Farmers and Ranchers Care for Animals in Order to Produce Safe and Abundant Food Supply

By: Kiley Stinson, Intern

I recently had the opportunity to take in some of the most fascinating and historical landmarks of our country when visiting our Nation’s Capital in Washington, D.C.  It was truly a remarkable experience, and puts our American History in a whole different perspective once you’ve been. If you’ve never been, I encourage you to go.

After braving the heat for several hours, in an attempt to cool off we checked out the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Coincidentally, across the street sits the United States Department of Agriculture building. While trying to weave in-and-out of a cluster of people, I noticed the young woman walking in front of me stopped and picked up a pretty colorful magazine. To my surprise in bold lettering the heading read “Go Vegetarian, Go Vegan.” So who were the culprits with their logo clearly printed on the front cover? PETA. All it took was one flip of a page to see the lies and misinterpretation of information attacking animal agriculture. Animal rights activist groups such as PETA and also the HSUS quite frequently use facts and information out of context in order to frame farm animal production in a negative manner. These groups effectively get the attention of young hearts by using emotion through words, photos and videos that show animals being abused and neglected and often include so called “testimonies” by celebrities and professional athletes.

So what did the articles have to say this time? In highlighted text, phrases such as “many pigs go insane from extremely crowded conditions in factory farms, and compulsively chew on the bars of their pens.” A lot of folks might not realize this, but pigs chew on everything! Especially young pigs, I know this from raising pigs on my farm. It’s not uncommon to see a pig chewing on a panel, your shoes, a stick or even a marshmallow! This just goes to show that just because a picture shows a pig chewing on the panel of a pen, doesn’t mean that animal is in danger. You can’t believe everything you see. It’s common practice by farmers and livestock producers to keep their animals in a pen to protect them harmful predators. Whether that potential predator is a coyote, a cat, or actions taken as a preventative biosecurity measure to ensure that their farm stays clean and free of disease. It’s all done to provide a safe and healthy food supply for consumers. If animal rights activists are so appalled to the idea of young animals being kept in a pen, were they not one of the millions of kids whose parents used playpens when they were growing up? Play pens protect children from wandering off away from their parents, and provides a safe place to nap, play or snack.. Hmm… sounds similar to how farmers keep their animals safe and happy.

The challenge? Many will believe almost anything on television or in a magazine, even if the message isn’t even close to being accurate. Many families are no where near as self sufficient as their ancestors once were. Many men and women don’t know how that corn, lettuce or hamburger got to their table. This isn’t just an issue in urban cities either. It’s happening in your community. Families are several generations removed from their family farm.

How can you help? Talk. It doesn’t matter if you’re a farmer, livestock producer or the consumer. Tell your story, talk about how much you care, how far you go out of your way to see that what you are producing or eating is safe and wholesome. Write a letter to the editor. Let your neighbors and coworkers know about how good those sirloin steaks and corn on the cob was last night for supper. Talk to your child’s school board about the importance of ag education. Join a social network. Call a farmer or rancher and ask if you can have a tour. I almost guarantee they would be just as excited as you, if not more to talk to you about their livelihood, and the lifestyle that they are oh, so proud of!

Temple Grandin addresses animal welfare
Factory Farms EXPOSED

Don’t be misled

Assault on Agriculture
Become an Advocate for Agriculture
The Animal Rights Agenda
What is the Humane Society of the United States?

28 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by ease on August 16, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    Kiley, it’s seems that you’ve either been paid to write this, or someone else wrote this and used your picture, or you really haven’t been around all that much. Most likely it’s the latter.

    You probably think that all farms are still family owned, organic, or free-ranged (all which are by no-means humane). The fact is the majority of meat and fish sold to the general public come from factory farms and fisheries—horrible places where animals suffer from start to finish. I suggest you travel around a bit and see what’s really going on: http://www.treehugger.com/pig-factory-farms.jpg (nice play pen).

    By spreading your message, you’re doing a disservice to not only the animals, but the health and welfare of workers and consumers, as well as the over all health of our world, a world which is dying for a peaceful and positive change from each and every individual.

