During the last week we ran across a number of articles that present different approaches by those in the livestock industry to the animal welfare issue: concealment, obfuscation, engagement.
One of the articles concerned an arrest under the ag gag laws that we discussed in our last column. Some of the ag gag laws make it a crime to record images of an agricultural operation without the consent of the owner. The effect of such laws is to conceal any activities that the public might find objectionable.
According to an April 29, 2013 Salt Lake Tribune article by Jim Dalrymple II, “Amy Meyer was horrified by what she saw at a Draper slaughterhouse, but she didn’t plan on becoming the first person charged with violating the state’s ‘ag gag’ law. Amy Meyer, 25, faces a class B misdemeanor for agricultural operation interference.
“Prosecutors filed the charge in Draper’s justice court Feb. 19 after Meyer reportedly used her cell phone to film the Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing Co. 11 days earlier.” Meyer stated that she made the video from a public right-of-way. After the story received widespread attention, the charges against Meyer were dropped, though they could be re-filed at a later date.
In another take on public concern about animal welfare, Linden Olsen, in a commentary on porkNetwork, wrote, “By carefully choosing the words we use when speaking about our farms and our food products, we can slowly change the perception of our industry and our wholesome pork products to our customers. Best of all, it doesn’t cost a cent” (http://www.porknetwork.com/pork-news/latest/Commentary-by-Linden-Olson-Words-204219211.html.
Olson’s list of words that need changing: “1) confinement barns: environmentally controlled housing; 2) gestation stalls/crates: individual maternity pens; 3) slaughter: harvest; 4) castration: neutering; 5) manure: fertilizer or plant nutrient resource; and 6) hog farmer: pork production specialist.” He doesn’t mention changing any practices that some find offensive.
The American Meat Institute (AMI) championed a different approach; engage the consumer in gaining an understanding of the processes used in meat production. In a report on a speech given by Janet Riley, AMI’s VP for public affairs and professional development at the Animal Agriculture Stakeholders Summit, Drovers CattleNetwork Managing Editor John Maday writes, “Animal-rights activists often say if slaughter houses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarians. AMI decided to test that theory by launching their ‘Glass Walls Project’ in 2012.