In January 2008, one of Katie Couric’s top features on “CBS Evening News” was a story surrounding an animal abuse case in a California slaughter facility. Video clips taken by an anonymous person showed plant workers physically abusing “downer” cows (cattle unable to walk as a result of weakness or sickness) in order to get them to the slaughtering station.
Throughout the two-minute video, emotional clips flashed between the abuse and other resources, including the president of the Humane Society of the United States, who made statements concerning the neglect animals face in these situations. As the last clip showed a cow being dragged by her front leg, Couric’s voiceover said, “The most shocking part about this video is that it happens all of the time.”
As the sixth generation to live on my family’s beef cattle farm, I was appalled. My family takes great pride in being able to feed our community, our country and our world. A video such as this, targeting families much like my own, creates a blanket statement that practically says, “All farmers abuse their animals.”
It seems to be a current campus trend, especially since last semester, that more and more students are interested in where their food comes from, as evident in the local food movement and the common book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” This eventually leads to an investigation of who produces that food. Unfortunately, the most publicized agriculturalists are a very small minority that poorly represent our industry and oftentimes portray farmers as unintelligent, ignorant rednecks in overalls.
What today’s media fails to report are the actions farmers take to ensure a quality life for their animals, the efforts they take in improving the environment and the technological advances within the agriculture industry.
Programs such as Beef and Pork Quality Assurance train farmers to properly provide health care, nutrition and transportation handling to livestock; all in a way that is both beneficial to productivity and the life of the animal. Soil and water conservation districts have recognized the importance of agriculture as the No. 1 industry in Virginia.
They have teamed up with farmers who wish to fence off streams from their animals, which improves water quality for both livestock and people. The growth of population and decrease of farmable land has led to technological advances such as the use of GPS to record crop yields and genetically modified seed to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides.
I don’t remember any of that being mentioned in the evening news.
Consider this when you see media portraying farmers in a bad light: If you hear of a bad procedure by one dentist, does it mean that you will never go to a dentist again? If a dentist completes a faulty operation, he as an individual is charged with malpractice. Why is it acceptable to assume that the minority of farmers who mistreat their animals are a quality representation for the agricultural community as a whole?