Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Lose the Argument on Animal Welfare

Dave Daley, interim dean of the College of Agriculture at Chico State University in California, says that your view on animal welfare depends on what you see when you look out your window.

This is an interesting concept and one that I believe farmers and ranchers can really learn from. At the 4th International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare, Daley gave an outline of  "How to Lose the Argument on Animal Welfare."

Read the full story on Beef Today

Here are 12 problems that he sees with the current state of agriculture’s point of view towards animal welfare:
  1. Assuming science will give us all the answers. Science doesn't solve ethical questions. -This is important because farming and animal welfare is such an emotional topic and too often we, farmers and ranchers, look at it from a logical standpoint
  2. Using economics as justification for animal welfare practices. -Again, think emotional response, not logical. But it's OK to remind folks that farming is a business as well as a way of life.
  3. Defending all agricultural practices. Defend those practices that are defensible. You lose credibility by trying to defend all practices. -Stick to what you know and your own farming practices. "While I can't speak for all farmers or ranchers, here's what we do......" Always be honest and transparent but don't overshoot the target.
  4. We can do better at animal welfare. -While there is always room for improvement, don't rollover just to please someone else. Be proud of what you do and confident that you are doing the best that you can do on your farm.
  5. Attacking everyone who disagrees (i.e. PETA, HSUS, vegans, etc.). -This is a tough one for me. While I certainly don't oppose people's choice of eating habits, nor do I wish to change their diets, I do have issues with PETA and HSUS. Just remember that it's OK to agree to disagree and always, always, always think before you speak (or rant in my case).
  6. Not being willing to listen. -This one is HUGE! Preaching will get you nowhere fast. Listen! Don't talk at them, talk to them. Find out why he/she/they oppose what you do and create a dialogue. You don't have to change their mind, just build that bridge to better understanding. Again, it's OK to agree to disagree.
  7. Assuming the lunatic fringe is the general public. -The Fonz says, "Assumptions are the termites of relationships." True story! A lot of people just assume that you abuse animals because of how you raise them. Moral of the story: Don't add more crazy to the pot, it's filling up fast enough.
  8. Being reactive instead of proactive. -How many times have we heard this one?! This is why it is so important to tell your story.
  9. Assuming that because someone disagrees with you they are stupid, evil or both. -Didn't we just discuss this? Assumptions are the devil!
  10. Not working hard enough to build coalitions that include the public. -Connect, connect, connect!
  11. Criticizing/mocking non-conventional production systems. There is room for other methods of production, so let the market determine success or failure. -'Nough said. Just like there is more than one way to skin a cat (not that I recommend any of them), there is more than one way to sow a seed, raise a pig, etc. Live and let live. It's about bridges, not road blocks.
  12. Trying to lead a parade without seeing if anyone is following. -While this is quite humorous to witness on the streets......wait, visualize of a guy flamboyantly marching down the street with a baton and he's all by himself. Now giggle, I know I am......
The bottom line is simple, we can't butt heads with those that oppose what we do and expect to get anywhere useful. We can't fight crazy with crazy. It just doesn't work. We need to be creating conversations, real conversations were you speak, then you listen and you respond to the response. Connect, connect, connect! (name that movie)

Building bridges is what it's all about. We need to stop leaping from one extreme to another extreme, instead, we need to jaunt along the middle ground.

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” ― Abraham Maslow


  1. This is a great list! It's good to be reminded of these items. Thank you so much for posting this and I will keep this list close as I blog/interact with people.

  2. Thanks, Wanda. Glad you liked it.

  3. Great list! It's always a good point for those of us on the ag side to remember that in the end, we're only a small percentage of the population. If we don't educate those who we feed, and they find something they don't like, ignoring them wont make it go away. Eventually, if we're not willing to potentially give a little, we may be forced (via commercial or legal means) to give up a whole lot more.