I was talking with a coworker earlier today about yet another celebrity who has made a statement supporting the humane treatment of pigs on farms, and it perplexes me when celebrities (or people in general) do this. Of course you support the humane treatment of animals, what kind of a person wouldn’t? Do people think farmers have quarterly meetings to come up with terrible ways to treat animals just for the heck of it?
I grew up on a farm, and I am all for animals being treated humanely. As a matter of fact, my personal experiences have shown me that many farmers have a greater respect and understanding of animals than a person who has spent little time with livestock. So I find it odd when people declare their support of the humane treatment of animals, because… so do we.
It is frustrating to me, and I assume to other farmers, when people start attacking you for how you raise your animals when the extent of their research has been watching a story about it on the news. Gestation stalls in pork production are a great example. The media shows you pictures of these and portray it as a negative thing, so you automatically form a negative opinion about them. When people talk to me about it, I ask them, “Did you know that pigs are surprisingly aggressive animals? They have a need to establish a pecking order, and in order to do so, they fight with each other leaving gashes and bite marks all over their opponent.” Of course, they don’t usually know that, nor do I expect them to. After all, the only reason I know that is because I have experience working with pigs and studied them in college.
The methods we use to raise livestock were put in place for a reason, believe it or not. We didn’t just decide that it would be easier to put each pig in their own stall and start implementing it. Extensive research showed us that it created a more ideal living environment for a pregnant sow. Are farmers always right? Of course not, no one is. But we spend a lot of time and money on research and we are always trying to grow, learn, and improve.
So, the next time you think farmers are doing something wrong, just remember that we are people, too. We care. We are doing things the best way we know how with the information and resources we are given, just like anybody else. Maybe, just maybe, there is reason behind our actions.
As always, I am a huge advocate of engaging in farmer-consumer conversations. If you don’t understand why we are doing something, just ask! I bet you will walk away with a better understanding and more trust in the people who grow your food.