    BTW, the USDA building being across from the Holocaust Museum is one of irony, not of coincidence (as you stated), since the museum’s message is about liberating all life from exploitation, regardless of religion, culture, gender, sexual orientation, or species. If you had chance to look at their gift shop, you might find information on the rights of human and non-humans alike. I picked this up there which is now hanging on my fridge: http://www.abcdbooks.org/images/posters/ChoosetoMakeaDifferenceRGB.jpg. (“Animals” is located near the top to the right).

    ease

    Reply

    • I can understand why this post raised the blood pressure of PETA supporters, however, if you had ‘been around that much,’ you would learn that your statements show a clear ignorance of general farming and ranching, corporate vs. family, and such language as “majority of meat and fish sold to the general public come from factory farms and fisheries—horrible places where animals suffer from start to finish.” That is agenda-driven hype and is simply not true.

      You gain no credibility by being ridiculous with obviously no knowledge of how animal agriculture really is conducted. You choose to use very few instances to hype your agenda, knowing that animal abuse is clearly the minute exception, not the rule. That is neither productive nor influential, and you become nothing more than noise from an extreme that serves no useful purpose.

      Reply

  2. […] Stinson, an intern for an agriculture site, recently blogged about picking up a Vegetarian/Vegan Starter Kit from one of PETA’s stands in DC. Her confounding […]

    Reply

  3. Posted by Allison on August 16, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    Oh my God, this is hilarious! Yes, please keep talking- if people like you are what the meat industry is banking on to change their image, the world will be vegan in no time!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Peta on August 16, 2010 at 9:37 PM

    i don’t think they can play in there or even turn around.
    i understand what you mean but these “playpens are very different then the ones we as babies used.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Jenna on August 17, 2010 at 1:09 AM

    While I respectfully disagree with your argument that factory farms are really not that bad… I encourage you to watch the documentary Earthlings.
    Regardless of whether you may think that this documentary may be biased (which is a legitimate argument, given that it was made by animal rights activists), the video footage is clear. Animals in factory farms are submitted to some of the most inhumane and reprehensible treatment (read: torture) imaginable.
    As I imagine you are an intelligent individual, I cannot imagine that you would not want to fully understand all sides of this discussion before permanently forming an opinion. Which is why, again, I encourage you to watch the documentary Earthlings. It certainly may be true that not all animals are submitted to the treatment portrayed in this movie, but far too many are.
    I once said and believed the same things as you have said here. I can honestly say, Earthlings changed my life.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Kathy on August 17, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    This is hilarious! Kiley, you are truly clueless when it comes to factory farming. You clearly have no idea what goes on and exactly how the animals are treated, or shall I say “mistreated”, on farms. It’s awful, very sad and very disturbing. I have gone “behind the scenes” on small, family owned farms and also some of the larger factory farms performing odds and ends kind of work (as part of my own personal research and undercover work); and let me tell you, not to my surprise, the horrific conditions and abuse that I witnessed on a daily basis. Both types of farms are guilty of abuse where animals are raised and eventually slaughtered for food. It’s something that I believe every person needs to see to believe.

    “If animal rights activists are so appalled to the idea of young animals being kept in a pen, were they not one of the millions of kids whose parents used playpens when they were growing up? Play pens protect children from wandering off away from their parents, and provides a safe place to nap, play or snack.. Hmm… sounds similar to how farmers keep their animals safe and happy.” — This is probably the funniest part of your entire post, Kiley. You really believe that animals on factory farms are safe and happy? You believe that they can actually have enough room to nap in those tiny crates you call play pens? They can’t even move around! And snack? Snack on what? The bars they constantly chew on? Yummm, that sure makes my mouth water! You need to seriously stop and think before you go and post something like this, because you really have no idea what you are talking about. Sure, we all want to believe “your version” of a factory farm Kiley, but it’s simply not that way. Again, I have seen first hand what everyday life is for the animals on farms, and it is nothing like you describe. I so wish it was though. How nice that would be.

    Reply

    • Posted by Brooke on August 18, 2010 at 9:27 PM

      Kathy,

      Thank you for voicing your opinion.

      You said you have seen first-hand they daily life of farm animals. I hope that you don’t take your experience, which may have been negative, and allow that to judge your opinion on the entire farming community.

      I challenge you to research farming practices – with an open mind – and schedule farm tours. Most farmers are open to conversations about their lifestyles if you give them the opportunity.

