A recent article in the Tennessean newspaper exposes one of the problems with over-zealousness of animal protection – especially when the “protectionist” doesn’t know what they are dealing with. The nicely written article by Jennifer Brooks discusses well-meaning people who end up causing harm – to either animals or their owners – by jumping into situations (or non-situations) without the facts.

The article opens with a woman who spies a calf curled in the grass by a fence. Believing the calf has been abandoned, she muscles the 80-lb. Charolais calf it into her Lexus SUV, takes it home and attempts to feed it formula from a turkey baster.

You can see where this is going.

The article says that only after she brought the rapidly weakening calf to the veterinarian did she learn that her "rescue" was an ear-tagged member of the herd at the Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Farm Laboratories. Its mama hadn’t abandoned the newborn – she just stashed it under cover while she grazed nearby – normal behavior for a beef cow. And while this situation could be seen as fairly humorous, MTSU students subsequently spent weeks bottle-feeding the calf back to health.

The article states: There’s a bright line of distrust between Tennessee’s farmers and its animal rights activists. Incidents like this are part of the reason why.

Brooks went on to report about other incidents, many involving horses, where well-meaning people called authorities to report suspected abuse cases – most of which turned out to be older horses with ribs showing, many of them under veterinary supervision and being well-cared for by their owners. Other reports were such dastardly cases of animal husbandry such as cows and sheep “left out in the rain.” Or horses that must be dead because they are lying down in the pasture. I’ve had people come to see my horses and express concern seeing the “dead” horse in the pasture until he raised his head and looked at us with a sleepy expression and a yawn.

MTSU has actually had to relocate where they graze their pregnant dairy cows because “passers-by were offended by the sight of birthing cattle - and offended that humans weren’t out there with them.” In this day and age of humans wanting to record every moment of their personal lives – sometimes even the act of conceiving a child right on up to the birthing process – and plaster it on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it’s ironic that watching a cow give birth in a field seems so abhorrent.

 There definitely are times when horses, cattle and livestock are being abused or are kept in deplorable conditions, and yes, they need to be reported. But as the article states, sometimes getting some facts about what’s going on, and even talking to the owner, before running to the authorities or the media is a better route to take.

Read the full article here.