What is in this article?:
- In a country where only a small percentage of the population understands how food is produced, can veterinarians help bridge the divide?
- Twitter and other social media channels have allowed people in urban environments that care about food, and how that food is produced, to connect with all kinds of producers.
Making The Connection
As a supporter of the bill, Dr. Seng says his colleagues and constituents presumed the agricultural industry was hiding something. It was his job as a state senator and veterinarian to connect the two sides.
“Discussions had the connotation that agriculture was on the defense, trying to stifle openness—and due to the lack of knowledge of what goes on in agriculture—everyone was considered a culprit,” Dr. Seng recalls. “In reality, for the bill to work, both sides had to give in some. There is this thing with consumers and issues of agriculture. They are getting inquisitive about things that have been standard practices on farms for years.
The political implications are huge. Everyone is questioning everything about everything.”
Dr. Seng says he believes veterinarians have a special place in the ongoing discussion about how food is produced due to the trust most people have in the veterinary field.
“I think veterinarians have consumers’ trust because we haven’t specialized. We’re still a family practitioner type of career,” Dr. Seng says. “When you get into urban areas, most veterinarians do almost everything for the overall health of your animal. As a practical matter, they are in business and not related to elite academia, but hold the respect of an advanced degree. At the end of the day, you could put all veterinarians in the country inside Hawkeye Stadium. We’re a rather sparse group in the overall population.”
One of the keys to making the connection is simply understanding how things have changed, Dr. Seng notes. When he first started as a veterinarian, many dogs were outdoor-only animals. In the last 40 years, he’s seen a greater emphasis on pets as members of the family. In urban America, pets could often be the only animal interaction readily available.
“With the increased interest in animal welfare on the companion animal side, people are looking across the scenario to the large animal field too,” Dr. Seng says. “If a dog is supposed to have a clean run and there are cattle standing in feedlots, they can’t understand how it would be a different standard. With increased awareness on their pet, it jumps into the large animal sector as well.”