      Reply

  7. “It’s common practice by farmers and livestock producers to keep their animals in a pen to protect them harmful predators.” Please let us get just one thing absolutely clear: The most “harmful predator” to any nonhuman… especially “food animals” is man. I agree totally with Allison – that if you are what the meat industry is banking on to square things up in the minds of rational American consumers they are in for a real let down.

    Why not bring in a real “heavy weight” to argue the “moral high ground” like Wes Jamison…. Oh wait! He launched a campaign with a “dead animals are good” slogan – Never mind. I’m convinced there’s zip, zero, zilch that animal ag can defend in their use of innocent sentient beings… It’s only a matter of time.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Beth Holz on August 17, 2010 at 2:52 PM

    I beg those that use the term “factory farm” to please site the research article that term came from. Does academia use that term, or just PETA? What is a factory farm? Is that term based in science or emotion?

    Reply

  9. Posted by Beth Holz on August 17, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    *cite, excuse me.

    Reply

    • Posted by Sally on August 19, 2010 at 10:44 PM

      Beth, I’ve asked many times but have yet to hear a description of what I refer to as the double F word.
      Anyone who is opposed to animal agriculture will use the term to describe just about any farm simply because they are opposed to animal ag.

      Sometimes I think it’s pointless to argue with AR supporters because they don’t even have the basic information right. However, it IS important that the real ag story is presented so that open-minded people can make their own decisions.

      Reply

  10. Posted by Leah on August 17, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    Kiley – Maybe you could post some pictures from some of the biggest companies’ farms to prove this point? From my experience, they don’t allow much access or pictures of their farms, which tends to breed distrust, as I’m sure you could understand. Do you think it’s okay for an animal to not be able to move around at all in its pen? How is it a “play pen” if you can’t move or play?

    (Also, I’d suggest checking and changing your blog’s tagline and blogroll, as they currently just show WordPress’s default, which just advertises WordPress, something you’re probably not going for…)

    Reply

    • Posted by Brooke on August 18, 2010 at 9:34 PM

      Leah you are correct that most farms – large or small – limit access. This is not to breed mistrust, but to precent the introduction of disease to the animals.

      In many operations, people who work with herds are required to shower and dress in clean coveralls and boots. In addition, items such as tools are thoroughly disinfected before permitted accesstp the barns.

      For farmers, precenting disease is a high priority and it reduces the need for treatment. And, when treatments is needed, they are judicious about the way they use medication.

      It is right for the animals and, ultimately, right for the food supply.

      Reply

  11. Posted by Lauren on August 18, 2010 at 6:39 PM

    Wow.. this is.. great. If this really is the best defense you can come up with, then I’m not worried at all. Why don’t I leave you in a dirty pen in which you can barely move in for your entire life, and then you can tell me how much of a play pen a gestation crate is.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Theresa on August 18, 2010 at 8:48 PM

    Not every farmer is a jerk – too bad it seems like each of you “advocate” commenters are.

    Opposing viewpoints should be lauded instead of beaten over the head as they add balance to one’s ferver and prevent bad ideas from running amuck. They force you to really learn the subject about which you speak so that you end up a better person in the long run. Isn’t that what your entire platform is about, really, becoming better people??

    Furthermore, what’s with letting the bad apples spoil the bunch – I might as well say that all animal advocates are mean-spirited, rude, and smell of patchouli “because they rarely shower” if I were going to JUDGE ALL OF YOU based on the 10 of you that have commented thus far and the 5 of you I have met in person. But I KNOW that you can’t all be that way, I refuse to stereo-type and remain closed-minded. I know that many if not all of you really mean well, and that deep down, under your hatred, you have such amazingly big, caring hearts. I have a real respect for animal advocates because you are fighting for what you believe in, just like I do.

    I really wish that I could help you see that not all who are in agriculture want to destroy the world or want livestock to live and die painfully – MANY of us are in it for the long haul and know that we can’t continue to do what we love without PROTECTING the earth. We’re also, many of us, extremely caring and kind hearted. Good animal producers LIVE AND DIE by their animals. They know that contented animals who are at ease and comfortable are easier to manage, produce better results and golly, its nice to know that those who depend on you aren’t frightened of you. Really, all of the animal producers I know are kind to their animals because it’s just what feels good and right. They’re kind to their animals because it’s the right thing to do.

    Why can’t some of the producers who have too-tight pens simply be mis or illinformed? Why not, instead of trying to simply destroy everything that they’ve ever known and loved, why not try to educate them and show them a better way.

