Brenneman: Learn the facts from a real farmer, not activists

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Erin Brenneman Erin Brenneman I read a comment yesterday that stated all pork producers are “vile monsters” and must “stop abusing [their] animals.” 

I know that you should never acknowledge such drastic and incorrect comments because they are made to do exactly what they did – get a rise out of me and get my heart rate going.

I won’t acknowledge the comment and go on the defense.  All I want is for people to formulate their opinions from facts and real farmers, not activists who skew peoples' perception of reality.

I would like to start off by stating that if you know me or anything about me, you would instantly know that I am not an animal abuser nor would I ever be a part of anything that would resemble such a thing. 

I’m that crazy kind of person who would take my car into the ditch avoiding a rabbit. I have two overgrown dogs and five overfed horses, and sometimes I feel like I might be pushing my limits of both of those with my husband. 

It is just an animal-loving instinct that I have always possessed. 

If you don’t know me personally, I would like you to know that I love my job as a pig caretaker. 

Every day I get to go and save pigs, giving them the best chance at a healthy life so that they may fulfill their purpose in this world in the most humane and healthy way possible. As for tomorrow, I am going to do the same thing only try and make it even better. 

How incredibly fortunate I am to be doing something I love. 

Erin Brenneman Erin Brenneman I don’t help the little piglets up to nurse or assist a farrowing sow get the pigs out when she gets fatigued for abuse purposes. We don’t employ a 24-hour staff to attend sows giving birth like a hospital does for people, just to abuse our animals at more hours of the day. 

We do all of those things because we believe it is what is best for our pigs on our farm. 

If I thought, after these 10 years of working with the pigs, that it was anything sinister and cruel, I most certainly would not be a part of any of it. 

Remember, I wasn’t brought up thinking this is the normal thing to do, this is how our food is raised, and that’s just how it is. It had to be shown to me after I was 20 years old and completely inexperienced in agriculture.

I had to learn the entire process from A to Z, and I definitely had to question the whys of modern day livestock production because I had the same hesitation of any consumer – I simply didn’t know or realize. 

Once I learned and physically saw these whys, it became crystal clear and transformed the way I looked at what I was going to do for a living. 

I raise pigs, not abuse them. 

Those two things are not even remotely the same, despite what the argument might be today. 

I cannot abuse pigs and raise them at the same time.

The sow has proven to us that she will not produce pigs if she is stressed or abused. It is a fact off of which we base many of our current practices. We've learned if we reduce the stress of the sow, she will give us more pigs and raise them better. 

That is a fact that you cannot argue. Today we produce 176 percent more pork with 44 percent fewer sows than we did in 1950. 

Something has changed for the better of the sow since 1950. 

I would like you to know that I give it my all everyday. I have cried from sadness and laughter on this farm all in the same day on many occasions, most times within the same hour. 

I tell people that you know I am obsessed with pigs when I start dreaming at night of sows and piglets, and things I might try to make it better. Most of them are crazy and impossible ideas like dreams often are, of course, but the farm and my purpose consumes my mind.  

I bring my children out to the pigs with me so that they too can learn the way I feel is the right way to do things and help educate people on how animals on our farm are cared for. 

I have made it a huge priority to educate anyone who cares to listen about the farm and how it works.  This giant push for PR has come about after realizing how very little people know about us, and how very cool what we do is!

It is not that pork producers have been trying to hide what they have been doing; it simply is a matter that they didn’t know there was a need to explain it. The relationship between the consumer and farmer has grown more and more distant and now there is some patchwork to be done.

People are beginning to hear an overwhelming amount of the bad and the ugly because those voices are loud and agriculture just hasn’t gotten that loud yet. But watch out – here we come! 

More and more farmers across the country are catching on to this poor media and aren’t willing to be bullied and manipulated by it anymore. I am prepared to bet that you will love what we have to offer and show you. 

No undercover or staged scenes — just real life farming. 

You will be able to develop your feelings about farming from a farmer, not a person who despises farmers. Only then, after you have seen and heard how it is and what it is really like every day will you be able to form your own opinion. 

Erin Brenneman Erin Brenneman Maybe it is good and maybe you still think we are "vile monsters," but at least you have facts from the person who dreams about it and loves it and not fiction from the people who want animal agriculture to become extinct. 

