Previously, an iGrow article outlined the distinct differences between animal welfare and animal rights supporters. Animal Welfare proponents emphasize the responsibility of livestock owners to care for the individual needs of those animals entrusted to their care, a belief that almost any livestock owner would accept and honor.

Animal rights activists, however, demand that animals be treated as members of the moral community and have the same rights as people, a position that most livestock owners find contrary to their fundamental beliefs.

As this division in principle widens, the need for public education and awareness surfaces as a major obligation for livestock producers who feel the activists’ efforts will infringe upon their rights as owners. Because of the well-funded organizations that lead the animal rights movement and the disillusioned public who unknowingly support the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), because they believe HSUS is affiliated with their local Humane Society (they are not), the challenge is monumental.

Leading by example could be a strategic approach for livestock producers in their animal welfare educational agenda:

  • Handle and care for animals as if someone were watching your every move.
  • Adopt proven and effective livestock handling practices that focus on diminished stress and potential harm to livestock and handlers.
  • Incorporate recommended livestock handling guidelines into present or proposed systems that promote efficient, natural-instinct flow through working facilities.
  • Utilize genetics and trained producer skills to improve herd disposition.
  • Perform surgical procedures such as castration at a young age to minimize pain and lost performance.

Public awareness and education begins at home in discussions with the immediate family, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents and neighbors. Livestock owners can be effective communicators and should not place this total responsibility on commodity organizations or others.