    Y’all should really take a moment to breathe and spend some time getting to know the RIGHT kind of producers, then, maybe you can help spread your view point in a kind and caring manner that people will actually listen to so that one day you might see a world where those horrible videos you have are no longer possible to capture.

    Lead by love, patience and example, not with hatred and a mean spirit. That’s what those horrible producers do, you know, they beat their animals into submission. You’re really no better than them when you act this way.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Mica Veihman on August 18, 2010 at 9:09 PM

    I’m really disappointed by the tone of the comments on this blog to this young woman. It’s fine to disagree with Kiley’s point of view, but to criticize her writing style, question her intelligence, insinuate she is a liar and speak condescendingly to her because of her age is so disgraceful it makes me sick. It really reflects more poorly on you than on Kiley.

    If you feel that strongly that she is wrong in her point of view, then why not point out your reasons why. Articulately and in a civilized manner.

    Kiley – Thanks for sharing this information and your PERSONAL experience. I think we could all agree that one experience is not necessarily representative of the whole. What people need to decide is which situation is the actual outlier and not the norm.

    Reply

  14. Posted by Brooke on August 18, 2010 at 9:22 PM

    Thank you for having the courage to voice your opinion. Opening the lines of communication between rural and urban communities is the first step in voicing the changes in the agricultural industry.

    It goes without saying, all of the changes within the agricultural industry have created confusion. In the past, farmers raised a little bit of everything whereas today farmers generally specialize. Therefore, the idea of a white fence and a perfectly constructed red barn with two cows and a pig are a thing of not only the past, but children’s story books.

    It’s clear that animals raised indoors in a clean facility are 1) healthier and faster growing and 2) based on a constant environment, less disease and exacting nutrition.

    The practice of raising animals indoors has been misunderstood and mischaracterized as crowded and unsanitary. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

    The major factor affecting the well-being of any animal continues to be the skill and management of the person taking care of the animal.

    If you were to ask a member of the farming community you would find that they care about producing safe and nutritious foods for your family, protecting the promoting the well-being of their animals, and protecting the public health through production practices.

    Reply

  15. Posted by Celeste Laurent on August 19, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Kiley-
    First of all, thank you for your post discussing your personal experiences in the agriculture industry.
    I hope you won’t let the hurtful things these people said offend you. It doesn’t help their cause at all to harrass an intern’s blog post. How pathetic.
    As a family farmer who raises beef cattle and pigs, I have spent my entire life caring for animals. Though there are extremists out there who want to put my family out of business, I always remind myself that over 90% of American society enjoys the safe and wholesome meat products we produce as a healthy part of their diet. That’s something to be proud of!
    Keep your head up and keep up the good work, both on the blog and on the farm.

    Reply

  16. Posted by Kelly on August 19, 2010 at 9:52 PM

    Kiley, thank you for putting your opinion out here for the world to see.

    It’s great to do what you’re passionate about. Don’t let these animal fights folks wear you down or discourage you; their intent is not only to degrade the quality of your hard work, but also to wear down your self esteem and dedication.

    I, personally, am proud of you for being an upstanding intern that’s willing to tackle some controversial topics. You shared your opinion, and they didn’t like it. So, they resorted to name-calling and belittlement.

    Disagreement is one thing; it leads to dialogue. It breeds compromise. However, blatant attacks are unnecessary and counterproductive. Keep your chin up and keep being an agvocate, girl.

    Reply

  17. Kiley,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and insight. It is important for those involved in agriculture to share their stories with the public, explaining the what, why and how of producing food, fuel and fiber.

    Diversity of thought is everywhere and it is important to maintain the professional and civil dialogue that you exhibit. I am currently attending the #140conf in SFO and am receiving genuine appreciation for family farmers and ranchers sharing their stories.

    Many of the “stones” being thrown are a result of the lack of true understanding of modern agriculture. While the barns may be modernized, use of computers replaced typewriters and smart phones replaced the ol’ rotary, our family values and concern for the welfare of the livestock we raise remain a constant. Keep up the great work.

    Reply

  18. So I keep hearing this from animal “producers” that they must “get their story out”. That they must squelch the misinformation. But they never say exactly what “misinformation” is being told. What is the falsehood here? Animals who are sentient beings are bred, confined and often mutilated without anesthetics and then eventually after a short life of being “fattened up” go to a slaughterhouse? What exactly is “misinformation”? There is nothing untrue about any of this. The way they are bred, confined, “physically altered” and killed is just a matter of interpretation.

