As I travel and talk to the general public, I find that a grand majority of them, from omnivore to vegan, are concerned about the welfare of livestock. They care deeply about the way livestock are treated and they are appalled by the videos of abuse that are put out by various animal rights groups. They like to tell me about their dog, cat, or maybe even their horse, and how they couldn’t bear the thought of those animals being eaten.They wonder how ranchers feel about these animals and their welfare. Do we really care?
This is always a difficult discussion to have with folks since a rancher's relationship with his livestock is very complex; and most of the public has insufficient experience with animals to relate to a rancher. In addition, the videos they see and stories they hear are not an accurate representation of the industry. So what I typically do is tell my story and what livestock have meant to me.
For me, caring for livestock was never a question. It was all that I’ve ever known. One of my first clear memories is helping my mother pull lambs in the middle of the night when I was three or four. I started showing lambs at four with my ewe lamb named Pirate, and I showed my first market lamb at six. I got my first pony about the same age and a horse soon after. From that age, I had chores and wasn’t allowed to have dinner until my animals had been fed. We’ve always had cattle and I was literally raised in a barn (a sale barn to be exact).
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