March 20, 2012

Presenting our Message to our Consumers

I think most of us in agriculture have a tendency to defend what is ours.  We all have such pride in what we do and we have a tendency to feel threatened by anyone who wishes to take that away from us.  We see this over and over again especially as technology has changed and we are starting to come face to face (or computer screen to computer screen) with our customers and those who are skeptical of what and how we produce food.  We have become so distant from our customers I think mainly because of our commitment to our livestock and our land and the distance between where we live and where our consumers live.  I will admit I do not get to the "big city" much.  I will see Omaha a couple of times a yr, Lincoln a few more times than Omaha and for Mark it is even less.  It is no big secret that our state Governor Heineman is not a big fan of the HSUS and other animal rights groups who are running political agendas to harm our way of life financially and smear our good name and reputation to our consumers.  He has been very open about not allowing them to create ballot initiatives in our state that could impact the way we run our farms/ranches that could have severe financial burden and unknown results to our livestock.  He believes that those of us with first hand experience caring for livestock, veterinarians, nutritionist, animal scientists, and other professionals involved with agriculture know what is best for the animals in terms of health, humane care, and nutrition.  He also believes that the people who know what is best for the state of Nebraska are those of us who call Nebraska home and not people from other states. 
This week Humane Watch has asked Nebraska ranchers and farmers to submit a picture of them doing what we do and a little story.  To check it out click this link

(I did submit a pic it is the one of the rainbow and cattle grazing if you care to look at it again, pretty sure I included it in a post last summer)

Let me tell you I never thought a picture of a rancher standing over a new born calf would raise such a stink so fast.  The man was nudging the calf with is foot (appeared to me as he was doing so gently) to get the calf to stand as his mother who appeared to be a little overly protective stood by a few feet away waiting for him to give her a chance to take him.  Those who have had first hand experience with testy mothers know that bending over to help the calf up is a dangerous thing to do as 1-you can lose sight of the cow and 2 - you are portraying yourself as more of a threat to the cow.  However I can see as those who have never been around livestock could see this man as "kicking, stomping, standing on" and any other act of un-kindness and harm to this calf.  The comments eventually turned extremely unkind and with very colorful language and as a consequence the post was deleted.  
I think it is true with anything that we have to be very careful when presenting information to the public especially when this info is at the grasp of those you don't believe that we should use animals for anything (food, fiber, pets, search and rescue, medicine).  It is easy to take a comment or picture and turn something as innocent as a child standing next to a group of calves into child abuse because he/she is near "wild" cows.  I don't think that we need to stop telling our stories because we are fearful of the unintended and twisted comments by those who don't believe in our choice to consume meat.  I think we need to be careful in our words, deliberate in our pictures, and clear in our messages.  When responding to ridicule it is easy to fire back and with anger and frustration in our words but we need to remember to respect others opinions just as we have our opinions but we need to be well armed with facts, data and statistics that can defend what we do is done with the well being of our livestock coming first and foremost.  There are "bad guys" in every industry trying to make a quick buck at the expense of everything and everyone in their way.  These people are the minority and there are state and national laws protecting animals from abuse (some states it is a felony if convicted), but like catching and convicting a murderer it takes time to get enough evidance and support to make a clear cut case that will win in court.

Here is the picture to look for!!  One of my personal favorites!