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.”
- Assuming science will give us all the answers; it only gives us some of the answers. Science doesn´t solve ethical questions.
- 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.
- 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.
- Agriculture is about evolving practices. Why can´t we continue to improve a system that is already good but will continue to change?
- Attacking everyone who disagrees with you in a negative, critical manner.
- Not being willing to listen because we are so busy responding.
- Assuming that the lunatic fringe is the general public. We spend way too much time focusing on lunatics and not working with the public.
- Being reactive rather than proactive.
- Assuming that because someone disagrees with you they are stupid, evil or both. Good people can look at the same issue differently.
- 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.