Yesterday afternoon, pork producers around North America collectively shuddered with news of the latest video demonizing animal agriculture from PETA. It’s important to understand that this hits below the belt for everyone in agriculture, whether you’re in the hog side or another sector. The video is shockingly graphic, grabs emotions and ends with a line referencing that any consumption of pork, ham, sausage or bacon supports the abuse of hogs like those portrayed in the video. PETA also added words to the screen so viewers were sure to understand the extraordinarily derogatory language that was used.
Before my friends agriculture roll their eyes and say “it’s the wacks at PETA” – take a look at http://getactive.peta.org/campaign/iowa_pigfarm_abuse. The video is surprisingly mainstream and WILL sear images in people’s minds about how animals are treated in modern food production facilities. Yesterday, while seeing the video’s debut with a pork leadership group I had just trained, a producer leave the room in tears. That pretty much sums up the way that most of us working with animals feel when we see the willful abuse of them.
There are bad actors in every industry and we in agriculture have them. If you’re a producer and reading this, don’t just turn your head and dismiss this. Take the time to review practices on your own operation, the protocol you have in place to protect animals and the requirements you hold your employees accountable for. Don’t avoid the issue with your neighbors and family, discuss it so they understand where your standards are for food animal production.
If you are a consumer who has stumbled across this article, please know that the majority of folks in agriculture are as disgusted by this video as you are. It is disapointing that such footage was not shared more quickly with authorities so that the abuse could have been stopped sooner. And, as noted an industry statement, “there are some practices portrayed in the video that were done in the best interest of the animal, but may not be understood by people unfamiliar with providing care to food animals.” See http://www.porkboard.org/default.aspx for more information or even better, connect with a farmer in your state to learn more about what happens on today’s farms.
This is another wake-up call that producers and consumers need to talk to each other. My research shows that consumers trust farmers when they have personal experience with one. The question is, how do we foster those connections as a conduit between the farm gate and consumer plate?