let's talk farm animals

The Intentions Behind PETA Attack Ads

Jean L Clavelle

You may have seen the DairyCarrie post recently regarding the PETA video which told a story of cows slogging through deep mud, living in deplorable conditions, emaciated, and generally uncared for. However, upon further investigation DairyCarrie identified several questionable points about the statements and images in the video and that perhaps the story was not all it was shown to be. The video stated that cows were emaciated and generally uncared for however upon closer look the cows had shiny glossy clean coats, were bright and alert and actually in good condition. To the uneducated eye and in comparison to say a sow with large rounded hips dairy cows may look emaciated but that is really just their anatomy - this is normal. It was said that cows were forced to live sleep and eat in mud and manure but if cows actually lived in the conditions shown their bodies hips and tails (not to mention the walls and every other surface in the barn!) would be covered in mud but they were sparkly clean above their legs. (See DairyCarrie.com for the full article).

This one small blog stirred up a virtual hornets nest on social media. By the next day DairyCarrie had 1.2 million views on Facebook and 160,000 people reading the article. Harris Teeter (the grocery food store chain), implicated in the video by PETA as purchasing directly from the farm, denied ever having any relationship with it and PETA was forced to retract their statements.  Upon investigating PETA’s allegations, local county inspectors determined they were unfounded, the cows were actually well cared for and there were no (zero nada zip) welfare concerns.

So why would a group like PETA set out to defame a small dairy farm like this and the dairy industry as a whole? What could possibly be the objective of such a stunt if there was in fact no animal welfare issues? PETA, Humane Society of the United States, Mercy for Animals and others believe in animal rights. Simply put they do not wish for anyone to use, own, have animals of any kind whether that be for food, for entertainment or for pleasure. Including companion animals. They often implicate poor animal welfare as the reason for investigating farms or organizations that involve animals. And let’s be honest occasionally there are poor animal welfare conditions that are beyond ideal and downright negative. However as shown by the DairyCarrie post sometimes (and perhaps more often than you realize) it has more to do with the fact that people are simply using animals (regardless of animal welfare) and the posts and videos distributed by these extreme animal rights groups have nothing to do with animal welfare. And because the general public doesn’t understand the normal anatomy, physiology and animal management of a particular species PETA and other groups spins false truths playing on our emotions. For example in the PETA video it was noted that cows were referred to by number and that implied uncaring conditions. However what an excellent management practice for producers to know an animals complete history from birthday to health issues to production. So even though they do have numbers it’s a practical way to provide the very best health management and individual care for each animal based on what each cow requires.  And as I mentioned earlier to the untrained eye, it might appear that dairy cows are emaciated however obvious hip bones are normal for cows in good condition or even overweight cows.

The Animal rights belief system is certainly a valid one.  It’s unfortunate that these groups behave so badly and devalue that perspective by lying and marketing false truths. I ask each one of you to ask more questions before you believe on face value everything that is published by one of these extremists groups. Contact your local agriculture office, or any of the provincial industry associations who can help you answer your livestock questions or to visit a farm and find out what really happens.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on September 2nd, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal care,Animal welfare,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness,HSUS,PETA,Uncategorized
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When the farm is no longer on the farm

By Carolyn MacLaren, General Manager, BC Farm Animal Care Council (BCFACC).

When I became involved in speaking about and explaining farm animal care a few years ago I had some ideas of what the issues were, where good things were happening and improvements were demonstrated, and where there were still gaps. I also had some familiarity of the “urban” issues from my university days in large Canadian centres where both schools I attended during my academic career had their share of “greenies” or “vegan” types as they were known. All of this I could deal with and I could reconcile, it was pretty easy for the most part so either I was good at it or I had the luck to not encounter too many disagreeable or militant types. Probably a combination of both, really.

I regularly meet very nice people who know absolutely nothing about farming and food production but have clearly been influenced by people and groups who aren’t telling our story as it really is, such as the PETAs (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) of the world. I have learned to take time to listen to those questions and understand what they are asking and what the issue or concern really is and then try to answer in the most direct and simplest way possible, citing examples and drawing on analogies, as I have been taught. For the most part this does the trick and people are appreciative that I took the time to discuss the issues and did not laugh at their lack of knowledge.

The computer game Hay Day may be fun but is a poor depiction of how farms really work.

The computer game Hay Day may be fun but is a poor depiction of how farms really work.

Now that I have children of my own, I make sure their perspective is imbued with a healthy dose of realism – “ … yes, calves do have their horns removed, it’s safer for them and the other calves, yes trimming a chicken’s beak is safer for them and the other chickens …”. We speak openly about what is on our dinner table and where it came from. It’s not unusual to hear my 8-year-old ask “So, Mommy, is this chicken or pig we are eating tonight?” before she happily and heartily digs in. When we drive out to the family dairy farm on a particularly aromatic day (usually when the spreading of manure is allowed again in the spring) our girls will tell their friends, who are loudly protesting the smell, that “that smell is actually very good because without it, there would be no cheese, no milk, no ice cream, no yogurt.” I have brought them to my side and it really wasn’t that hard. Or so I thought.

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Posted by BCFACC on January 16th, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Education and public awareness,Misconceptions,PETA,Pigs,Urban Myths
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