The term “animal activist” makes most people in my industry cringe. For many involved in animal agriculture, “animal activism” translates to radical individuals protesting for animal rights equivalent to those of humans, individuals refusing the use of animals for consumption or other purposes, and people exploiting public misperception by flooding the media with misrepresentations of animal agriculture.
I am not here to argue with traditional “animal activists.” To be fair, perhaps we as animal agriculturalists shouldn’t assume that all “animal activists” are the same or that the most radical minority are fully representative of the whole. I would HOPE they don’t see the wrong doings of one careless farmer, maybe even from another country, and assume it is standard practice for the rest of us… although perhaps that is just wishful thinking on my part.
I’ll admit, I’m a bit of an optimist.
I am here, rather, to simply suggest that advocates and activists for animals come in other forms beyond vegetarian or vegan (whose eating decisions I fully support). Maybe even… farmer/rancher?
One definition states that,
“The root word of activist is the Latin actus, "a doing, a driving force, or an impulse." Someone who acts on what (s)he believes is an activist.”
An activist is “an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause.”
With that being said, I proclaim that I am an animal activist, or for better clarification, animal agtivist.
I believe in treating animals with the utmost care and respect. I believe in animal welfare. I believe that men and women who mistreat their animals have no place being caretakers of them. I believe in a farmer’s duty to maintain their animals’ good health and to nurture those that may become ill. I believe in continued research to better understand the needs of livestock health. I am a vigorous advocate of ensuring the well-being and health of livestock used to feed the world.
Having grown up as a 6th generation cattle rancher, I have cared for hundreds, maybe thousands, of cattle and other livestock first hand in my lifetime. I have sacrificed my own comfort for the well being of animals—delivered calves in the middle of the freezing night, doctored sick animals in the blazing heat, and spent countless hours ensuring their proper nutrition and comfort.
Yes, the majority of cattle I have cared for were beef cattle that eventually ended up in supermarkets or on dining tables. Just because these animals were used for meat does not mean my family and I were careless owners or heartless murderers. To be a farmer or rancher, a person must have an absolute LOVE and PASSION for animals. They must be willing to make personal sacrifices and must be unshakably dedicated to caring for them, no matter the season. They must be lifelong learners, constantly bettering themselves and their practices improving the herd and its product. They must be advocates with loud enough voices to stand up for their lifestyle and livelihoods when so many mislead people stand against them.
Although I have major “beef” (pun intended) with most traditional “animal activist” organizations, I cannot deny their effective tactics.
They instill intense emotion through media.
Fear, sadness, joy, anger, happiness, satisfaction – these are all powerful emotions that we as people know very well. Through the use of imagery, music, and sound, media has an incredible ability to instill these emotions at the touch of a button, through the glass of a screen, or a square on a page. The way media utilizes these components can bring what perhaps some may see as misguided emotion, not fully telling the whole story or transforming an image into something that it is not. Not sure what I mean? Check this out, (and watch to the end).
…see what I did there?
They create conversation.
Emotion creates feelings, feelings create conversation, conversations create opinions, and opinions create action. Through shock and awe factors, “animal activists” create conversations. They lead people to question things they had never thought about and they encourage people to take a stand for what they feel is wrong. As agriculturalists, it is our duty to be active in conversations and create dialogue. We must be a resource for people with questions and we must tell our stories before other people falsely do so. Where do we in agriculture fall short? Well, fear and terror sells better than honesty and good. Turn on the news for a half hour and you'll see what I mean.
They make people feel a part of something.
With a small donation to these organizations, people feel they are making the world a better place… With a click of a button, a person’s dose of satisfaction and good deeds are fulfilled for the day. If there is one thing people should feel a part of, it’s agriculture. Most people rely on agriculture directly at least 3 times a day (and in countless other ways beyond the dining table). Less than 2% of the U.S. is directly involved in food production, but every individual personally relies on agriculture. With the growing disconnect, it is harder and harder to bridge the gap between producers and consumers. In a digital world, however, relationships CAN be formed, questions answered, and truths shared. Consumers can feel a part of agriculture, can interact with farming and ranching men and women, and become better ag educated to make informed opinions about their food and where it comes from.
No, I don’t fit the traditional “animal activist” mold. I was born into a family with a long tradition of raising animals for consumption. Today, I wore leather boots and ate beef for lunch.
I am active in the care of animals. I am active in continuing my understanding as a rancher to be the best caretaker I can be. I am active in sharing my stories and my love for animals. I am active in addressing the questions people have concerning livestock handling and care. I am active in creating transparency from pasture to plate. I am active in being a voice for the industry that feeds the world.
With all of that being said, I proclaim once more,
along with my fellow animal agriculturalists, farmers, and ranchers,
I am an animal agtivist.
...and yes, I like cows.