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The Sin of Animal Agriculture

Our family raises animals. Our family eats animals. Our family believes our faith is an important part of our life. Can those three go hand-in-hand?

Not according to recent accusations by animal rights activists.  After all, how can you possibly eat an animal if you love animals?  Wouldn’t that make you a hypocrite, according to messaging by groups such as the Humane Society of the United States?

These messages would have fallen on deaf ears when the majority of our country was involved in food production.  However, today 98.5% of the population is not on a farm or ranch – which means people are not exposed to the birth, care and death of animals that provide their food. They don’t see how modern day technology helps animals, such as keeping hogs cool in the intense heat – nor do people see the families involved with caring for those animals.

That doesn’t make it right or wrong – it’s just reality.  Generations removed from the farm means we no longer have conversation that animals die for us to eat. Somehow, we need to get back to understanding that farmers raise animals for food – animals that are very different than Fido or Fluffy.  Those farm animals take things we can’t eat or drink and convert them to life sustenance.Those of us in agriculture need to learn to better communicate that we are grateful for the sacrifice that farm animals pay so that we can eat. Not just to feed people in cities, but our families, too.

Frankly, most people probably don’t think about it until they’re given a guilt trip or shown shocking videos about farms and ranches. Most probably don’t consider the national security provided by our food supply. And, they probably just want to eat and enjoy their food – the same as our family, who, by the way, is mourning the loss of one our cats “Cutie” – mostly likely due to a coyote. I’m not happy about it, but I accept it as reality. And I don’t believe that makes me any less of a Christian.

It’s called the circle of life. I’m O.K. with drawing a line between our cat and the pork barbecue we had for dinner last night; different species serve different purposes. Farmers and ranchers have deep respect for the animals they care for. And – even more importantly – we take the sacred trust consumers have in us to deliver a safe food supply very seriously.

Last week, Dr. Wes Jamison of West Palm Beach University helped me remember the importance of empowering consumers to feel good about food choices.  Eating as you choose – not as food bigots direct you to – is not a sin. As Jamison says “Your dog is not a cow.” He encourages people to say-“I love meat.”  If you do, please help people understand that it’s just fine to enjoy meat and have a dog curled up at your feet.

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9 Responses to “The Sin of Animal Agriculture”

  1. The vast majority of Americans are not going to be convinced to become vegetarians. When the animal ag industry focuses on fighting the extremes, it tends to allow us to avoid the more pertinent and difficult issues relating to the way large-scale animal agriculture has evolved.

    In the name of “efficiency”, CAFOs have gone down a slippery slope of incremental changes in animal husbandry. Like a frog heated slowly to boiling from cold water, our industry routinely uses practices that my agricultural ancestors would be horrified with. We’ve lost the middle ground.

    If our current mass-production practices are so defensible, why is it that they are not routinely pictured in educational or promotional material from the very industries that use them? The egg industry uses images of hens on nests. The chicken industry pictures chickens that still have their beaks, the milk industry uses images of cows out on pasture.

    Temple Grandin makes a statement in her most recent book (Animals Make Us Human) about why she is still in animal ag. She also states that if her career had started now, as opposed to when it did, she is not sure she could have seen past the current welfare situation present in many large-scale chicken, hog and feedlot operations.

  2. Brett Barham says:

    Like you, I am a christian and I feel confident that my involvement in the beef industry and consumption of meat is not a sin.

    While much of the bible is up for interpretation, there are many instances of sacrifice, slaughter and consumption of meat.

    In Genesis 9:1-6 after the flood, God gave animals into the hand of man and said that “every moving thing” is food for us, just like plants are food. Killing man is forbidden because man is in God’s image, but killing animals for food is authorized since they are not in God’s image.

    Given that, I think it is also proper to give praise to God and thank him for the ultimate sacrifice that the animal made that I may be fed. There has never been a moment while slaughtering an animal nor while eating meat that I am not thankful for that animal and respectful of its life.

    This also does not excuse poor management of animals prior to slaughter.

    The sin may be taking what we have been provided for granted.

  3. Robin (@cownutritionist) says:

    I believe in food choice!

    As MPK, I will NOT allow others to make me feel bad about my choices.

    I know farmers care for their animals, and have good lives while they are with us.

    I also know that they are here on this earth to provide food for us.

    I thank farmers for their efforts and the lord for the plentiful food provided for me.

    Great blog, Michelle! Keep up the good work!
    Robin

  4. Derek Morr says:

    There’s a central question that’s left unasked – why don’t you eat cats or dogs? Certainly it can’t be because of any intrinsic property of cats and dogs, since there are other cultures that have no problem eating them. Likewise, why do we eat cows and pigs when there are other cultures that don’t.

    I also have difficulty with your claim that “different species serve different purposes.” We treat one set of animals as pets; we give them love and affection; we have no problem acknowledging their personalities; we give them veterinary care beyond what’s needed for mere survival. In general, we care quite a bit about their quality of life, and grieve when they die. But we treat another (arbitrary) set of animals as production units and as food. We ration their veterinary care according to the animals’ market value.

    How is this difference justified? What criteria separates these two sets of animals? Experiments have shown that farm animals aren’t so different from Fido and Fluffy in their intelligence, their capacity to experience pain, or their social structures. It seems that it’s an arbitrary cultural difference between which animals are companions and which are food.

  5. […] The Sin of Animal Agriculture Generations removed from the farm means we no longer have conversation that animals die for us to eat. Somehow, we need to get back to understanding that farmers raise animals for food – animals that are very different than Fido or Fluffy.  Those farm animals take things we can’t eat or drink and convert them to life sustenance.Those of us in agriculture need to learn to better communicate that we are grateful for the sacrifice that farm animals pay so that we can eat. Not just to feed people in cities, but our families, too. […]

  6. […] everyone shares my thoughts on animal agriculture, however. Thanks (yes, I’m being sarcastic here) to groups like the Humane Society of the United […]

  7. Andy Overbay says:

    As a Christian and a State employee, I often am asked to stick my faith in my back pocket. So far, I have been happily left alone, not that it matters to me. Back to the subject, what I share with people as an Extension Agent and Ag professional is this…
    What was the number one issue in our last few elections? JOBS. Beef is a beef cow’s job. You can’t retrain her to go get the paper or lay an egg. And just like a person, her job gives her dignity in God’s creation. When we rob them of the ability to have or add value then we either by intent or inadvertently diminish their place in God’s Kingdom.

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