Animal Welfare – Part 1
Discussion on the topic of animal welfare and animal rights has again reached high intensity. Stories in the news are highlighting the efforts of various organizations ranging from violent and destructive actions taken against businesses, to protesting eateries, to writing and supporting legislation at the state and federal levels. Since the majority of our country’s population is at least three generations removed from production agriculture, it is important to first understand the difference between animal welfare and animal rights and be able to recognize the motives behind organizations actions.
Animal welfare is based on the principles of caring for and utilizing animals in a humane manner. Organizations that honestly promote animal welfare are seeking to improve how animals are treated and their general well-being. An individual or organization that supports the animal welfare premise believes that humans have the right to eat and use animals. However, exercising that right encompasses the responsibility of humans to raise those animals in a humane manner and with proper care and treatment.
Those involved in production agriculture are continually modifying their operations and changing their management routine to be better stewards through university and industry specific research. Changes in management, which have been made over the past 100 years, have NOT been effectively communicated with the public and thus, have resulted in stereotype assumptions being made based on media coverage of an organizations “hot story.” Therefore, reactions and actions by the public are based on emotion and not fact.
Animal rights are based upon the philosophy that animals have rights equal to those bestowed upon humans. Organizations that follow and promote this philosophy are determined stop all use and even the ownership of animals through the passage of legislation and initiatives that will stop the raising of animals for food, clothing, entertainment, breeding, hunting and entertainment purposes. Two of the better known organizations in this category are the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). A third, and lesser realized, is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). While the HSUS may share the words “Humane” and “Society” it is NOT the same as your local city and county Humane Societies that are involved in many positive endeavors.
The HSUS was once considered an animal welfare organization that has long since shifted its policy and resources from directly serving the welfare of animals to distributing information and actively pursuing legislation against farming, fishing, hunting and animals in entertainment. President and CEO of HSUS states his organizations position fairly clearly in the two following statements.
“The HSUS works hard to enact laws that protect farm animals from the abuses they all too commonly suffer throughout their lives…. Whether through ballot initiatives, state, or federal legislation, The HSUS is a leader when it comes to making humane public policy changes.”
“Animals raised for food are not just objects or commodities—they are fellow individuals….”
It is the promotion and passage of legislation and ballot initiatives by these types of organizations that places bans and restrictions on production agriculture that is most perilous; resulting in a very real threat to food supply and safety. This has been most recently observed in Arizona, California, Colorado Florida and Oregon with additional measures pending in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and a multitude of others.
These actions, while believed by the public to impact only a few “bad apples” and progressive in nature have and will negatively impact all of production agriculture. Passed legislation and initiatives have resulted in: an increase in predation of livestock and pets by dogs, coyotes, wolves and mountain lions; an increase in abandoned horses that become malnourished and suffer from the lack of proper health care; a negative environmental impact on wild horses due to domestic abandonment; and the likely reduction in swine, poultry and egg production in California and Arizona through the passage of Propositions 2 and 204 respectively. While portions of some legislation may be reasonable and beneficial changes, the destruction occurs in the “details” and “language” of bills that are written by individuals with little to no background in production agriculture and plenty of assumptions.
Producers must continue to implement humane strategies and modify management techniques as new scientifically supported information becomes available. They must also communicate more effectively with the public and provide a face and their positive story to the consumer.
Consumers must take the responsibility to gather their information from qualified sources and reach educated decisions based on fact, not emotion and rhetoric.
Agricultural commodities grown and produced in the United States of America are the safest in the world. Further, American producers are the most regulated and restricted stewards on the planet. Should the current trend of “anti-production agriculture” legislation continue, the United States risks becoming a net importer of agricultural commodities and importing food and fiber from countries that do operate under the same regulations and guidelines as we do here at home. Becoming dependant upon foreign nations for our food supply is an issue of National Security.
“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” Genesis 9:1-3