Archive for Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Opinion: High drama

July 7, 2010

During the last year the entertainment industry has stepped up its portrayal of agriculture in a negative light. So many of these attacks are based on unsubstantiated information and emotional pleas.

No doubt you've seen some of these television episodes, like the couple who dined at a fashionable bistro and died —one from a fast-moving E. coli infection and the other from botulism.

The show's detectives determined E. coli originated in a water supply on a cattle ranch and ended up in the woman's salad. Her dining companion contracted botulism from genetically engineered corn.

Plenty of other anti-agriculture episodes have aired along with talk-show programs that also target farmers and ranchers, especially on their care and handling of livestock.

One particularly outrageous television show featured a character who tried to convince her friends to help her save a pig from becoming bacon.

Laughable?

Hardly. And when another character refused to participate, she was accused of ignoring the "alleged" ugliness of animal production.

What's going on here is "high drama" in the entertainment business. Unfortunately, viewers watch this programming and ratings are high. Hollywood has taken irresponsible liberties with the truth and turned farmers and ranchers into villains.

It is a travesty that Hollywood celebrities and activists are given time or have the money to promote their anti-agriculture agendas with little or no regard, or understanding, of what occurs on farms and ranches across this country.

The real shocker is that so many viewers know little or nothing about farming and ranching. They've never been to a farm and never learned about the care and feeding of livestock.

Farming and ranching are a family's livelihood and way of life. When the entertainment industry airs falsehoods about the food supply, this negatively impacts the entire community.

Raising livestock on today's farm or ranch is a dynamic, specialized profession that has proven one of the most successful in the world. Only in the United States can less than 2 percent of the population feed 100 percent of our population — and other people around the world — as efficiently as we do.

Today's animal husbandry is no accident. Because our livestock are the best cared for, we can provide such efficiency.

Farmers and ranchers work hard, long hours to care for and nurture their livestock. They are neither cruel nor naive. A farmer/stockman would compromise his or her own welfare if animals were mistreated.

Livestock producers will tell you they love their animals. They spend their lives producing healthy animals that will one day feed others.

These animal caretakers understand the cattle, swine, sheep, chickens and other livestock are living creatures. They understand and take seriously their obligation to care for each and every animal's welfare.

Farm animals are generally housed in barns or other buildings with the exception of beef cattle. This is to protect the health and welfare of the animal. Housing protects livestock from predators, disease and bad weather or extreme climate. Housing also makes breeding and birthing less stressful, protects young animals and makes it easier for farmers to care for both healthy and sick animals.

Modern animal housing is well ventilated, warm, well lit, clean and scientifically designed for the specific needs of the animal. Inside these facilities, livestock receive plenty of fresh water and nutritionally balanced feed.

As U.S. livestock production grows and changes, farmers' methods for ensuring welfare of their cattle, hogs, sheep and other animals also progresses. Farmers and ranchers are dedicated to providing the highest quality and safest food in the world — their livelihood, and that of their family, depends on it.

— John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas.

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