What is your view on animal welfare? It all may depend on where your "window" is.
Your view on animal welfare depends on what you see when you look out your window, says a cattle producer who also works in academia.
Dave Daley, interim dean of the College of Agriculture at Chico State University in California, gave an outline on "How to Lose the Argument on Animal Welfare" at the 4th International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare hosted by Iowa State.
In addition to his teaching duties, Daley is a 5th generation California cattlemen and his family has been operating on the same land since 1880. "That’s my window," Daley says of the 100,000 acres of remote, forested high country he grazes his cattle on during the summer. Daley notes that he could spend a whole day up there and only see five head.
This gives Daley a very different perspective on animal welfare when compared to producers who can interact with their animals daily.
However, it is also about understanding those people who may not support modern agriculture or animal livestock production. "If someone does disagree with you it doesn’t mean they’re stupid or evil, it just means they are looking through a different window than you," Daley adds.
As a professor of animal science, Daley relies on and believes in data, but scientific findings won’t win the court of public opinion.
"The public doesn’t trust us. Just saying we need more research won’t work," Daley says. "It won’t change the public’s perception. They want trust, not science. They want to know that we are doing things right."
During his presentation Daley outlined 12 problems that he sees with the current state of agriculture’s point of view towards animal welfare:
- Assuming science will give us all the answers. Science doesn't solve ethical questions.
- Using economics as justification for animal welfare practices.
- Defending all agricultural practices. Defend those practices that are defensible. You lose credibility by trying to defend all practices.
- We can do better at animal welfare.
- Attacking everyone who disagrees (i.e. PETA, HSUS, vegans, etc.).
- Not being willing to listen.
- Assuming the lunatic fringe is the general public.
- Being reactive instead of proactive.
- Assuming that because someone disagrees with you they are stupid, evil or both.
- Not working hard enough to build coalitions that include the public.
- Criticizing/mocking non-conventional production systems. There is room for other methods of production, so let the market determine success or failure.
- Trying to lead a parade without seeing if anyone is following.