What matters to me the most is that I try everyday to help educate others about our livelihood. It is no one's fault but our own that society has become so removed and unknowing of how food is raised. 

People are generations from the farm, and we just haven’t kept them up to date with what direction the industry has gone and why we have made the changes for the better. 

I promise you I will do everything I can to cover what I can. I know what the issues are, I know how people feel and I promise to try explain everything you might want to know. 

What is the best way to understand our practices? 

Come to the farm, of course! 

If I could bring every single person with a question through the farm I would, and I will. 

But if I fail to drag the world’s population through a sow farm I most certainly will try and provide the very next best thing to a farm visit. 

My life is an open book and I encourage you to follow along, learn about raising pigs, and share my enjoyment for farming! 

If you think that we are vile, monster-like animal abusers I will do my very best to prove to you that it simply is not true. 

Thank you so much for your interest, and I know I will not disappoint!

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Minnesota  |  March, 27, 2014 at 09:43 AM

Great article. Now... to get this beyond the pork magazines and into the public where it can be seen. Otherwise, we're preaching to the choir. Thank you!

Michael Femia    
Sherrill, NY  |  March, 27, 2014 at 11:38 PM

This week I finished programming a blog exclusively for people in agriculture– not only farmers, but students, agribusiness support people– anyone with boots on the ground as part of a career or education. Personally I'm most connected to people in produce and dairy, but I want to establish as much variety as possible, and I have a lot to learn about pork production! This is less about journalism and grand defenses of the industry, and more about being kind of an online introduction to who you are, and what you do. Right now I have a small crew of FFA students and farmers testing it out for me to make absolutely sure everything works OK, but within the next few days, I'll be promoting it more widely to farmers and other people in ag. (It's totally free, no ads, no commercial affiliation) One of the things I encourage, similar to this author, is moving past talking about what farming isn't. My verdict is that the problem is less a matter of bad information, and more a matter of a shortage of properly-promoted good information. Any questions, send me an e-mail or give me a call. / 315-794-4819

Iowa  |  March, 27, 2014 at 10:33 AM

I have been saying for years that people need to realize the farmer is more concerned about the ecology and the health of the animals than any activist or politician. If we as farmers don't take good care of our animals and our land it affects the profits and our wallets for years. I agree that the people who complain about the farmer need to come visit a working small farm to see just how things are done and why we do them, but instead they just want to look at websites and listen to big city politicians to make judgements on all of us.

Terry Ward    
Pa.  |  March, 27, 2014 at 02:08 PM

For the life of me I cannot understand dedicating so much time and energy and airspace to the opinions of 2% of the population. You count 98% of the peeps as your customers. What other industry can show such numbers?

Kansas  |  March, 27, 2014 at 03:13 PM

I've worked with horse, sheep, cattle and pigs. Pigs are definitely the most entertaining animals to work around, and I've been working with them for 26 years. I love animals, and the welfare of the animals who sign my paycheck is paramount. Farmers need to learn to communicate better with the public and don't be afriad to tell people what you do for a living- you get some interesting questions.

March, 28, 2014 at 08:28 AM

This is great to hear! Good luck with your website/blog. If you would like more contributors I know that myself and my father may be interested in writing.

Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH    
Connecticut  |  March, 28, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Great article! The activist organizations who claim your practices are not humane don't care that you care for your animals well, they care only that you care for them at all. In their heart of hearts the leaders of such groups may know that the word "abuse" does not apply to what you do. But they use it all the same because your animals lives end in death, at a time of your choosing. Their goal is vegetarianism, achieved by any means fair or unfair. They can't be reasoned with nor dissuaded, no matter how good a job you do. So keep doing the excellent job you do and keep advocating for the truth. Americans do not want what the activists are selling, but they do want safe, plentiful and affordable animal protein.

Ina Müller    
Germany  |  March, 30, 2014 at 04:09 PM

take in contact with (powerful women, who work in pig farms) (a pig farm in Germany)

Illinois  |  April, 01, 2014 at 12:02 PM

Excellent article and I agree we need to start showing more and more how much better it is now than in the 1950's raising pigs. Thanks for posting.

Illinois  |  April, 02, 2014 at 11:30 AM

As the former President of the the National Pork Producers, Donna Reifschneider used to say; "Farmers are active environmentalists not environmental activists", there is a big difference between talking and doing!

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