Dairy People Care!

A common theme of the animal rights movement is to promote that today’s farms are full of dirty dark secrets.  I grew up on a dairy farm, live on a farm and have had the privilege of being on hundreds of dairy farms around the world – including some around Plain City, Ohio. The crap you see on the heinous videos from animal rights activists, like the one being released by Mercy For Animals about a Ohio dairy farm, is not what’s happening on every farm. Based upon personal experience on the dairy side of agriculture, I’d like to offer a bit of a perspective check on the “dark secrets of farms.”

  • Calf Care: Dairy calves are given colostrum in their first couple of hours of life to be sure they’re healthy and because farmers want to give them the best care possible. Calves are not thrown around, nor are they mistreated – farm families often care for calves the same way they do for their children (and sometimes better). Calves are typically given their own home to thrive in and provided a formulated diet, along with a vaccination program comparable to your child’s. Some groups would lead you to believe that it’s cruel to take a baby calf from the mother, but this is done for the health of both the calf and the cow. If you’ve ever breast-fed, you don’t need a lot of explanation about what a 100 pound calf can do to mammary tissue.
  • Healthcare Handling: Cattle are typically put in “chutes” for treatments to keep both the animals and humans safe. This does NOT involve beating an animal, poking it with metal or prodding it cruelly. Nose rings are sometimes used to calm an animal who’s throwing its head around (similar to arm restraints for a human). For example, if I see a cow is going to hurt herself in a chute, I try to restrain her with the halter first to calm her down and then, if necessary, will use the nose ring (which does not puncture the nasal tissue).  It’s not  a torture device, it’s a safety device.  If a cow doesn’t like a needle, hoof trimmer, veterinarian examination or other necessary practices to keep her healthy, we still have an obligation to keep her as calm as possible. That’s not always pretty with 1500+ pounds, but people who have worked with animals their whole life have special techniques (mine is talking to the animal a lot, if you can imagine!).
  • Milking Parlor: The parlor is where cows come to do their business – give milk – and they are usually happy to do so. Today’s technology means milking equipment is streamlined to cow comfort and milking efficiency (which typically happens 2-3x daily). Cows are habit driven; once in a routine, will come to be milked in roughly the same groupings, but it can be a bit of a challenge to get a new one into the right habits. However, I’ve yet to meet a dairy farmer who uses a pitchfork to stick a cow in the parlor. If cows are beaten, they don’t release their milk, which kind of defeats the purpose of the parlor, don’t you think?
  • Drugs: Cows are NOT pumped full of drugs. ALL of the milk you buy from the grocery store is antibiotic free; it’s been tested about 9 times between the cow and you.  Any label that suggests that some milk has in it antibiotics is false (if it’s sold as Grade A).  And all milk has hormones – it always has. Udders are not pumped full of hormones nor are calves fed hormones. Hormones exist in living things. Check estrogen levels in soybeans and cabbage if you don’t believe me.
  • Nutrition: Did you have a dietitian plan out your last meal to meet your energy needs, adapt your meal plan to changing seasons, check your manure and then look at your body condition? Cows do. Professional nutritionists evaluate all the components of a cow’s diet, test the available ingredients and provide a complete “ration” (think casserole with all the best ingredients) to help dairy farmers keep their cows healthy. Most cattle eat better than I do!

Above all, please know these videos represent a few bad actors and are an insult to those of us who have worked with cattle since we were old enough to be in the barn. Are all babysitters or teachers bad because there are a few who abuse children?  No – and the same holds true for farmers. Regardless of whether the video was staged or real, the individuals who treated animals with such disrespect should have been reported to the authorities immediately. Agriculture has a responsibility to be very clear that such behavior is unacceptable.

Dairy farmers don’t milk cows because they plan to get rich; they do it out of love for the cows and the dairy business. It’s a tough job that requires 365 days of work – and the bottom has fallen out of the milk market in the last couple of years. They’re not asking for your sympathy – they just want you know that animal rights videos don’t represent how much their family cares. And, speaking as a dairy person, seeing such cruelty makes me want to cry and keeps me up at night. Thankfully, I can go out to our barn and down the road to where our cows are milked to see animals that are treated with respect. If you haven’t had the same opportunity , I’d encourage you to visit a modern day farm – and talk with the family working to care for the animals.

Yellow Tail Pledges to Stop HSUS Support
UPDATE: ABC News reports HSUS donations will stop. Yellow Tail in pledge to Animal Ag Alliance (http://bit.ly/9dZrVS) said “Being farmers ourselves we support those who care for their land and their environment, just as we do. We are proud of our rural heritage and value a solid relationship with agricultural communities around the world…”

Dear Mr. Pacelle,

Your recent “urgent request for help” caught my attention. First I passed it off as another attempt to line your deep coffers with the goal of “raising $200,000 as a ‘counterpunch’ to one of our more persistent critics.”  Then I rolled my eyes at hypocrisy of your description of Richard Berman and David Martosko as “shadowy flim-flam artists” and  “an unprincipled group that gleefully stands in the way of all efforts to help animals so long as someone pays them to do it.” Given the fact that the Humane Society of the United States runs campaigns that Mike Rowe’s website has pointed to as “unethical” and law students held up as a bad example of fundraising, your name-calling seemed a bit extreme. (more…)

Like many pet lovers, it’s hard for me to resist a fuzzy little kitten or puppy dog playing. I was the official kitten rescuer on our farm and saved the lives of several by bottle feeding them. Many of my childhood memories center around animals – trying to persuade the Saint Bernard to pull me on a sled, hours in the hay mow with cats and fun with calves. I also remember going to local animal shelters and feeling terrible for the animals who had no home. So I “get” the attraction to campaigns run by the Humane Society of the United States – after all, who wants to see these cute little creatures suffer? (more…)

It’s rare I’ll give a shout out to Buckeyes, given my green and white Spartan blood. However, Election Day 2009 calls for a rallying cry for every Ohio resident who cares about agriculture, the rural economy, freedom of business choice, scienced-based information or maintaining low food prices.  My thoughts – live and unedited – about why Issue 2 deserves your YES vote. (more…)

Recently I’ve become acquainted with a variety of people that share an interest in exposing the intentions of animal rights activists.  Twitter has provided connections, ideas and research from pet owner rights groups, biomedical researchers who rely on animals to help humans and those who are simply concerned about maintaining human rights over animal rights.

