Make animal welfare your business


In the 1980s, the one-hit-wonder band Rockwell rocked the charts with the song, [I Always Feel Like] Somebody’s Watching Me.

Turns out the band was right.

Another video documenting alleged mishandling of livestock — this time at livestock auctions — surfaced last week. The segment, filmed by the Humane Society of the United States, showed nonambulatory dairy cattle that were abandoned in parking lots of the auctions or stockyards.

HSUS first gave the materials to the U.S. secretary of agriculture and unveiled the video at a news conference. It did not respond to the Livestock Marketing Association before going public with the footage from sale barns in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Texas.

More than 35 million head of cattle and calves moved through the 1,200+ livestock auctions in 2006. Does that volume include potential for mishandling, mistakes or misguided actions? Sure. But the majority emphasize appropriate, humane handling because their bottom lines depend on it.

With that said, it’s everyone’s responsibility — from the activist to the auction owner, and the livestock producer to the trucker — to do the right thing and try, in good faith, to treat all animals humanely. The farming industry should demand nothing less.

We need open and transparent discussions and actions, not hidden agendas on either side.

If you own livestock, complete the quality assurance training, or participate in one of the many other animal care initiatives that are breed specific. As many as 75 percent of downer cattle can be prevented with good management. Make sure the livestock you cull are healthy enough to withstand the transport and sale process. If not, experts recommend you euthanize weak animals on the farm.

Livestock markets also have specific training materials available free through LMA and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. They’d better review a copy of the DVD today. There’s no reason an untended downer cow should be lying outside a sale barn overnight, as the HSUS video depicts.

No one likes to feel like somebody’s always watching him. But animal welfare is a public concern and, as expert Temple Grandin says, “Treating animals in a humane manner is the right thing to do.”

The livestock industry has got to make animal welfare a priority. If it doesn’t, someone else will make the calls. And the HSUS agenda is not animal welfare, it’s putting you out of business altogether.

Don’t think so? Why else would their latest article in a National Institutes of Health journal detail how “the farm animal production sector contributes to climate change and global warming during nearly every stage of production”? One of their conclusions: reduce consumption of meat, eggs and dairy products.

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