    Animal users and “producers” don’t seem to think anything is wrong with these practices – Yet they are “true”. It is up to individuals to know the truth and to evaluate for themselves: 1. Whether these “facts” are acceptable treatment to innocent beings. And 2. Whether any of this is “necessary” in order to live and be healthy.

    So you see… No one is distorting common practices. In the end I think you’ll see that the problems are not with “lies”… But with the idea that this arrangement with animals is being regarded as “needless suffering” and people then realize it is also unacceptable.

    Did you know that there are organizations now that are helping animal farmers convert their operations to plant based enterprises? If money is the reigning factor in continuing such occupations it might be a worthy thing to consider… Vegans have to eat too you know! ;)

    Reply

    • Posted by MSUAggie on August 19, 2010 at 11:33 PM

      Kiley,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight into production agriculture. As a future agricultural educator, I hope that I can help others overcome this stereotype that is obviously over production agriculture, like you are.

      Don’t listen to the people who trash you on this site. They are entitled to their opinions, but that does NOT mean they are right. Keep up the great work! :)

      Reply

  19. As a 5th generation beef cattle rancher from South Dakota, I’m proud of you, Kiley, for being able to connect consumers to producers and share the true story of animal agriculture. The media and animal rights activists love to throw around their weight with hard-hitting words such as, “factory farming,” and it’s a phrase used to scare other folks into believing their agendas.

    If they only knew that 97% of today’s farming and ranching operations were family-owned, maybe they would think differently. Thank you for beginning the conversation with the goal of being as transparent as possible in agriculture. As a rancher, I have nothing to hide. I’m proud of the values and integrity my parents have instilled in me, and I will always place the environment and the animals’ best welfare as top priorities.

    Keep up the great work. God Bless America’s farmers and ranchers. May they continue to provide the safest, most abundant food supply in the world, despite the challenges this occupation presents.

    Thanks again!

    Amanda Nolz

    Reply

  20. Posted by Sally on August 19, 2010 at 10:32 PM

    Kiley,
    There are some people who simply won’t be satisfied with ANY kind of animal production, ever. We could provide a pig with satin sheets on a water bed and room service and it still wouldn’t be enough for those who have determined that animal agriculture is ‘wrong’.

    Keep your head up, and be proud that you can communicate clearly and accurately about modern ag production. There will always be naysayers who think they know more than farmers and ranchers….don’t let them be the voice.

    Reply

    • Now hold on a second… No one is advocating “satin sheets, a water bed or room service”. But how about just the right to live free from our “protection” entirely? What about forgoing the “satin sheets” for just the opportunity not to be viewed as a “commodity”? Skip the water bed – what about just the freedom to roam a few acres, that is what nature would have a pig do? Nix the “room service” – what about just the freedom “from” service?

      No bizarre “rights” or laughable luxuries – just the simple respect that is owed to other sentient beings who are no different than our own animal family members… Just the “freedom” from our predation and the forced ending of life at the slaughterhouse. No, it’s not so extreme to want this over the taste of little sausages – delivered by room service or not.

      Reply

  21. Kiley,
    Super job putting personal experiences and opinions out there for everyone to see. I commend you for taking on a controversial topic and maintaining your professional and respectful dialogue.

    Unfortunately, the web if full of disrespectful folks who’d prefer to use blatant personal attacks to forward their opinion, instead of respectful disagreement with intent to reach compromise and reason. It’s important to remember that much of their angst is bred from misunderstanding of agriculture.

    Chin up! Put your big girl boots on and go kick some agvocate dirt.

    Reply

  22. Kiley, I like Amy’s advice. A measure of how effective you are as an advocate is the level of response you get from the “other side.” Congratulations – you obviously struck a chord. I do think it’s most unfortunate that your pundits chose an unprofessional tone to air their opinions, but I guess that speaks to their values.

    I value experience with food production. I value honesty. I value farmers and ranchers who work every day without any agenda. And I’m thankful you gave voice to all of those truths in American agriculture. Hopefully you will find a more productive, professional conversation as you continue to speak out for the 1.5% of the population with firsthand experience.

    Reply

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