It has now been 15 years since I jumped into the trenches to fight on behalf of all agriculture producers and, quite frankly, consumers as well.
You see, I believe even more strongly today than I did then that a domestic supply of food is a means of national security. From Day One, particularly in the fight against the animal rights community, the battle has been to combat the emotion with science. Science does not stink! Science paves the path for the best food system possible if we allow it. It is science and technology that have helped us make the giant leaps in productivity that have brought us this far.
In the past 30 days I cannot believe how many “spirited” discussions I have gotten into with others in farming about science versus emotion. Apparently there has been a shift in the winds, and we have decided now emotions must be considered as well, perhaps in lieu of science. That is a path to starvation, my friends, and I want no part it. Science must continue to be the basis for our decisions or we will be relying on imported food and the loss of freedom like others who have tried it before us. Need we look further than the European Union where imported food now dominates?
You need not look any further than the American Farm Bureau Federation convention that just concluded in San Diego to get a whiff of what I am speaking of.
The American Farm Bureau Federation presented its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, to Don Borgman and Temple Grandin during the 96th AFBF Annual Convention.
Temple Grandin is the greater threat to the future of a domestic food supply than all of the animal rights groups combined and here is why:
She has based her entire career in “animal welfare” on emotion and not science. She continues to place human characteristics on food animals at an alarming rate. Here are just a couple examples:
After a tour of an egg laying farm she said, “There is a point where economics alone must not be the sole justification for an animal production practice. When the egg producers asked me if I wanted cheap eggs I replied, ‘Would you want to buy a shirt if it was $5 cheaper and made by child slaves?’”
That is not science. It is emotional sensationalism.
She continues to serve on food service and packers animal welfare advisory committees and what is the result?
Three of the most prominent examples are Tyson, McDonald’s and Safeway, and now all are making production demands regarding animal care that were not based on science but purely emotion. These demands are then forced upon farmers and ranchers who no longer have a say in the matter.
One of her favorite sayings is, “Gestation crates for pigs are a real problem. … Basically, you’re asking a sow to live in an airline seat. … I think it’s something that needs to be phased out.”
Here again she comes to that decision based on emotion and not one shred of science. She leads the discussion regarding sow gestation housing by saying the consumer chooses pork production systems with group housing. However, in every study done that compared the two systems, when sows were allowed to choose they preferred to go lay in gestation stalls rather than in the group housing area. So are we doing this for the pigs or not?
I will remind you my respect for Grandin was lost four years ago at the Summit of the Horse when I served as the moderator. She made negative statements about animal care in Mexican horse harvesting facilities. When questioned for more details, she admitted she had only witnessed animal rights produced videos online and had not actually seen it for herself. That is not a science based expert. That is using fear to further your agenda.
In closing, I fully recognize that the world views her as the “leader” in animal welfare and everyone is welcome to his or her opinion. Her “expert” status is based on emotional observations, airport surveys and not scientific discovery. If you don’t believe it, I challenge you to search for peer reviewed articles published in scientific journals written by Grandin about animal welfare. There are zero for poultry, zero for swine and one as a grad student under the late, great scientist Stan Curtis at the University of Illinois.
Yes, cattle have been her thing. However, aside from the study about behavior of cattle depending on the location of the whirl on their head, I challenge you to show me where she scientifically is responsible for true leadership in animal welfare.
She said upon receiving her award with AFBF, “Some people in ag don’t like what I have to say, because I don’t defend everything we do. Have to open doors, make changes.”
I have an open door, as I think we all should. What do we need to change and why? Where is the science to show how it should be done? If showing a picture of production to the consumer and getting their blessing is the answer, then the cow calf sector is done. What consumer wants to see a cow outside with sub-zero temperatures with snow on their back?
I believe that science, not consumerism, should continue to pave our path toward feeding the world. Most importantly, I think the code of silence exhibited by the real scientists of our great land grant university system is deafening. We are at a cross roads in American agriculture. Are you all going to set back and let us go down this path? What will that mean for your future?
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 nonprofit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.