If you haven't seen the latest Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) video on YouTube, it’s probably worth viewing. It was shot at the Portales Livestock Auction in New Mexico.
Most cattlemen seem to go through a similar range of emotions upon viewing these videos. It starts with revulsion at the treatment of these animals, and anger that some people can put the industry in such a terrible position, followed by sadness over the bad perception that these videos engender among those with no other experience or exposure to livestock production. Next comes denial due to the fact all these debacles involve dairy cows, which constitute such a small portion of the population but produce an overwhelming number of the “black eyes” in animal handling and welfare.
The Wayne Pacelles of the world (he’s head of HSUS) have a specific agenda and that agenda isn't to decrease milk production. Their goal is to decrease meat consumption, and it’s irrelevant to them if these problems are dairy-related as long as they can serve to give meat production a black eye.
The reality is that HSUS, like anyone seeking to destroy its enemy, will probe to find a weakness they can exploit. Needless to say, our auction markets and the issue of downer cattle are a major weakness.
The truth is that the black eyes are justified. Certainly, the footage is deliberately misleading, the commentary is questionable, and the context isn’t provided – some even appear to be staged – but it doesn't change the fact that this video was actually taken. We can’t allow these practices to continue.
Just this week, the media provided consumers with coverage of an E.coli O157:H7 recall, the HSUS video, Korean street protests over the safety of U.S. beef, and still another case of BSE in Canada. Factor those stories in with near-record retail prices, and we all should be concerned about consumption numbers.
The reality is these circumstances (lacking context or not) are occurring far too frequently. The series of videos released by HSUS in the last few months were filmed at six different locations. The USDA's finalization of the total ban from the food supply of downer cattle can’t happen soon enough.