I saw the episode of Discovery’s Dirty Jobs where Mike visited a sheep ranch out West and learned to castrate lambs… the old fashioned way, so to speak. For those of you not familiar with the process, I’ll let Mike explain.
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This video is important for two different reasons. First, Mike is absolutely correct that our society has waged a war on hard work and physical labor. Think about it this way: if the average high school junior or senior announced to his guidance counselor that he had no interest in going to college, but that he wanted to learn to be a welder, what response would he receive? When I was in high school, not that many years ago, there was a definite attitude that if you didn’t go on to a traditional four-year college and earn your degree, you were somehow of a lesser class and that your life would never be quite as fulfilling or successful.
You and I, of course, know that to be false. While the importance of a college education cannot be understated, the application of that education is what’s critically important. I’m sure we both know people of great education who are complete wastes of space, and vice versa, some of the most successful people I know and respect are doing fine without the benefit of a post-secondary education.
The point of the debate, of course, isn’t the validity of a college education, but the public perception of manual labor and, as Mike calls them, dirty jobs. Our society has spent the better part of the Baby Boomers’ lifetimes demeaning and stereotyping workers as Mike describes in his talk. There is either a stigma or a caricature attached to most jobs of this sort.
The second part of Mike’s argument that is so vital is the realization that the conventional wisdom is often wrong, particularly as it relates to animal husbandry. In Mike’s case, he make the connection that while banding a lamb’s tail and scrotum is widely considered the most “humane” method of docking and castration, that widely held assumption may not be the completely correct answer. In other words, knife docking of a tail may seem more harsh than a rubber band docking, but the lamb recovers remarkably quickly once the tail is gone, and the knife-dock is instantaneous and then it’s over.
This realization can be applied to so many areas of the current debate over HSUS’ plans to end meat consumption in our society. For example, while HSUS is convincing the unsuspecting public of the “common sense” that chickens need more space than is afforded in cage-housing systems, their “common sense” ignores the fact that chickens flock by nature, and the cage systems are designed to minimize crushing and pecking in a larger flock while still allowing the chicken to “flock” with its pen-mates. The same is true of sow housing, of course. The gestating sow is a very unpleasant creature who will injure other sows, her handlers, and her freshly farrowed offspring; by using modern sow housing stalls, we are able to protect the sow from injuring herself, from injuring her herdmates, and from crushing or consuming her offspring. What could be more “common sense” than that?
The larger realization here, however, is that the principle Mike relates in the slow “war on work” we’ve experience in the last fifty years is also applicable to the HSUS War on Meat. Wayne Pacelle and his team of radical activists understand that they cannot achieve an overnight end to the human consumption of animal proteins in this country because we are still largely a carnivorous society and enjoy drinking milk, eating ice cream, and wearing leather apparel. While the end of all these practices is at the top of their activist agenda, they are willing to take a fifty-year approach to this War.
By beginning with the “common sense” of ending modern practices of animal husbandry, the activists will force many family farms out of business. As these farmers are forced out of the marketplace, the supply of meat and animal-derived products will decline. You know from economics that as the supply dwindles, the price will increase, and as the price increases, the demand will decrease. Eventually, of course, the activists will grow bolder in their proposals, ending the production of certain products, i.e. veal, altogether, until at some point in the twilight of my life you and I will realize that because we didn’t fight HSUS strongly enough, didn’t communicate with our friends and neighbors effectively enough, and didn’t tell our farm families’ stories widely enough, the consumption of a big juicy steak will be a rare, if not unheard of occurrence.
Mike Rowe has in twenty minutes time helped connect the dots on one of the biggest challenges facing our society today. Not simply the biggest challenge facing farm families today, but one of the biggest challenges facing the future liberties of Americans at large. The politics of the anti’s are strong; we’ve practically outlawed smoking in the state of Ohio (I don’t, by the way, smoke) through much the same concept. We started with cleaver campaigns designed to keep young people from starting smoking, then forced tobacco companies to pay for propaganda convincing the populace that cigarette smoke was going to kill us all, and finally convinced the voters it was no longer safe to allow free citizens the right to smoke their cigarettes in public.
This too can happen with the consumption of meat and animal proteins. Societal change is rarely revolutionary, but almost always evolutionary. Don’t let talking heads convince you these movements aren’t happening. The march to limit your civil liberties is well underway, and steaks and smokes are just two fronts in which we are losing ground rapidly.