As an agriculturalist, I like to stay informed with organizations and groups that lobby for policies that could infringe on business practices relating to conventional agriculture. One of the websites I like to read is www.fooddeomocracy.org. They have a very visually appealing website, and the language is rather enchanting, even for an ag producer like myself.
I even agree with their mission statement:
“Food Democracy Now! is a grassroots community dedicated to building a sustainable food system that protects our natural environment, sustains farmers and nourishes families. “
However, after researching their campaigns, I found that this organization and I do not see eye to eye on most agriculture issues.
Reading Food Democracy’s website today, I found out one of their campaigns was to stop H.F. 589, from being passed in Iowa. Although this is “old news” I would like to share my opinion on the issue.
The bill can be read here:
As a summary, this bill would penalize people who trespass or lie to gain entry into livestock operations to take video of what they believe is animal abuse.
Those opposed to this bill believe that consumers have a right to know what is happening on livestock operations, and that undercover video is a way to “watch dog” the industry. To them it is a way to keep an eye on “big ag”.
My family owns and operates a medium sized feedlot in central Iowa, so this legislation would have an effect on our business. So, what is my opinion?
Animal abuse is wrong.
Growing up, my grandpa was a huge Iowa State University fan. He never once had anything negative to say about the university, and he supported them with his pocketbook as well. He was an alumi with a major in Animal Husbandry. His only complaint about ISU—that they changed the major’s name to Animal Science. He felt that this title didn’t fit the duty that farmers had to their animals. He believed that word husbandry better represented the obligation to care for animals. I believe a story like this represents the attitude of many farmers; they have a duty to care for their animals, while trying to produce food for others.
Producers and producers’ employees that mistreat animals are not the standard in the livestock industry. I do not condone this behavior, as it does not represent the industry correctly. These “bad eggs” cause problems for producers who care for their animals, and follow procedures that are an industry standard.
Animal care is important to farmers. An animal that is treated well and comfortable is less costly for a producer. They perform better. Farmers want performance; therefore mistreating animals goes against the goals of farmers.
So if farmers don’t mistreat their animals, why do I support a law to ban undercover cameras and videos from their operations?
Because those with the camera undercover have an agenda, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have to go undercover. If a fair and objective journalist would want to come to my family’s feedlot with an open mind, they would be welcomed with open arms. We don’t have anything to hide, and we want to be transparent so consumers can feel comfortable about where their beef comes from.
What scares me as a producer? Someone coming onto my farm with a video camera and taking footage, then editing it—-including a string orchestra and sensational verbs and nouns spouting misinformation. Nothing positive or educational can come from deception. The purpose of these undercover videos is not to watch the industry, to make sure practices are humane, but to find footage that can be spun to back an already formed opinion.
I believe in transparency, but not the kind that stems from deception and an agenda. I believe that fair and objective journalism is a “watch-dog” for the industry. What do I think those journalists would find—a greater understanding of the industry, and that consumers can enjoy animal products with the confidence that animals are treated humanely.
My suggestion? If you want to know what is happening on a farm–ask a farmer to answer your questions, ask for a tour, and make decisions with an open mind.
This is the opinion of the author, Beth Holz.