News about Chipotle’s forthcoming, four-part video series, “Farmed and Dangerous,” has created some consternation within the livestock industry despite the fact that it’s likely to get low exposure as it’s only being shown on HULU. The series may be fraught with half-truths, but it is a unique combination of humor and propaganda that has a serious message as it attacks modern agriculture, and particularly the use of hormones and antibiotics in livestock production.
A report this week showed that concerns about hormones and antibiotics continue to grow with consumers. Unfortunately for livestock producers, the increased concern doesn’t correlate to increased knowledge. In fact, those who oppose modern agriculture, technology, antibiotics, hormones, etc., don’t want the debate to be focused on facts.
Chipotle’s video series isn’t designed to increase knowledge, it’s intended to feed a general perception of modern agriculture and sell more burritos as a consequence. It seeks to depict conventional livestock production as being wrong at some deep intrinsic level.
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Once those perceptions are firmly cemented in the public consciousness, the next step is to attack anyone who wants to debate the accepted premises as being either uneducated or immoral. Let’s look at global warming as an example: If you challenge the theories regarding what is driving climate change, you’re considered a heretic. Even President Obama in his State of the Union address this week made the claim that there is no debate on climate change. Thus, the approach is that the climate models that are failing, as well as the growing list of skeptics within the scientific community, are to be minimalized and ignored.
If we do not find an effective way to educate consumers on antibiotics, hormones and other technologies that are under attack, then we must begin making plans on how to eliminate them and cope with their demise. We have to determine what we can and should defend, and then be proactive in our approach to doing so.
As an industry, we struggle with the concept that good science isn’t the final arbitrator. We also have a tendency to believe that we should defend ourselves against all unfair attacks. We understand and appreciate the danger of the slippery slope, but we also find it difficult to acknowledge and accept that we are outmanned and outgunned in this battle. The bottom line is that we must be selective in picking our battles, because we simply don’t have the resources to win them all.
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