Monday, June 28, 2010

A Vegan at a Feedlot: A Tale of Conflicting Stories.

Imagine my surprise today when many of the agricultural blogs that I frequent were carrying the headline "Vegan Visits a Feedlot".  I thought to myself "man, this might be interesting".  Also, I was happy to see that the feedlot was in the Eastern Colorado region within an hour of our ranching operation.  I must say, the article was great!  It was fair, honest and open. It confirmed what people that operate in animal agriculture already knew: farmers care for their livestock and do a good job striving for animal welfare in each aspect of their operation. Please read the article here.

However, I was utterly disappointed upon returning to the article to see his list of responses to correspondence that the author had received. Please read the responses here.

In a list of responses to both the meat industry and vegans alike, he begins to revert back to his righteous vegan outlook and takes the opportunity to apologize to his fellow vegan constituency for an honest accounting of a real feed lot. Why apologize for honesty?  In one response directed towards his vegan readers and followers, he even suggests that "It’s thanks to animal advocates and vegans that any type of progression has been made in the animal welfare movement".  This is purely ridiculous to me.  As a cattle owner and producer on a limited budget, I have to carefully leverage my earnings in the urban market to support the thousands of dollars we spend our our small herd for animal nutrition supplements, animal health items and vet bills so that our animals are cared for to the utmost of our abilities and budget. Each management decision that we make is made to advance the health of our cattle so they drive a premium when they are sold. So,  I take serious offense to the insinuation that the only people trying to make a difference in animals lives are vegans and animal rights proponents.  How many times and how loud does American Agriculture have to yell "WE REALLY DO CARE FOR OUR ANIMALS!!!!" before anyone with an anti-animal ANYTHING outlook will listen.

The author even suggests to the meat industry that "I don’t want to be used as a bargaining tool by pro-meat/pro-feedlot organizations".  Is this to say that animal agriculture as an industry cannot celebrate and continue to tell our positive story based on a favorable impression given by an industry opponent?  This presents quite a conundrum in my mind.  From a vegan standpoint, we can't raise animals for human consumption and then even when we are told we are doing a good job, we're not supposed to tell anyone?

In the end, I want to know if the author is afraid of losing readership because of honesty.  He gave an open accounting of a real family operation?  Yes, I said it...a family operation.  In the article, he questions the idea that since the feedlot has 8-13 workers, are they really a family operation? Take a  look at a different scenario.  If I own a restaurant that was started by my family but need employees to make the business viable, am I now a Factory Restaurant?  I didn't think so. 

So, why are American livestock farmers demonized by this demographic of people? Why do they relish their progressive open-mindedness of animal liberation and freedom for animals while in turn absolutely advocating the limitation of freedoms for others to pursue their life in the manner they wish?   In essence, I and most of the livestock community are not telling anyone how to live their lives but are routinely told how to live ours.  The argument is flawed, unfair and highly hypocritical.

I want to thank the author for having an open mind and an honest pen.  However, I am disappointed to have read his responses to pressure from his own constituency. Honesty needs no apology.

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