Animal welfare is an issue that is gaining in importance for livestock farmers across North America .There are few people more influential in the area of reasonable animal welfare improvements than Dr. Temple Grandin. I recall her sharing her thoughts at a meeting back in 2006 about the future of animal handling and animal welfare. Today, she is calling on farmers to use social media to influence the public discourse on animal welfare in North America, and the strides taken since the 1980s to make real improvements.
If we look at the big picture, companies are being influenced to use their market clout to force change at the farm level. States are passing resolutions to change production practices. The European Union is implementing change already. Increasingly, the animal agriculture community recognizes the importance of these developments and its impact on how agriculture conducts its business.
Temple Grandin was recently in Brandon, Manitoba sharing her thoughts on the public discussion that has occurred so far. When she looks at the change in the industry over the last thirty years, she stated:
A lot of the public today in the cities is totally separated from the farm and there's been a lot of improvements made in agriculture and the public's not aware about it… I'm very frustrated about that because things are so much better compared to the 80s and the early 90s. There's just no comparison.
And on the subject of wider communication with the broader public, Grandin had the following comments to make:
The aggies have got to get out and communicate with the public and one of the
ways to do that is to put things up on you-tube, just regular things. I find the public is curious about the everyday regular things, feeding cattle, taking care of cows, handling pigs, how you mix feed. Things that are just chores to the farmer are really interesting to the public.
If you want to hear this highly influential woman, there will be a chance on Thursday, June 7 at the Living Arts Centrein Mississauga. This is a rare opportunity to ask questions about the future of animal handling from one of the top experts in the world – a world that is changing for farmers slowly everyday. Farmers need to find the time to engage the broader public to ensure that the change coming is reasonable and that well-thought out solutions are developed that meet public concerns.
Nathan Stevens is the Interim Manager and Director of Policy Development for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston and in Brantford and Woodstock. It is also found on the CFFO website:www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.