To The Point

The Words We Use …

There has been a lot of research done on what words mean to different groups of people. I have recently learned that words like “producer” or “industry” shouldn’t be used when communicating with “consumers” about the people who grow their food.

It seems that today people want to know where their food comes, who grows it, how it is grown and even the ethics of those growers. The trick is to let them know that we are good people doing good things for animals, land and water every day.

However, to them the term producer may mean someone who is behind the making of movies or generates electricity. Industry means that you are big, uncaring, rich and probably a thief. But it gets worse if you are a rancher. Major food producing companies have stopped even using the word “rancher” because most of the public has no idea that ranchers are part of their food supply. Food comes from “farmers.”

Then there are the words that we should never use . . . like “pink slime,” “mad cow disease,” and carbon foot print. For the first two there are technical terms. The “pk” (please don’t ever say those words again) proper term is finely textured beef, also known as LFTB. But, as Linda Davis points out, do we really want to associate the letters TB with anything beef?

The letters are better and easier to spit out with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). However, no one has a clue what you are talking about. Believe it or not, this was initially written before the last diagnosis of BSE in the U.S. We can compliment the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for being ahead of the curve and minimizing the negative impacts of this issue, at least at press time.

Then we come to my pet peeve. “Carbon Foot Print.” Unlike LFTB and BSE, I know of no acronym and, in my opininon, no valid purpose. For those who believe in such things, I think the term applies to how much harm we humans and the domestic animals we raise are causing the earth by living, breathing, eating, participating in commerce, anything and everything we do including normal bodily functions.

There are those who believe that the carbon that may be produced is creating “global warming” and thus the demise of our planet. The media is reporting that a mild winter back East this year is causing more people to believe in the concept. But how many colder and snowier winters have we seen there in the past few years?

The scientific community, however, is becoming further divided on the issue. Clearly our climate changes — always has, always will. It was just a few decades ago that there was scientific concern that we were entering into a new ice age. A “new” ice age because there have been ice ages previously. There is no reason to expect that there might not be another, just as we can expect some time that is warmer than others.

We can even expect, with climate change, that some areas may become hotter, drier, wetter, colder. History tells us what our regions looked like hundreds and thousands of year ago and that isn’t what we are seeing today. Chances are those who come after us will see something different from what we are seeing today.

Some have referred to the concept that man (woman or child) can have a substantive impact on the outcome of the earth as an “arrogance of man.” I would have to agree. That, again, is a two-sided expression. It wasn’t all that long ago that I heard one of the founders of EarthFirst claim that society needed to have more large predators introduced to curb the arrogance of man.

It is particularly aggravating that there are those in the beef business who seem to have accepted the carbon foot print theory as fact. I was shocked recently at two different major rancher meetings to hear people state that they are not sure that cattle contribute to climate change BUT the industry has reduced its’ carbon foot print by some percentage. Why on earth would anyone say that?

Why do we give ANY credibility to something that is so controversial? Why cannot we just be proud that we do more with less? That we are producing more pounds of beef with fewer cattle numbers?

The whole concept of being “green” frustrates me because, at least in my experience, that agriculture is green from the ground up — and always has been, yet we get little credit for the “green” work we do in terms of jobs and stewardship. But if I have to choose, I’d rather be green than worrying about some euphemistic carbon foot print.

Humane or Inhumane?

Most of animal agriculture has had their day in the barrel in terms of the animal rightist who would like to virtually eliminate us. The growing and marketing practices have been the headlines and the lead on the evening news.

Until recently, the horse breeders, owners and users have been relative unscathed, with the possible exception of bucking horses. It is hard not to see a well planned and well executed smear campaign has been underway for the past several weeks. That plan has probably been in the works for years and the timing got ripe to roll it out.

During the past year Congress removed the prohibition of slaughtering horses when it took the language out of the agricultural appropriations act that prohibited USDA inspectors from inspecting horse slaughter plants. There was some stir in the animal rights/environmental community, but honestly less than might have been expected. What little angst was defused by the USDA when the agency reported that there would be a detailed permitting process that would have to be completed before any such plant would begin operation.

Earlier in the year there was a new HBO series focusing on the horse racing industry called Luck that began airing. We began to hear of the aggregious treatment of horses on the set. Then along in March, the New York Times ran a full page article outlining what some perceived cruelty in the horse racing industry, both to horses and jockeys. Soon, we heard that the production of Luck had been cancelled because of its cruelty to horses.

Then the Albuquerque Journal ran its own story on the ills of the horse racing industry and the lack of oversight by the Racing Commission. U.S. Senator Tom Udall’s bill to federally regulate drugs used in the industry introduced last year began to get more attention.

Near the end of March the gut-wrenching videos taken at Southwest Livestock Auction in Valencia County of horses that should have been put down. I cannot and won’t even try to defend the treatment those horses were receiving. If you want the truth, I am just a bunny hugger at heart and I come by it naturally.

When I was about 10, one afternoon when we got home from the school bus there was a stray dog in the drive way/shop. It was upsetting our dogs and we had no idea where it came from. Mother did the natural thing. She got a gun and shot it or shot at it. To some that may seem callus, but when you live in the country and a stray dog shows up there are all kinds of concerns, not the least of which is rabies.

At any rate, a few days later I was following Daddy around doing chores and was terrified to find that wounded stray down in the saddle room. Daddy had found it that day along the road and brought it home to nurse back to health. I told Daddy that Momma was going to be pretty upset. He told me to keep my mouth shut.

Just like that story, there is probably a lot more going on at Southwest Livestock. How many horses are abandoned there in such bad shape that they won’t last a day or two?

If horses aren’t marketed at Southwest Livestock what IS going to happen to them? To dispose of a horse in an urban area, the cost can easily be $1,000. If you had $1,000 wouldn’t you have used that the feed the horse?

But back to my conspiracy theory. It wasn’t long at all that the public learned that a permit for a horse slaughter in Roswell had been filed. A little digging exposed the fact that the permit was filed initially in December 2011 — well before all the attention has been drawn to horses, nationally and within New Mexico. I may be crazy, but I my not be.

Then there are the people who were holding the cameras filming the animals in distress. Isn’t there some responsibility assigned to them? They stood there and watched those animals suffer for at least two hours before asking for something to be done about them.

The video was taken on March 10, but the New Mexico Livestock Board didn’t learn of them until the end of March. Why? If we want to prevent suffering isn’t there an onus on each of individually to stop it when we see? Isn’t there liability on us for not taking action? If there isn’t a responsible individual on sight, why not call the county sheriff or the state police the main office of the Livestock Board?

Things to remember:

  • If you don’t belong to the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, you can join NOW on the website at www.nmagriculture.org.
  • The Mid Year Meeting is scheduled for June 24 through 26 at the Inn of the Mountain Gods. There are still a few rooms available. Call 800/545-9011 now to reserve yours!