When I was a little girl growing up on a family dairy farm, I clearly remember the pain associated with the death of an animal.  I also remember seeing animals butchered and being “grossed out.”  However, I knew the animals we raised served a purpose greater than being my pet- to provide nourishment to humans.  That’s a perspective shared by most farm kids, but is missing from the 98.5% of people not directly involved in production agriculture.

On March 16, HBO premiered “Death On A Factory Farm”, another documentary about farm animal abuse that was especially shocking to those who haven’t had the perspective of animals being raised to feed humans. And it was heart breaking for those involved with agriculture to see unforgivable animal abuse and know the majority of the population will have their trust in farmers eroded yet again.  Take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqQVll-MP3I if you want a glimpse of how agriculture is painted in this latest piece by a multi-million dollar activist industry.

Who’s to blame for this growing disconnect between how farm animals end up as the products on our plate?  We could point the finger at activist groups, inaccurate media, a wealthy society’s fixation on making animals human-like or simply say consumers are ignorant.  Or, we could take responsibility. Responsibility to educate the masses that agriculture remains true to our history of  producing food, fuel, feed and fiber from both plants and animals – even if farms look different today.   How would the story of  food production be told differently if the people behind this film had been taken to a farm as a child and educated about modern food production?  Or, if they had experiences in college that provided a real-life connection between a steak on their plate and the animals that died to provide human sustenance?

The preview of “Death on a Factory” farm claims  that farmers don’t want their story told. That is simply not true; agriculture would love to have our story told, but we lack the appeal of blatant sensationalism included in pieces like this one.  Here’s what I’d include in our story; feel free to add your comments.

  • Agriculture is a life’s calling;  farmers have to have a personal connection with animals with in order to be able to successfully raise them, even if that ultimately means sending the animal to slaughter.
  • Agriculturists are proud to provide food for the world and do so efficiently to meet the needs of a population expected to double by 2050.
  • Food production experiencing declining revenues for 40 years, forcing family farms to expand – the same as many other businesses in the Western world.
  • Families still operate more than 97% of today’s farms, even if the farms look different and families may have a corporation – just as many small businesses have incorporated.
  • Many animal rights groups would like to move to a completely vegan society and are using these extreme cases to drive the family farms out of business through distancing consumers, increasing regulations on the farm and persuading celebrities that animal rights organizations should monitor the well-being of all animals.
  • National security would be further endangered – and animals raised in worse conditions – if activists successfully drive food animal production out of the U.S.  How better to control a country than threaten food supply?  Agriculture works diligently to help our country.

If you’re in agriculture, use this as an opportunity to tell the true story of food production and be proud of doing the right thing, the right way for the right reasons.  If you’re a consumer, find a farm or ranch to become better educated about how plants and animals are raised with the utmost care.  Don’t shrink away from the raw emotions created by this shocking video; create a connection between the mouths that eat and the hands that raise food!