Kansas State University (KSU) animal scientist Lily Edwards believes producers shouldn’t be defined by a few "bad apples" when it comes to animal well-being. But, she adds, there are some animal-management practices that could be improved upon.

Speaking on "Animal Well-Being: Bridging the Gap Between Consumers and Producers" at KSU’s recent Cattlemen´s Day program, Edwards says there’s been a shift in the public´s ethical consideration of animals. The concept of humane treatment of animals has transformed into the concept of "well-being," which not only includes an animal´s physical welfare but its quality of life.

Edwards encouraged producers to take every opportunity to educate consumers about what the livestock industry does to promote the well-being of animals, and to consider altering some practices that could impair animal well-being.

She cited a list devised by D.A. Daley, California State University-Chico, entitled “How to Lose the Argument on Animal Welfare – Top 10 Reasons.”

  1. Assuming science will give us all the answers; it only gives us some of the answers. Science doesn´t solve ethical questions.
  2. Using economics as the justification for all of our practices. We need to convince the public that we truly care about animals, not just about dollars.
  3. Assuming that you have to defend all ag practices, regardless of what they are. Defending all practices makes no sense and causes you to lose credibility with the public.
  4. Agriculture is about evolving practices. Why can´t we continue to improve a system that is already good but will continue to change?
  5. Attacking everyone who disagrees with you in a negative, critical manner.
  6. Not being willing to listen because we are so busy responding.
  7. Assuming that the lunatic fringe is the general public. We spend way too much time focusing on lunatics and not working with the public.
  8. Being reactive rather than proactive.
  9. Assuming that because someone disagrees with you they are stupid, evil or both. Good people can look at the same issue differently.
  10. Not working hard enough to build coalitions that include the public (consumers). Most of our coalition efforts are focused on bringing ag groups together. There aren´t enough of us, and we don´t represent enough votes.

Daley´s list also includes two bonus points in advising producers what not to do:
  • Criticizing or mocking any animal production system that is not "conventional." There is room in agriculture for lots of different methods of production. Let the market determine their success.
  • Trying to lead a parade without seeing if anyone is following.
    Listen to an audio interview with Edwards at www.ksre.ksu.edu/news. Go to K-State Radio Network at the bottom of the page and click on Agriculture Today. The interview is available on the March 5 broadcast.
-- Mary Lou Peter, KSU