Animal welfare and animal cruelty. There is a big difference

This tweet caught my eye yesterday.

YFC

Original photo source here 

As did the Sustainable Table movement again

This group are doing fantastic work in their drive to address one of the biggest problems on the planet – Food Waste but they are making me so cranky about the way they are depicting main stream agriculture.

So how does main stream agriculture get the real story out there. Who is our audience?. What are our messages? Why are some people so ready to err in favour of the propaganda proliferated by the picture on the left

Lets look at our audience. It certainly isn’t the hardliners on both sides ( and yes agriculture has them too). In laymans terms they are in the main a lost cause and a big waste of energy.

As the scientists say

Firstly they are motivated to believe what they do, and unless those motivations change, it is unlikely they will be swayed by rational argument.

Secondly their logic is self-sealing, designed to be impermeable to external reasoning. Source here 

Lets look at our messages. What are our messages?  Yes its definitely time we get those right

In the first instance it is time we make a strong delineation between animal welfare/wellbeing and animal cruelty. If the hardliner animal liberationists where truly serious about animal cruelty they would be targeting owners of companion pets who make up more than 60% of the people charged for animal cruelty. Note farmers make up less than 5%.

Why don’t they target companion pet owners you ask? . Yes that is definitely one question we should be asking. I think in this case this just reinforces my point that this group of people have their own agenda and reducing animal cruelty seems to be well down the list of their priorities with raising money at the top.

So getting back to Sustainable Table (see footnote) who I have mentioned in my blog before. See here

Its a beautiful website, obviously started by some very passionate people doing some great things.  This initiative also has some very credible people backing it as do a number of people who promote similar farming enterprises. I have no problem at all with people who want to farm using these philosophies but I want to use this post to debunk some of the very naive thinking that underpins this ethos and makes me really cranky by promoting it by deriding large scale farming practices

What a difference their approach is to the Fair Food Farmers United beautifully outlined by Tammi Jonas here. Tammi is an advocate of the ‘produce less for more’ model and walks the talk.

Don’t produce more for less, produce less for more.

By that I mean we must value the land, animals, and workers and ensure their health is paramount in every agricultural system and then ask eaters to pay a fair price for our efforts.

All of which is easier said from a farmer in a miniscule supply chain selling direct to eaters. The bigger challenge is for the majority who are under pressure from centralised market power and long supply chains…

What do you think? How can we address the serious structural imbalances between farmers, processors, distributors and supermarkets in Australia? How can we support all farmers to make a living growing food in the fairest ways possible?

I will be blunt. I believe the Sustainable Table approach to the way they depict main stream agriculture farming practices ( or what they believe are main stream agriculture farming practices) is dangerous and divisive and damaging to Brand Agriculture and needs addressing by mainstream agriculture.  Its time for polite, constructive and robust two way conversations. Its time to invite them to our table.

Footnote: I don’t view Sustainable Table as hardliners

Animal Care under scrutiny. Is video surveillance the answer ?

When I don’t sleep I find it cathartic to blog about the things going round in my head. So today you get two very different posts

I want to throw something out there for consideration and it concerns that highly emotive topic – animal  welfare and husbandry practices.

This week a horrifying story has come out of Canada which if you haven’t been in the loop you can read all about here. I cant watch the footage and it just horrifies me that EIGHT people were involved. Obviously this is a very big farm and yes farmers do need our support because as the statistics keep reminding us animal abuse on farms is very much in the minority compared to the the abuse of domestic pets and in particular animal hoarders.

Regarding the Canadian incident (is that a strong enough word ) I was extremely impressed by the BC Dairy Association response which started with the following first step:

First and foremost, we pushed for the immediate installation of video cameras at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, allowing for 24-hour surveillance of animal care practices on the farm.

Interestingly enough the world’s leading expert on humane treatment of cattle, pigs and sheep Temple Grandin also recommends remote video monitoring in large facilities to maintain high standards of animal welfare.

So I put it out there is there should Australian farmers routinely install of video cameras to allow for 24-hour surveillance of animal care practices on the farm?.

After all is there anywhere (except the family home) today humans who live and work in cities can go without being under video surveillance to monitor our honesty, work ethic and safety.

So in this changing social and economic climate is it inconceivable that livestock industries follow suit if we want to ensure high standards of animal care as well as limit the impacts on our businesses and ensure long term sustainability.

I agree with this comment

In an era of increased scrutiny and demands for greater transparency, it is not a matter of “if” a painful or stressful  husbandry practice will come under scrutiny but a matter of ‘when’. Siting back and waiting for the next  media ‘expose’ is not a wise approach to the issue.

As farmers I am sure you will all agree that we must be more proactive and engage with the Australian community and assure them the faith they have in the food and fibre we produce is warranted.

GRT_9470

We must agree that it is very stressful let alone hurtful when this happens as it appears to have in Canada if the online vitriol is anything to go by

Now it’s branded every dairy farmer in the country as a vicious sadist whose gleeful pursuit of profit comes at the cost of the animals in his or her care.

As I have said I have put it out there. Do we have anything to fear and perhaps everything  to gain by taking the lead and installing our own on farm video equipment?.

I welcome your comments.