The election-day vote by Californians to adopt state Proposition 2 was a wakeup call to agriculture, according to American Agri-Women (AAW). Proposition 2 is an initiative that outlaws contemporary food animal practices, including use of gestation stalls, veal stalls and layer cages. Unfortunately many people who donate to the organizations sponsoring bills like these think they’re contributing to groups that work to improve animal care, yet many of their campaigns demand changes that are actually harmful to animals’ overall health and well-being.
How does ag meet the challenges that the animal rights groups present? Here are a few suggestions from AAW:
- This is an industry-wide issue. All of us in ag must be involved to prevent unreasonable restrictions being put in place that have a negative impact on livestock production. Many states have formed state and regional organizations to “tell the real story of animal agriculture.” The Ohio Livestock Coalition and the Minnesota Foundation for Responsible Animal Care are two examples. Other states are or have organized ag-based coalitions around the animal-care issue.
- Understand how society listens to the messages food-animal producers are sending. Our mainly urban society thinks of animals as pets and companions. They aren’t interested in our economic problems, but want producers to provide good care to their animals. We must assure them that we care for our animals but do the work that consumers don’t or won’t do to have meat on the plate.
- Implement an animal welfare assurance program on your farm or ranch. Utilize good production, transporting and processing standards following industry guidelines. Set your standards high and maintain that quality. Properly evaluate all employees, including day labor. Be vigilant in hiring practices; check applications, work history, backgrounds and references thoroughly. Fully train employees in basic animal care practices and the priority of these practices in everyday husbandry. Take swift and appropriate action if unacceptable animal handling occurs.
- Stay informed. Know who the leading activists and anti-ag groups are; check out their websites. Become familiar with their agendas, know who the leaders are, and how they are funded. (Editor’s note.)
- Be a legislative watchdog. Activist groups have well-designed strategies and resources for influencing legislation at all levels. Many states report a flurry of bad legislation and court cases led by anti-animal ag groups. Prominent law schools around the nation are preparing lawyers by offering courses on animal rights. Ag leaders must stay alert and work to defeat bad legislation both state and federal.
- Speak up for animal ag. Let consumers know farmers and ranchers give animals humane, healthy and caring treatment while providing safe and nutritious food products for a hungry world. Provide accurate, science-based info while inspiring positive emotion among consumers toward farming and ranching.