On Tuesday last week I attended the Animal Welfare and Current Industry Issus for Livestock Producers seminar in Lincoln. I’ve attended several of these seminars in the past year to increase my understanding of how people in groups who attack animal agriculture think. Please check out this resource page from UNL Extension containing fact sheets and taped seminars on animal welfare topics. A survey done by K-State showed that 66% of those surveyed had not been on a farm in the past five years where eggs, meat, or milk were produced. While we live in a rural area, this very much still applies to rural Nebraska.
Dr. Candace Croney from Purdue University spoke about her experiences with the ballot initiative in Ohio. She shared much about the way people think about animal welfare issues. We have what’s considered the “Disney effect” which influences the way we view animals. I would venture to say we all watch Disney movies or have given a stuffed toy to someone. Think about it; the animals in those movies can talk, show emotion, and don’t eat each other. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those movies; I’m just saying they personify animals which can influence how we view animals.
I grew up on a farm and we had many farm dogs over the years that we loved and cared for but they lived outside. I never would have imagined I would have two inside dogs now that I’m married. But those dogs have become like family to me as they have been here for me every time my husband has been gone with the military. Croney said, “Animal welfare issues aren’t really about animals; they’re about what animals represent to us.” Picture in your mind a dog and a pig. Croney says, “The question for many people is how can you love the one and eat the other?” To me, it’s simple. I believe God created animals to provide our needs-food, shelter, clothing, and companionship. But for those who really struggle with this question, there are two options available to them to help ease their conscience. 1-They can donate to a cause that portrays itself as helping animals to make themselves feel better or 2-There is a free option of voting for ballot initiatives when they come up in the State. Please don’t think Nebraska is immune! There’s already a group within Nebraska who is working with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). For those of you who don’t know, HSUS is not your local animal shelter. It’s an organization out to ban animal agriculture as we know it. If you don’t believe it, read their information. The other important thing to note in their information is their goal to divide sectors of production agriculture. For example, organic vs. conventional ag or various ag commodity groups against each other. We’re watching this unfold before our very eyes in Nebraska right now. It’s very important that all sectors of agriculture stand together!
There’s been an effort to educate via social media. Croney pointed out that often we are talking to ourselves; preaching to the choir. We need to be reaching outlets that consumers are using such as Food Websites and TV programs. Common Ground is one organization that is doing this through farm wives and moms sharing their stories with consumers in local grocery stores. Ultimately, we need to learn how to engage in conversation. Our message has often been “we provide safe affordable food for our families and the world”….we need to understand that consumers and those concerned about animal rights also have a compassion for animals and a concern for knowing how they were raised. While there are always a few bad apples in any industry, most livestock producers take care of our animals before we take care of ourselves. We need to listen to the concerns expressed by individuals and address their concerns by explaining why we do the things we do.
There’s so much more to share; these issues affect consumers as well as our producers! For now, please consider attending a local event to be held March 12 at 6:00 p.m. at the Sutton Community Center in Sutton. Dewey Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator, will be presenting on “Protecting Animal Agriculture-Animal Rights & Other Issues”. The meeting is being sponsored by the Sutton Chamber of Commerce and Ag Committee in addition to area Cattlemen Associations, Breeders & Feeders, and Ag Producer groups. Please pre-register to Tory Duncan at (402) 773-5576 firstname.lastname@example.org or Todd Mau at (402) 773-5224 email@example.com.
Also, a reminder about the Cornhusker Economics Conference to be held February 29th at the Clay Co. Fairgrounds. There’s truly something for everyone involved with production agriculture whether livestock, crops, marketing, or cash leases. There is a $25 registration fee. Perhaps check with your financial institution to see if they will offer a scholarship to attend this beneficial conference. Please RSVP to me by Feb. 22 at firstname.lastname@example.org or (402) 762-3644 so we can get a meal count.