Friday, October 31, 2014

SCHLAGECK: Who cares more about animals than farmers and ranchers?

By JOHN SCHLAGECK, Kansas Farm Bureau | 2/21/2014

Farmers and ranchers have always adhered to sound principles of animal care for their livestock.

Society’s views on animal welfare, on the other hand, continue to evolve.

Today, people are becoming more concerned for the animal’s quality of life.

While there are fringe groups, “activists” if you will, many people have honest questions and concerns about the quality of life for food animals.

Who are these people?

Some are like you. Others may be like me.

They are not opposed to eating meat. They just want to know that while that sow is going through the production cycle she has a reasonable quality of life.

Consumers want to know animals are not abused, or subjected to inhumane conditions. They believe animals should be well cared for and the people who care for them honestly care for them.

Farmers and ranchers cannot single out anyone and place blame for these changing societal views. Instead, the agricultural sector must view this as our culture and society coming to terms with new types of social issues. It just so happens that animals have become integrated into this process.

One reason for this new interest in animal welfare may be that Western European, Japanese and U.S. consumers do not have to worry about where their next meal comes from.

U.S. citizens have time to contemplate the quality of life for animals in this country, but few of us want to change our own lifestyles.

Farmers and ranchers – those people who provide our food – will have to continue to accept and use sound animal husbandry practices. If agricultural producers honestly show they are putting effort into meeting a standard of care that’s beneficial and conducive to a healthy living standard, the public will accept and embrace those who raise and care for livestock.

Agricultural producers must stay tuned to societal and consumer concerns and be responsive industry wide while enhancing the well-being of their livestock.

That said, today’s consumers will continue to regard agriculture highly and embrace a food which they enjoy and feel good about.

John Schlageck is a Farm Bureau commentator, specializing in agriculture and rural Kansas.

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