My View From The Country

What Do We Do About The .01 Percent Of Producers Who Actually Abuse Animals?

Disturbing videos of animal abuse continue to surface. Producers must have zero tolerance for inhumane practices.

This week in Colorado we had an undercover video released by the group Compassion Over Killing. Initially, many of us as producers instinctively question these type of videos because in the past, we have seen them concocted, pieced together and generally misrepresented.

This, however, was the second time in Colorado in the last couple of years that such a video has emerged in which the animal abuse appears to be real. Certainly all of the cattle organizations, agricultural groups, and state agencies responded appropriately by condemning the abuse and calling for investigation and enforcement of the laws that were broken. 

The challenge for agriculture is that Colorado has become largely an urban state. In fact, six rural Colorado counties recently voted to secede from the state, in part because Colorado has evolved to the point where agriculture and energy production are no longer viewed as a positive, nor have a voice in state or local government.

Colorado agriculture is currently engaged in almost annual negotiations with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which identifies an agricultural practice it wants eliminated, with the promise to use the referendum process if the industry doesn’t act. The reality is that the odds are with HSUS at the ballot box, given the disparity in financial resources and an urban majority of voters.


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This year, the issue is tail-docking, a practice the industry has already largely eliminated. But a few continue to utilize the practice and there is nothing legislatively that prevents it. HSUS views this as low-hanging fruit. The industry frets about the “slippery slope” concept, while realizing tail-docking is a practice perhaps not worthy of a heated defense. The problem is that we know the demands will keep coming, and we’ll eventually be faced with losing production practices that are backed by sound science, and benefit both animals and producers, but won’t survive a challenge at the ballot box.

The other video incident in Colorado involved a producer who allowed some of his animals to starve and failed to uphold basic animal husbandry standards. Again, what was shown is neither typical nor cultural; it is an anomaly in every sense. I do not know the individual but I surmise that a series of grave management and financial mistakes led to a snowball effect that consumed this person. There is nothing logical about failing to take care of your animals, not only from an ethical standpoint, but financial as well.  

The most recent video fits into this category as well; it shows an anomaly that makes no sense and no one would condone. It is just an example of inherently flawed humans that we see all the time in many areas.

While there is probably no way to ever identify or stop these rare occurrences from happening, education and surveillance are important. These 0.1% outlier incidents are something we will have to deal with, but with education and cultural pressure from within, hopefully the frequency will continue to decline. Relative to broader issues like tail docking, the industry needs to step up and eliminate these practices because we can’t waste our limited political capital defending a practice that is destined to be eliminated regardless.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 7

on Nov 15, 2013

Perhaps the industry can self police with an organization that inspects operations and gives certain badges of merit to those doing things right. It would become a marketing tool to have the designation. There can be a fee to join which can offset the costs.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Nov 15, 2013

Any reason this should not be a function of NCBA and similar organizations for other animals?

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Nov 15, 2013

As you say, these things will always happen. They happen at the far margin and are really only noteworthy in that they are exceptional. One solution might be to look at statistical evidence of domestic abuse, child abuse, drug use and/or criminal activity in the activist crowd and publicize that. Undercover videos would be nice too. Just a thought.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Nov 15, 2013

One form of the blatant animal abuse you mentioned was exemplified the other day by a woman found to have 67 cats in her house in Raleigh, NC, most of which had to be euthanized as they were so ill. She started out as a cat rescue volunteer and apparently became "overwhelmed". Starving animals that could have been marketed when healthy seems to me to fall into this category; one of the blatantly harmful side effects of the ban on horse slaughter.
Other people are just mean, often combined with lazy.
When are people mean? When are WE irritable? And hence most likely to be abusive to animals or each other?
We get irritable when we are hungry, horny, tired/sleep deprived, hot, (up to 96 degrees F. and 60% humidity, above which we become lethargic) or threatened.
Each type of animal abuse will require specifically directed remedies.

JRB (not verified)
on Nov 15, 2013

Is this tail docking of dairy animals or sheep??

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 15, 2013

I wondered that also. And if HSUS cares or has seen a sheep with maggots that probably could have been prevented with docking. I am willing to take a little time to give a few pain killing shots before docking my lambs. Pain killers should be more readily available to producers. And it makes business sense. A twin lamb especially that does not follow mom and the other lamb due to pain can become a near worthess orphan bummer lamb.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 15, 2013

The animal rights activists condemn tail docking on sheep or cows, but Not one of them even considers that millions of newborn baby boys are experiencing genital Mutilation called circumcision Without any form of pain medication. What a way to look the otherway!

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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