How to lose the argument on animal welfare

Hoard's Dairyman: 

How to lose the argument on animal welfare

Date: 
Fri, 03/26/2010

All of us who make our living with livestock are strongly biased on the subject of animal welfare. Unfortunately, it’s a bias that can be our own worst enemy when we debate the topic with someone we disagree with.

This important “stop and think for a moment” reminder comes through loud and clear in “How to lose the argument on animal welfare . . . Top 10 reasons” by Dr. David A. Daley at California State University, Chico. Daley’s arena is the beef industry, but every point he makes is relevant to dairy producers, too:

1. Assuming science will give us all the answers; it only gives us some of the answers. I believe strongly in science, but science doesn’t solve ethical questions.

2. Using economics as the justification for all of our practices.

3. Assuming that you have to defend all agricultural practices, regardless of what they are. I believe you defend those that are defensible. Period.

4. Assuming we can’t do better at animal welfare.

5. Attacking everyone who disagrees with you in a negative, critical manner.

6. Not being willing to listen because we are so busy responding.

7. Assuming that the lunatic fringe is the general public. We spend way to much time focusing on lunatics and not working with the public.

8. Being reactive rather than proactive.

9. Assuming that because someone disagrees with you they are stupid, evil, or both.

10. Not working hard enough to build coalitions that include the public.

11. Bonus: Criticizing/mocking any animal production system that is not “conventional”.

12. Bonus: Trying to lead a parade without seeing if anyone is following. I have surveyed over 200 cattlemen in three locations and 90+ percent of them say, “Animals have the right to be treated humanely and ethically.”