let's talk farm animals

Most farmers would never think of abusing animals

Waterloo Record, MARLENE OTTENS, (Jul 19, 2021)

The July 14 letter of the day, Livestock Suffer Under Horrific Conditions, would be amusing if it wasn’t such a blatant collection of half-truths.

Writer Carol A. Lodin makes a series of statements based on assumptions and propaganda that need to be addressed.

She begins with the sad story of a barn fire that killed 6,000 pigs. Any
tragedy that kills living creatures, especially when witnesses can hear
their cries, is terrible. She goes on to say there are too many such
incidents and that more needs to be done to “ensure their safety.” Like
what — fire drills?

Obviously, farmers do what they can to ensure their barns don’t go up in flames, but like fires and accidents everywhere, sometimes it still happens. I certainly don’t want to see any sort of legislation mandating that farmers have to enter burning buildings to save their animals.

If Lodin is suggesting high-cost solutions such as sprinkler systems, then farmers will install them right after every homeowner does. Let’s not be ridiculous.

Lodin then makes this left-field statement: “Most of the small farms have been replaced by factory farms owned by corporations.” Really? Based on what statistic?

I suggest Lodin leave the concrete cocoon of the city and take a drive in the country — and I mean the real country on a concession road, not what she sees from her car window along a paved highway. There are thousands of family farms in Ontario, each with enough livestock to support one family.

From my kitchen window, I can see half a dozen family farms with parents and kids of all ages working with beef, dairy, hogs and poultry — not a factory farm corporation in sight. This is true of every concession road in Waterloo, Wellington, Perth, Huron, Bruce and Grey counties.

What is a “factory farm” anyway? This term is spit out disparagingly too often. It implies uncaring, detached fat cats shoving huge numbers of defenceless animals through the food chain.

However, most urban people have no idea what constitutes a “lot” of
livestock. Does 5,000 chickens sound like a lot? It’s barely enough to keep food on the table for one farm family. An average broiler farm has between 20,000 and 40,000 chickens. They get all the food and water they want, which is more than some people can say. They run loose in the barn, as free-range as possible without exposing them to bird flu from wild poultry outside.

Too many people have an Old MacDonald image of the ideal family farm, with a cow here, a pig or two there, and everywhere a chicken, scratching in the dirt. This is as realistic as my idealized image of urban life — a neighbourhood of brownstones surrounded by towering elms, with children in pigtails playing hopscotch on the sidewalk, while parents chat over the fence as they hang laundry.

No one can support their family with one cow, a pair of goats and handful of chickens. That’s called a hobby farm for a reason.

Lodin criticized beef and pig farmers for providing less than 20 square feet per animal. A school classroom with 25 students that is 30-feet square provides only 36 square feet per child, and that doesn’t account for desks, bookshelves, art tables and the class gerbil. Those poor schoolchildren, housed worse than farm animals.

Farmers could provide spa-like conditions for their livestock if consumers would pay accordingly for the end product, but we all know that won’t happen. After Americans, Canadian consumers spend a smaller proportion of their disposable income on food than any other industrialized nation.

Many people think nothing of spending a couple of dollars every day for a fancy coffee, but balk at $2 broccoli or when ground beef hits $3 a pound.

It is in farmers’ best interests to treat their livestock well, because a
happy cow is a productive cow. Certainly there is the occasional news story of farm animal abuse, but that’s why it’s in the news — because it’s out of the ordinary. I don’t judge all teachers because I read a story about one teacher inappropriately kissing his pupils.

Lodin concludes her letter with “if we knew the whole story, it would
horrify any compassionate person.”

But Lodin herself doesn’t know the whole story of farm life, making blanket statements and accusatory judgments when it seems she has never been to a family farm. That horrifies me.

Marlene Ottens lives on a farm with her family in Mapleton Township.

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Posted by FFC on July 21st, 2009 :: Filed under Education and public awareness,Family vs factory farming,Letters to the Editor,Pork
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