In response to Thomas a March 28 “Ag Gag” Commentary:
Following the reading of your recent commentary, I was struck with some concerns. You see, I hail from a Midwestern farm, like many students on campus. Your “Ag Gag” article contained a wide array of opinions-some related and some not. The namesake topic of the article was one that requires honesty on job applications-hardly debatable. There was however, one common denominator: An attack on the animal industry. You persuaded readers to adopt a new ration that is nutritionally subpar to traditional meat inclusive diets. Most importantly, you misrepresented an industry that supports many a USD student’s family.
We must briefly evaluate your primary source: The Humane Society of the United States. Is this organization trustworthy? You decide. The Society’s undefined purpose is to eliminate the conventionally-raised animal industry. Instead of reflecting the overwhelmingly vast majority of responsible animal caretakers, they publicize only the very worst operations. In 2010, this “nonprofit” organization spent less than one half of one percent on its animal shelters. In the same year, CEO Wayne Pacelle was awarded a $287,786 compensation package. Moreover, it spent a whopping $50.6 million on lobbying and fundraising costs. Surprisingly, the society’s actual subscription membership was only around 450,000. When they were lobbying in that same year, they reportedly stated that they had “11 million members.” (www.humanewatch.org) This information is important when considering the base of your commentary.
Wouldn’t it be an ideal world, where the birds scratch and pigs rut? Take your answer from someone actually involved in production agriculture. Years ago, farmers used to raise avian and swine species in outside environments. There was a complete lack of any biosecurity measures, due to the open environment. Thus, increased disease threats existed. Mr. Emanuel, have you ever actually tried to confine swine or avian species within a fence? Due to the very nature of both species, it is an extremely difficult chore; the animals often escaped. Consequently, the animals were additionally prone to death from predators and vehicles. Due to the innovation of turkey and hog confinement barns, the animals were substantially less prone to disease outbreaks, bacterial infection, and vehicular and predator death. For example, a neighboring chicken farmer once told me of the industry’s success with the absence of continual antibiotic usage. Since confined chickens often do not get bacterial infections, only therapeutic usage is necessary. Thus, he (and his competitors) do not use continual antibiotic treatment.
Farming is a business, just like a grocery store is a business. Animals make people money. Farmers sell pounds. You said that, “…our forcing them to stand knee deep in their own feces for days on end…” makes them susceptible to disease. This statement is largely unrepresentative of animal producers. It takes only six inches of pen muck to render animals neutral for a particular days weight gain. Any deeper amount will cause an animal to lose weight on the same amount of feed. Take a look at a cow or a pig, Mr. Emanuel. A cow or pig’s knees are certainly higher than six inches. Therefore, the Humane Society-publicized video portrays a farmer losing money. That is why you will see very, very few farmers keeping deep muck in their pens. Such poor management is not financially sustainable for a farmer.
Meanwhile, you told the story of the dairy farmer abusing a cow. The video portrayed the use of an electrical shock and chains to move the cow. Once again, this methodology of moving the said cow is terrible. Likewise, the frequency of employing such methodology is terribly uncommon. Farmers are almost always paid on the quality of hanging carcasses, from thin cows. Shocks and chains greatly reduce the quality of the affected areas. This is yet another instance where it is not financially feasible to operate in such ways. Did you know, Mr. Emanuel, that slaughterhouses do not even accept downed animals? Livestock brokers are not allowed to use shockers anyways. Most dairy cows average 1,500 pounds of body weight, respectively. Though I am definitely not advocating the practice, I would like to ask you have you ever tried to move a downed, 1,500-pound cow? Employ some common sense, please.
Next, you told the readers to consider eating “grass fed beef,” if they happen to see the “atrocities” existing inside the slaughterhouses. Mr. Emanuel, you must accept the fact that “grass fed cattle” are harvested in a remarkably similar way to conventional cattle. Besides, nearly all cattle are fed a grass-based diet in the first place. Read your biology textbook. Indeed, corn is a grass.
Like most Americans, you believe that true, grain-free beef is healthier for people. That assumption is a common misconception. You may wonder, “How is that?” Dr. Stephen Smith discovered in his monumental 2010 study that conventionally-raised beef has both cardiovascular benefits and protection against type II diabetes. True, “grass fed beef” is not detrimental to health, but it does lack many important health benefits. (Access the summary at http://agnews.tamu.edu/showstory.php?id=1934) Like many others, you have accepted commercially-minded opinions as facts.
We all care about animals, non-farmer and farmers alike. You stated, “This is not to say that all hog farmers are greedy and cruel.” This statement was an ill attempt at calming an article aimed at reducing and eliminating the purchase of farmers products, both from family and your dubbed “factory” farms alike. Don’t let a poorly managed farm fuel your intensely biased stereotype of nearly all farmers. As previously stated, you will be extremely hard-pressed to find operations actively employing these practices, which result in profit loss. Be careful of relying solely on an exclusively outside perspective. Your attack is the result of your absence from an understanding of what really happens “down on the farm.”