In a well-timed, methodical strategy that coincided with the consideration of legislation on the use of ranch videos as courtroom evidence, Mercy For Animals (MFA) released another video depicting animal abuse at an Iowa hog facility. While I absolutely condemn animal abuse and anyone who abuses animals, I have a hard time believing the MFA folks didn’t purposely seek out these materials in order to gain an edge on the issue of capturing secret footage under false pretenses. However, the real issue for agriculture and livestock production is whether we will step up to the plate and police ourselves against animal abusers. The alternative is further embarrassing incidents of animal abuse and the potential for additional government regulations on farming and ranching.
In this week's online poll at beefmagazine.com, we ask: "Have you examined or rethought your animal handling practices as a result of surreptitious videos depicting animal abuse?"
So far, 52% of you say, "Yes, and we found our practices are fine."
27% say, "Yes, and we made some changes."
19% of you responded, "No."
Is your ranch up to snuff on animal welfare and the use of best animal handling practices? Are you sure? Is your ranch Beef Quality Assurance certified? Have you offered a refresher course to your kids and employees on the proper ways to work cattle? If a video was taken at your ranch today, would you be a prime example of doing what’s right? Or, would there be things you might want to change?
These are the tough questions we must ask ourselves. If we answer honestly, I think the vast majority in agriculture are doing a great job of respect and care for their animals. The big issue isn’t the majority; it’s the rotten eggs in the business that must be addressed. How can we go about solving this issue? And, what’s your take on the secret video footage debate?
By the way, you can read what the New York Times has to say on this issue in a blog post by Mark Bittman, Banned From The Barn. If you have a minute, be sure to leave a comment and let him know what you think. Here is an excerpt from the piece:
"Iowa’s ag-gag law failed to pass before summer recess last week: a good thing. The ridiculous proposition, which died along with similar ones in Minnesota, Florida and New York, would have made it illegal to videotape or photograph in the agricultural facilities that house almost all of our chickens and pigs. Sadly, a lack of idiocy is not the same thing as a presence of wisdom, and the demise of ag-gag won’t give us a clearer view of food production. We need more visibility, not less. But when I visited Iowa in May, I appealed to producers of eggs, chickens, pork and even cooking oil to let me visit their facilities. In general, I was ignored, politely refused or told something like 'it’s a bad week.' (I made standing offers to return at any time; no one has taken me up on that.) When a journalist can’t see how the food we eat is produced, you don’t need ag-gag laws. The system’s already gagged."