By “Doc” Donald E. Sanders, DMV, OSU Large Animal Field Service
The livestock farmers I’ve visited lately are mad as Hades. They are frustrated over our ag leadership and governor entering a “kiss your sister” kind of agreement regarding animal welfare in Ohio.
Jack Fisher, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), says the deal with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) makes good sense. And politically it may make good sense for Governor Strickland, too. He didn’t say so, but it
was clear he didn’t want a bunch of farmers going to the polls in November to vote on the HSUS initiative. That would have made it too convenient for them to also have given his re-election bid a thumbs down.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the HSUS, appears to be a happy camper. But is he really? The agreement delays full implementation of his animal rights agenda until 2025.
Regardless of which side you’re on, “the deal” happened! Sure, OFBF may have climbed in the sack with HSUS. But get over it and get on with your life in livestock agriculture. Your animals need your attention. So do the vast majority of consumers — the ones who appreciate some meat with their fiber.
It does little good to sit around squabbling and griping. Let’s face it, changes in animal welfare for agriculture are going to happen whether we grumble or not. The beauty of living in this country is that if enough people don’t like those decisions, these individuals can be replaced.
So, let’s turn the proverbial lemons we’ve been handed into lemonade we can swallow. Let’s do what we can as the animal agriculture community to develop practical animal welfare policy.
First, let’s remember that last November voters approved creation of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. We need to support the board and let it do its job.
Second, let’s learn a lesson from what happened at Conklin Dairy Sales. Most of you probably have heard that Gary Conklin and his herdsman, Shawn, have
been exonerated by a grand jury, leaving farmhand Billy Joe Gregg in jail. I am one
of the vets who provides service to the Conklin dairy heifer sales business. If Gary Conklin is guilty of anything, it’s probably for trusting the integrity and honesty of Gregg as a job applicant. He hired Gregg as a general hired hand without a background check other than to call his references. Livestock operators have traditionally hired workers on a handshake. Obviously, this tradition must change.
It is time for members of the livestock coalition to re-channel their grousing about “the deal” into more productive activity:
• Put methods in place for employee background checks by livestock operators — maybe even fingerprinting at high profile farms that are magnets for activist groups’ videographers. Why not? Every other service agency has this tool at their fingertips.
• Develop a checklist of questions and protocols that livestock operators also can use to verify an applicant’s alleged expertise.
• Organizations for each livestock species should develop a certification examination or program through the Cooperative Extension Service to qualify individuals who claim to have advanced skill sets just like it is done for herbicide applicators and compost facilities. You ask, “Why Cooperative Extension?” Cooperative Extension has the intellectual resources to manage the program. Of course, OSU Extension has been taking it on the chin financially, so the signees who are championing the OFBF/HSUS agreement should step up to support Extension in this training endeavor.
• Install video cameras in key management areas of livestock operations
to monitor employee performance and provide surveillance of non-authorized persons.
Livestock ag operations would benefit from:
• Economical referral centers to test job applicants and current employees for
• Employer training on how to interview job applicants.
• Training on-farm personnel on how to interact with the news media.
• Conversational Spanish training for farm workers (this would prepare the industry for President Obama’s immigration policies or lack thereof).
I don’t care what Wayne Pacelle does for himself and his followers, but I do care what he foists on all of us. He has made no bones about his commitment to turn the United States into a vegetarian society.
To paraphrase Neil Armstrong: The OFBF/HSUS agreement is one small step for animals; one giant leap for HSUS. So why don’t we in animal agriculture get organized to beat the Pacelle crowd?
I almost completed the preceding sentence with “at their own game,” but I don’t believe we want to lower our standards to their level. It seems that truth, morality and ethics are disposable commodities in the animal rights world.