Erica Saunders has been one particularly outspoken voice.  She’s the founder of http://www.ar-hr.com  a site to discuss and investigate the efforts of the Animal Rights Industry and resulting effects on both businesses and individuals, health, legal rights and more.”  I thought her perspective would bring value to agriculture, as well as start the wheels churning about collaborating with different partners.

1. Why should people in agriculture care about your work?  

People in agriculture are under attack by the Animal Rights (AR) industry, an attack similarly repeated across practically every arena involving use of animals. It is key to understand that the goals of the Animal Rights Industry has much more to do with money, power and control of people than it does with affection for animals. With the website, Animal Rights or Human Responsibility (AR-HR), I look at use of these tactics in a number of fields including agriculture and the manipulations involved with these methods while advocating for responsible animal husbandry and management from pet to pasture. 

2.  How can we work together?

A predominant characteristic of an AR Industry attack is to divide their target groups into factions with divisive but undefined language: ‘factory farm’, ‘puppy mill’, ‘inhumane’, ‘animal hoarder’.  While the target community argues amongst its membership over who is or is not included in the offensive label, the AR Industry unifies its supporters by having them believe they are exempt from the same label.  We can work together through the realization that an attack on one sector is an attack on all.  Pet breeders need to stand up with agriculture, agriculture needs to stand up for research & so on.  We need to communicate and reach out to each other, the #agchat sessionson Twitter are a fantastic example.  #Agchat is an example of bringing the private conversations and realities of agriculture to the public.  (MPK note: AgChat is streaming conversation on Twitter every Tuesday, 8-10 p.m. Eastern for people in businesse of raising food, fuel, fiber and feed.) We need to unite against legislation written from the perspective of those who are informed primarily by philosophy but know little of the realities of appropriate animal care.  Efforts against poor legislation need to come from more than the targeted sector but from all sectors, demonstrating a true perspective of opposition to such legislation while assisting in negating accusation of industry bias.

 3.  What can we learn from HSUS actions following the expose’ run by WSB-TV in Atlanta?

The HSUS actions following the expose by WSB-TV had some interesting lessons in it.  Firstly, it revealed that the HSUSis an organization unused to intense public scrutiny.  The reaction has been akin to panic with what appear to be behind-the-scenes attempts to get the WSB-TV expose out of the public light as quickly as possible.  This raises questions in the mind of the public, “Why doesn’t the HSUS want seen and why?” Secondly, there has been an increase in HSUS throwing its weight around online, as suspected in the mysterious suspension of the Center for Consumer Freedom Twitter accounts and as I have been tracking on AR-HR.  HSUS has dramatically increased its rate of activity on my site through such activities as: a) running test searches to see where AR-HR appears b) monitoring Social Media activity related to HSUS such as anti-HSUS Facebookpages and investigating where links on those pages go  c) monitoring of comments made d) investigation of page biographies.  I can suspect similar activity on sites that comment on the HSUS

Thirdly, HSUS will go for ‘character assassination’ in the face of negative fact-based information.  This is its favorite tool in the face of opposition, followed closely by playing the martyr.

4.  How do you suggest we mutually leverage this information to help people understand the true agenda of activist groups such as HSUS?

There are a number of ways this information may be leveraged to help people understand the goals of groups such as the HSUS.  The first and most critical, follow the money.  Not everyone cares about the details agriculture but everyone pays attention when it comes to use or mis-use of donated money.  Second, recognition of the key role of language, it is the stick that the AR Industry and its legislation beats a population with.   Third, continue to point out the response of AR Industry groups to ‘pulling back the curtain’ on their behavior and campaigns.  What was the first response of the HSUS to the WSB-TV report?  Rumored threat of legal team + character assassination.  AR Industry groups rarely combat hard data with evidence to the contrary, we need to ask, why?  

Monitoring the data from your own websites may give you valuable information, specifically where visitors come from. It is possible to determine if and when HSUS headquarters is checking your site, what locations they are accessing your site from and where they go on your site.  This allows you to know if/when you strike a nerve and, in some cases, anticipate what the Animal Rights Industry may choose to use against you and look how they attack others.  The HSUS often levels attacks equally applicable to itself. 

Lastly, remember both your audience and the audience you seek.  Speak to your audience with truth, passion & conviction but remember that too much anger and rhetoric can serve to drive away potential allies and alienate current ones.  We are all in this together and I couldn’t be prouder of the side I have chosen or of the support I have received so far.

Rolly little  puppies and fuzzy kittens are irresistible.  Apparently the Humane Society of the United States can’t keep away from them, though it may not be for the reasons you expect.  Less than 4% of the annual HSUS budget goes to local animal shelters, counter opposite to HSUS campaigns featuring adorable little pups and kitties. (more…)

Michigan State University’s student newspaper, The State News recently ran an op-ed from one of PETA’s well-known radicals. This particularly upset me, as no reference was made to the acts of vandalism that animal rights and envrionmental activists have done to MSU’s College of Agriculture & Natural Resources over the last 20 years – including arson proven in the court of law. (more…)