have been able to improve genetics and meat quality, as well as using better feed to make the animal not only more efficient producers of meat, eggs, and milk, but also healthier animals.
Lately I have shared a few articles on Facebook and Twitter regarding the undercover videotaping of animals in primarily swine production facilities alleging abuse. If you cannot tell, I am one that stands with the farmer. This past spring, I wrote my legislators in Indiana about proposed legislation requiring that all of this "undercover footage" be regulated. I feel that if someone is being recorded, they should be aware of it. Also, there should be time constraints stating that these "videos" must be submitted to authorities within a certain time period following the alleged abuse. I know full well that not every single farmer is the perfect person, but neither are you and I. These people have dedicated their lives to animals and an industry whose main focus is the consumer and end product. This goes back to elementary economics. If I mistreat or malnourish my animals, who does that help? Nobody. It will take me longer to grow the animals, and the end product will be worth next to nothing. Keep this in mind.
There are a lot of Americans who stand quite firmly against, and will easily get very bent out of shape over what we now call CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. "A CFO is defined in Indiana as any animal feeding operation engaged in the confined feeding of at least 300 cattle, or 600 swine or sheep, or 30,000 fowl (chickens, turkeys, or other poultry). These numbers represent all animals that are old enough to be weaned from their mothers or birds of any size and are based on the maximum numbers at any one time on the farm during the year." (Purdue University Extension Service, http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ID/cafo/ID-350%20HTML/ID-350.html).
Many people (often not from rural areas, or related to agriculture) will argue that these animals need to be free to roam and romp in the outdoors, and that housing animals prevents them from being happy. The truth behind this is that producers are doing what is best for their animals. Without going through every single industry to explain this point to those who do not raise livestock, I will explain further. There was a day when turkeys and chickens were raised on the range in a field, and pigs were raised on pasture of a sort. For the most part, producers have stopped this practice for many logical reasons. Without intentionally sounding offensive to the turkey, they are not smart animals, and they are also not well suited to protect themselves from predators. One good rain and half the turkeys will drown themselves by staring at the sky with their mouth open (slight exaggeration, but not by far), or a good lightning and thunder storm and you have a field of smothered, terrified turkeys that are not doing anybody any good. Continuing with turkeys, consider winter when (at least here) it gets pretty cold outside. The rate of growth will slow due to the inclimate weather being hard for the birds, and the opportunity for danger and loss just increases. Swine are another animal which many get upset about having confined. We do what we do for the safety and wellbeing of the animal. In most places and situations, pigs are raised in large buildings with differing numbers of pens that are designed for certain numbers of pigs. Within each pen is a self-feeder where the animals are free to indulge themselves as they feel fit, and water receptacles (that vary by building type and style) that afford the pigs a continuous clean source of water. Buildings are vented, climate controlled, and have manure storage capabilities that allow the animal to breathe clean, fresh air, and not have to be surrounded by their own mess. This lowers the health risk, and increases sanitation.
The Humane Society of the United States (commonly referred to as HSUS), and PETA (no, not People for the Eating of Tasty Animals), are big supporters of my prior statement that animals should be free to be outside and to romp and roam. This is what we call Animal Rights, versus Animal Welfare. These are two drastically different things. Animal Rights activists are people who view animals as equals to humans, believing that they should basically have all the freedoms we have. Animal Welfare Activists are those people who believe animals have certain rights such as the right to a clean and safe food and water supply, enough space to at least stand up, lay down, and turn around, and have a clean, safe environment. What I personally find humorous about some of the animal rights/welfare debates is HSUS. Your local animal shelter has so many cute puppies and kittens, I'm sure, and they are always raising money so that they can try to feed these animals, but after a certain period of time, many end up being euthanized. I urge you to look at some of the following links to catch up on the things you don't realize your tax dollars help fund. The first link shows the percent of HSUS's budget which is actually spent on the animal shelters. Mind you that this is not a per-shelter percent, but rather a per-state entire sum of shelter funding as a percent of HSUS's entire budget. Link two is a list of things many people do not know about the Humane Society, their actions, their spending, and their dealings. Link three is some information further on their inner workings and dealings which are kept under wraps. Link four is from Henderson State University. It is a PDF file that details tax-related information for the HSUS. You may find this to be more than you were prepared for, but I'm putting it out there. For an organization that loves animals, their march to end animal agriculture is sure a hard fought battle.
America's farmers and ranchers are people like you and me, only a little different. They have dedicated their life's work to plants growing in a field, or livestock living in a field or a building. They care far more than you realize about what is going on inside those animals, as well as what will become of those animals. These people don't put everything they own on the line so they can mistreat animals and expect to get a paycheck. If you mistreat animals, you DO NOT MAKE MONEY. It's pretty black and white. These animals are obviously of some significance to the farmer/rancher, and therefore will be well taken care of.
Here is some food for thought. If you adopt a puppy from your local humane society, they will come and take it away if they find out that it is living outside. However, this is coming from the same organization that states that cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and poultry (and any others I skipped), should be free to live outside in the wild, to roam free and to be happy. If you ask me, and if you ever look at one, an animal raised inside looks pretty happy. They are in a climate controlled environment, safe from weather extremes, have a constant buffet, as much clean water as they want, and are kept healthy. Food for thought.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I'm expecting some upset people due to my stance on animal rights activists, but I knew to expect that as I wrote.
Enjoy your day, and please continue to read on!