Be a real champion
By Trent Loos
Editor’s note: Trent Loos and his family are busy at the county fair this week. We hope you enjoy this 2011 column about lessons we can learn from the county fair.
With county fair season upon us I thought the message here should be shared with all. For the purposes of this particular piece I am going to reference showing pigs only, but it certainly applies to all animal species. I think in a real serious manner we need to address the oldest principle in animal ownership, which I believe should still be called “animal husbandry.” You may not realize this but before people received “animal science” degrees they could earn a degree in animal husbandry.
This name change, to me, was the beginning of our losing the battle in the arena of public perception regarding this industry. But here we are now and it is up to those of us that own pigs to shape the public’s notion of proper animal welfare.
I believe all of us currently in the animal agricultural industry spend way too much time discussing “how” we take care of the animals instead of talking about “why” we take care of animals. Whether you are the largest pig farm in the nation or you own two pigs as your junior livestock project, you have the same goal: the conversion of natural resources into products that improve the lives of humans. Without agriculture, mankind ceases to exist.
I would like to point out that if you are only in the business of showing pigs for the competition and you do not respect the pig and the fact that it will eventually be part of a wholesome pork supply, you should take up competitive chess. The reason we have pigs is to acquire food, fiber, pharmaceuticals and fuel, which are essential for improving human lives, even show pigs.
As the summer fair season approaches, the opportunities for you to have this discussion will be abundant. Perhaps the only fear most of you have is that some animal rights activist is going to approach you at a show. Excellent! I hope they do. I’m sure that not one of you will enter the show ring without having practiced showing your pig before you go. Most of you won’t even need to tap the pig to direct him because of the time you spent in preparation for the show. So why should explaining the purpose of the pig be any different?
I suggest that all of you find ways to practice the dialogue that you might encounter with someone unfamiliar with our industry before you get to the fair. How many of you have ever started a conversation with a vegetarian in your school? Today most people who choose not to eat animal products do so because they have been misled. This might be a great way to educate them about the many benefits of agriculture and it might help you understand what influenced their decision not to eat meat.
I might remind you that we celebrate the fact that we live in the United States of America where we have the right to not eat animal products if we so choose. However, if people are making that decision based on misinformation then you have found your job—set the record straight.
When I first started sharing my story and explaining the purpose of agriculture, I attended a lot of animal rights meetings and conventions. That was quite an education for someone born and raised on a farm. The most important thing you must do is maintain your composure. When you openly hear people misspeak about something you care so dearly for, the blood will boil and that is good. However, you must confront without being confrontational.
The most important thing that you will accomplish in any of these discussions is that you will put the human element into food production. The term “factory farm” was created intentionally to remove the human component from animal agriculture. It really only matters that you share your personal experiences in pig farming because these folks won’t remember everything you said but mostly that you cared enough to take issue with how they had been misled. They will remember you and that you care about your animals and that is the most important thing.
Above all, make sure that you understand pig farming as a whole. The well-funded animal rights groups have only made strides in changing how we raise pigs state by state because they are implementing the oldest war time strategy known to man called “divide and conquer.” As long as they keep us focused on “how” we take care of pigs, it diverts our time and energy from reminding our consumers “why” we raise pigs.
Let’s talk about those important “whys.” A recent study from the University of North Carolina documents that pregnant women who eat bacon and eggs for breakfast every morning have smarter kids. The nutritional components of bacon, including the fat which is mostly monounsaturated fats (the same exact fat found in olive oil), improves your brain function. The nitrates found in bacon improve heart health according to 10 years’ worth of studies by Dr. Nathan Bryan from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Institute of Molecular Medicine. Don’t forget about using pork hearts and heart valves for human medical purposes. These are just a few of the reasons we raise pigs and the many great, untold stories about the benefits to human life thanks to pork production.
You might be wondering why a column in the animal welfare series spends so little time discussing proper animal welfare. I believe we are already the experts in animal welfare, yet nothing that we say about the science of how we take care of pigs will compensate for the emotional pleas used by the animal rights zealots to promote their agenda. On the other hand, if the consumers fully grasp the importance of the animals in their daily lives, they will not even waste their time listening to the radicals that try to elevate the status of the animals to be equal to humans.
Obviously, we all care greatly about animal welfare. The better we treat the pig, the greater job the pig does on improving the health and wellness of the human being. My friends in the pig business, if you understand and implement that simple rule every day, you will be a champion in life.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.