L i v e s t o c k // L i t e r a c y

Teaching Farming Animal Science Through Ag Communications

Transparency + Truth = Transformation (Personal Thoughts)

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Photo by Emilia Tjernström on Flickr

Paul McCartney is often quoted, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” Of course, he is suggesting that consumers don’t know what happens to meat before they spend their money on it. McCartney is proposing that if all consumers saw the practices of livestock harvesting facilities, they would be too disgusted to continue consuming meat.

Hence, the “glass walls” metaphor.

Many charities practice a donation method that tells you exactly where your money goes. Twenty dollars will provide a desk for a child in school, fifty dollars will feed a shelter dog for a year, etc. It is crystal clear what is happening behind the scenes, and donors are able to feel directly connected to the recipients of their gifts. Although I was familiar with this process, I never knew the word that specifically defined it: transparency.

I often wonder if adding more transparency to our industry would be beneficial or harmful. It seems that lately everyone has their own idea of how farming works, much thanks to animal rights activist groups. However, their misleading portrayal of our industry has given us the opportunity to address our transparency problem. Why has it taken this long, until after the release of misleading media, to explain livestock production methods? Now, behind every advocation for commercial ag there seems to hide an ulterior motive. Rather than being solely educational, these infographics, tweets, and Facebook posts seem to also be an attempt to prove ourselves.

The truth is that most people don’t want to know about the the processes of livestock production. Not everyone cares to see how broiler chickens are harvested, how sows are artificially insemenated, how calves are pulled. They mostly want to be able to trust they are making a moral, dependable decision when they buy their food.

Trust is a key emotion to which everyone can relate. And even more triggering of an emotion than trust itself: the betrayal of trust. Animal rights activists know they can get considerable action from people if they feel their trust in agriculture is betrayed.

Animal rights activist groups target well-intentioned people with high morals. These organizations portray abuse videos as the industry standard, and that is how many consumers’ twisted views of commercial farms are born. We need to take responsibility and connect with the average consumer on an identifiable level before animal rights activists do.


Photo by StripeyAnne on Flickr

This is why transparency is important, but should be used in a relatable way. Communicate with people in ways they can understand, and show the less-talked-about side of agriculture: emotion.

Take for example one struggle of the next generation: keeping the business in the family. As a high school senior, most kids can’t wait to break free. Typically, their parents are unconditionally supportive, but is there a bitterness that exists when the family business isn’t carried on? The pressure is also evident on their children; there is a desire to explore their own individuality, but a guilt that comes with leaving the farm.

Pet owners experience much grief when their companions die. However, this is not often talked about in the livestock world. Farmers realize that their livestock serve an economic purpose, but that doesn’t mean they don’t form bonds with their animals. This sense of stewardship and caring for livestock should be portrayed in a true, raw form.

Rural living is truly a culture, and farm workers are a minority. The farmer stereotype is someone who is uneducated, poor, and stubborn. When urbanites criticize rural people, it is prejudice. The intolerance that agriculturalists experience is not often discussed, but certainly rampant.

Agriculture is one of the most quickly-advancing industries on the planet. How we are portrayed is not nearly as progressive. When people see farmers, they should see clearly their own sense of passion and humanity reflected back at them.



Author: livestockliteracy

I am an Animal Science major at the University of Illinois who aspires to work with livestock someday. It is my goal to promote animal agriculture for the general public to understand exactly what comes from food animals, how animal products are created, and how animals are treated.

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