Which came first: the factory farm chicken or egg demand? This was the question posed by Nicole Wyatt in the Star Tribune recently. Wyatt is a vegetarian who studies veterinary medicine in California. As a Minnesota native, Wyatt submitted this column to the Twin Cities' newspaper, and she provokes some interesting points to discuss and debate.
"Factory farming may not be pretty, but we all need to take a step back, look at how we got here and try to understand the industry on a scientific, nonemotional level. On Oct. 31, the world population hit 7 billion. Our food animal industry has had to modify production methods to safely and efficiently meet the growing demand. Yet our population is becoming increasingly urbanized, with little or no exposure to farming. As a veterinary student, I entered school with people who had gone their entire lives without stepping foot on a farm prior to our large-animal rotations. People who have not been exposed to large production farming have a difficult time understanding its current state. We have become an urbanized society susceptible to emotional reactions and extreme animal-rights propaganda," she writes.
Watts goes on to talk about her life as a vegetarian and the responsibility that consumers have to get educated about today's agriculture industry.
"As a vegetarian who plans on being a small-animal practitioner, I can say that there are aspects of modern agricultural practices I don't like. But I have also learned that they aren't quite as bad as they seem. I see room for improvement, along with the importance of providing food for our population. Do we want more expensive food? My guess would be no, but many changes will come with a price that must be passed on to the consumer. As consumers, it is your job to develop a better understanding of agriculture practices so that issues regarding animal welfare and our food supply are approached in a practical way. You must also understand the consequences of any demands you make on the industry."
Undoubtedly, Watts makes some interesting points. Certainly we cannot sacrifice animal care in order to feed the world, and I don’t believe we do so. However, agriculture has to start taking an honest look at the things we could improve upon and take control over the animal welfare debate before activists do it for us. In addition, I think we need to do a better job of policing ourselves and not tolerating the bad apples in our industry. Both of these considerations don’t come with easy answers, but in agriculture, we must do it all — please our consumers; meet the demands of regulations; produce safe, wholesome food; care for the animals; and sustainability tend to the environment.
What's your take on this article? Read the full piece here and let me know what you think!