Loyal readers will know that I spend a great deal of my time and attention on the issue of animal agriculture. As the backbone of our state’s food production industry and the economic engine driving corn and soybean production, livestock farmers are critically important to our state’s long-term fiscal and social health.
Farmers are special people, and as a cattleman myself (albeit a small-timer), I have a special fondness for those of us who find satisfaction in tending God’s creatures, and helping provide nourishment for millions of people across this nation.
Animal derived proteins, including lean beef, pork, chicken, and lamb, provide us with the most nutrient-dense source of sustenance available. The creator imbued our animal resources with the amazing gift of providing us with an extremely efficient and enjoyable source of nutrition. From protein to iron to B12 vitamins, eating meat is good and good for you.
Unfortunately, not all Americans agree. While some are content to enjoy alternative diets (which is an individual right I support, by the way), others have made it a mission – and source of employment – to attack, denigrate, and vilify those of us who enjoy meat consumption, and more alarmingly, the faithful farmers who supply us with our daily bread… and pork chop.
To heighten the level of public dialogue on the issue of animals’ role in society, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation announced this week the formation of the Center for Food and Animal Issues. Expanding on Farm Bureau’s mission of “Forging a Partnership Between Producers and Consumers,” the Center is committed to “the public dialog over the role animals play in society.”
I talked with Farm Bureau’s Executive Vice President Jack Fisher, who explained the Center will engage farmers, consumers, pet and horse owners, medical researchers, sportsmen and hunters, zoo supporters, hunger advocates, local animal welfare organizations and others.
“People connect to animals in different ways; for sustenance, companionship, entertainment and even contributions to human health,” Fisher told me. “The Center will bring together diverse interests to advance shared values.”
As I mentioned, I raise a handful of cows. I can identify with the “shared values” Jack referenced. I feel a social, moral, and ethical responsibility both to my customers and to my herd to do the best job I can in providing each with my very best. My animals receive the highest standards of care and wellness, and we take great pride in the health and well being of our stock.
After spending a lifetime working with and around livestock farmers, I know I’m not alone in my belief in these core values. In fact, a key purpose of the Center for Food and Animal Issues is promoting and explaining another set of key values most of us share: the beliefs that people should remain free to choose what is the proper use of animals, that all animals should be treated humanely and that decisions about animal care should be made by appropriate parties.
Of particular concern to me is the right of Americans to choose to eat meat and utilize animal-derived products like leather goods. You have the God-given and Constitutionally codified right to sustain yourself by consuming meat, milk, and eggs. We also have the right as a society to determine the most appropriate uses for animals, from companionship and entertainment, to sport and nutrition, while focusing on our social and moral responsibility to treat those animal resources with the highest ideals of humanity. These, by the way, are not mutually exclusive paradigms.
Having grown up on a hog farm, and having raised cattle all my life, I can tell you from my own experience that American farmers do indeed provide a safe, wholesome, and affordable eating experience while holding their animal resources in the highest regard. “Animal rights activists are very accomplished at manipulating public opinion,” Fisher said. “They make what sound like simple demands regarding animals when in reality their true goal is to give animals status equal to humans.”
The new Center for Food and Animal Issues will counter the activists’ agenda by engaging the public in an informed, reasoned discussion about the proper role of animals in our lives. I hope you’ll join my fellow farmers and I in the cause by engaging your friends and neighbors in the conversation. Ensuring that Americans understand the truth about the farm families who raise the animals that feed a growing population is critical to the long-term sustainability of our society.