Joseph A. Miller, general counsel, Rose Acre Farms, gave a presentation at the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s Stakeholder’s Summit that contained more provocative statements than I would have expected from a lawyer. His defense of livestock interference legislation, which he said has been incorrectly labeled as “Ag Gag legislation” in the popular press, was both spirited and colorful. There was one point that he made in his talk that might have been overshadowed by some of his more surprising remarks that bears repeating.
Farm animals versus pets
Miller said that only 750,000 people in the United States produce nearly all of the food consumed by 360 million Americans, and that because of this, most U.S. consumers have no contact with farms or farmers. He said that, on visits to layer operations, he frequently hears workers joke about the way some people treat their pets. They don’t understand why people would let dogs and cats live in the house and sleep on their beds, and they don’t understand why some people transfer feelings about pets to livestock and poultry.
Miller said he has heard farm personnel say on many occasions, “Well, they just need to understand us.” He said that his response to this is, “They don’t need to understand us. We need to understand them.” I couldn’t agree with Miller more on this subject. If egg producers want consumers to continue to purchases eggs, we need to understand them and deal with their concerns. We need them more than they need us. Egg producers always need to remember that human beings don’t have to eat chicken eggs; there are other sources of protein available.
We need better “optics”
In discussions of hidden on-farm videos, the debate frequently centers on whether or not a particular action constitutes animal abuse or neglect. I think that our industry misses the point if we focus too much on whether or not a particular action is animal abuse or is an accepted industry practice. Do we really want to have to explain and justify a practice that just doesn’t look good to our customers, or would we be better off finding an alternative practice?
Some turkey producers are reevaluating methods of euthanasia, because one approved method, a hard whack to the skull with a blunt object, fits the definition of “bad optics.” I used to service turkeys, and I still own a hickory pickaxe handle, but let’s face it: if you have to explain why a knock on the noggin is the “humane” way to euthanize a tom, you have lost debate before it begins.