let's talk farm animals

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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Passion for farming results in presentations by student to hundreds of fellow classmates

We think this Canadian student’s passion for farming and his willingness to talk openly to others is an inspiration. In the last few months, he has spoken to hundreds of students at a Woodstock-area high school about food and farming. Keep reading to hear Rudi’s story.

by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate.

When Rudi Spruit attended a recent conference of the Junior Farmers’ Association of Ontario and saw a presentation about the misinformation consumers have about agriculture and food, he knew he wanted to do something to help spread the right information. “There are lots of misconceptions. Even teachers have some. I try to encourage others to learn,” says Spruit, a young farmer from Ontario.

What has evolved from an idea formed in March has turned into a 50 minute presentation made to various classes at Spruit’s school. So far, Spruit estimates he has presented to 300 students from his 850 student school. Spruit says there are a total of between 20 and 25 farmers attending the school.

Rudi and his classmate Drew give a presentation on farming to a class at their high school.

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Posted by FFC on June 6th, 2011 :: Filed under Canada,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness,Misconceptions,Pigs,Speaking out,Urban Myths
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Why Farmers should NOT Speak Up

For more than a decade now, there’s been a movement across Canada with a goal of empowering farmers to take a chance, Speak Up, and share their passion for farming with the public - most of whom have no direct connection with food or farming. And we’re happy to report that movement appears to be growing. We’re seeing farmers start blogs, tweet from their tractors, write letters to the editor on topics of importance to them and take a chance on doing more media interviews when we know that they’d much rather be working in their barns or in their fields. Michele Payn-Knoper of Indiana is a farmer and an agricultural advocate who works tireless to champion the farmers’ cause. We especially like this blog post, posted at www.causematters.com earlier this year and reprinted here with permission from her. Michele’s cited a number of the “excuses” she’s heard for farners not speaking up about agriculture - if you have any more, feel free to comment on the blog post below! -  OFAC

 The new year typically starts with motivational tips, hype about resolutions and pressure to make promises of how we’re going to do things differently. Not me. I’m bringing an entirely different perspective on advocacy – a highly sarcastic view on why we SHOULD NOT tell agriculture’s story. Several ag folks from across the U.S. and Canada added to the list on Twitter and Facebook – you’re welcome to post your own comment in the spirit of some fun.
Shhh, there’s no need to tell your story!

15.  Agriculture has little economic contribution – and the American economy is thriving.  After all, 80%+ of the economy isn’t reliant on the agrifood system – and surely your community doesn’t benefit from property taxes and jobs paid by farms.

14. “It’s embarrassing to have people thank you for producing their food. I don’t want people to think I am a corporate shill (every farmer who speaks out is one, right?) says sheep and daughter raiser Venessa in her own Spartan sarcasm.

13. “Who needs consumers anyway? I can still farm without people to buy my grain and animals that eat my grain. I like grain storage.  Those big shiny bins are SO pretty and cheap…” was a heavily sarcastic comment from Sarah Bedgar Wilson, a young farmer in North Dakota (the cold made her do it, I’m sure).

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Posted by FFC on March 4th, 2011 :: Filed under Consumers,Education and public awareness,Farm life,HSUS,Misconceptions,Speaking out,Uncategorized,Urban Myths
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Sweat like a Pig? Not likely!

By Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

It’s a hot, sunny summer day, and pigs are all out wallowing in the mud, happy as could be.  Or are they? 

Pigs, when housed outdoors, will use mud to keep cool if necessary.  They lack sweat glands (making it impossible to “sweat like a pig”), so the only way they can cool themselves is by getting moisture on their skin which can than evaporate and create a cooling effect.  Mud would work for this cooling effect, as does water.

Although pigs are normally associated with messes (“your room is a pig sty” probably being the most common example), they actually like clean environments to live in.  Pigs are quite comfortable living in a clean, dry barn with adequate supplies of food and water.

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Posted by FFC on March 1st, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Housing,Pigs,Pork,Urban Myths,Weather
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