My name is Pettus Read and I’m a meat eater. No bones about it (no pun intended), but I do enjoy a good steak every now and then. I have been known to eat chicken that is finger licking good, headed to the border for a beef taco, asked many times “Where’s the beef,” and just like actor Sam Neill from the movie Jurassic Park fame, I also promote the human instinctive manner of searching out the smell of cooking steaks at cookouts. I must say I know what’s for dinner and it doesn’t take a full orchestra playing Aaron Copeland’s Rodeo to get me to the table either. And, I’m also an agriculturalist who cares for the humane treatment of all farm animals.
Lately, the animal agriculture industry has been attacked for the mishandling of animals on a few farms across this entire country. Being one who was born and raised on a Tennessee farm, I must say some of the video shown I didn’t like either. But, also being one who still lives on a Tennessee farm who has neighbors and friends who produce animals for the meat and dairy industry, I’m somewhat offended by the insinuation that all farmers mistreat their animals, which is further from the truth. In fact, I’m very offended by such an insinuation when I know that much of the information for many of these “investigations” comes from groups who have an objective of hurting animal agriculture and promoting the cause for humans to become vegetarians. Now, let it be known that I have nothing against vegetarians. If that is the direction you choose to have all your meals, then that is fine with me. My mother always told me to eat my vegetables and I do so as mama instructed, but I also enjoyed mama’s fried chicken, pork chops and steak and gravy as well. Eat what you like and I’ll eat what I like. However, forcing farmers out of business is no reason to make sure that a big salad is on everyone’s menu.
It just amazes me how a few bad characters in any industry or business can cause so much heartache for everyone involved. There’s not a farmer I have spoken with who condones mistreating animals and most of them would like to get a hold of those who are shown in some of those videos being broadcast across the country on TV and teach them proper handling of livestock. I work for Farm Bureau and have heard personally from our members that they are committed to caring for animals in a manner that protects their animals’ well being and condemn the willful abuse of any animal. All of the dairy producers I know have as their number one concern the welfare of their animals they are caring for. They tend to their dairy cows every day of the year, making sure their animals have fresh water and feed. There are no holidays on a dairy farm, no vacations from daily milkings, and any dairy farmer worth their salt knows that good care of their cows leads to healthy and safe food for the consumers.
We have the safest food supply in the world. This country’s agriculture system is the most efficient on this planet thanks to innovation, technology and farmers who are committed to running safe operations that produce safe and healthy food. Today’s farmers and ranchers employ the latest proven advances in animal handling, health and care. In fact, the Beef Quality Assurance Program (BQA) begun in the 1980s, incorporated animal welfare practices into its producer education programs. Thus proving the farming community has been involved in animal welfare even before it became an “in” thing to do. The web site www.conversationsoncare.com, reports that The Producer Code of Cattle Care, developed by the BQA Advisory Board in 1996, served as the first formalized animal welfare guidelines for the beef industry, laying the groundwork for how producers care for their animals today. It called for producers to provide necessary food, water and care to protect the health and well being of animals. It also requires producers to provide disease prevention practices to protect herd health – including access to veterinary care and provide facilities that allow safe, humane and efficient movement and/or restraint of cattle.
It also requires producers to provide personnel with the training and experience needed to properly handle and care for cattle. And, in some cases, no matter how much you train some folks, there will be times some personnel do not follow the guidelines and when that happens, it is time to retrain or remove that personnel. Consideration of the animal’s well being should and will be the main focus of farmers I know who are in animal agriculture. If you have concerns, talk to a farmer near you and let them tell their side of the story. Just like a bridge every subject has two sides. You have to be involved with both of them to cross troubled waters and it is time to hear the other side. And, the other side is the farmer’s side that is.