Dear Pork Producer…

This is a letter that I wish we could send to everyone who owns even just one pig. Keep in mind this is from the eyes of an animal science student that has spent her entire life in the beef and crops industry. With that being said, feel free to pass this around and maybe it will get back to some major pork producers and remind them of the support they really have. Thanks.

“Dear _________,

As a pork producer, there is one thing that you and the rest of the world can relate to: bacon. All jokes aside, a serious matter has come forward and hit the agriculture industry like a wave hitting a rocky cliff: hard. The war that animal rights activists have waged against us has taken a toll and slowly but surely we see our friends collapsing to the overwhelming bullying act they haunt you with. When your child comes home from school and tells you about being picked or (hopefully not) emotionally or physically damaged by someone with a sense of self-entitlement, what do you do? I challenge you as a parent to find a parent that says backing down into a corner is the right thing to do. You want to protect your child, but you can’t protect him/her the way you want to or that you are physically capable of doing. So you tell him/her to take a higher road than the road the bully is on by telling an adult in the school, ignoring them, using their own self-confidence to drown the negatives. It is more than understood that your child’s well being skyrockets past your career, but when broken down to their core they are almost identical. You want to protect it, see it grow, and be proud of it, but what happens when it’s threatened by people who’ve never been in your shoes, or even anything close to it, using intimidation? You, as a producer and as someone who visually witnesses a sow’s life, should be the one to decipher what is good vs. bad. There are obviously stipulations and rules that need to be met, but when it comes to a corporation who has a hidden agenda trying to tie the strings that turn you into a puppet, how smart is that? Let’s discuss the truth about this issue using facts, figures, and numbers while still keeping in mind that in our agriculture world we completely depend on those three things, but in the consumer’s eyes, it’s about the emotion, the morals, and the integrity of an individual. However, one thing that all can agree on: the truth needs to first and foremost, which leads us into the agricultural side telling you what truths we have been presented with and then I will try and douse some water on the fire with the emotional side as well. Anyone who has spent extensive amounts of time with pigs or even just enough time with pigs is aware of the aggression they possess. As the pork producer, you of all people should understand the dangers of a sow and the threat they pose to those who might not have as much experience with their behavior. If you have never seen the vicious “initiation” tactics that pigs have, lucky you. Pigs develop hierarchies and if a new member is introduced to an already established group, things get ugly really quickly. The established sows will gather in a circle around the newcomer and start snapping their jaws as an intimidation tactic before attacking. A sow with a litter can and will attack humans which presents the need for human’s safety in the design of sow barns. This letter is one that might be read industry wide but regardless of the geographical location of your operation, there are still two major components that validate the need for some sort of confinement. The first is the ever present danger of predators that are looking for an easy kill. The way a predator will kill a pig for its meal is much more gruesome and inhumane than many tactics used in a confinement setting. The elements and weather make for the other problem that is out of human’s control. If there was no climate controlled barn, the piglets wouldn’t survive into the winter. Not to mention the iron supplements that are given to the piglets within a matter of time after they’re born that is crucial to their survival. Without those, imagine the numbers of piglets that wouldn’t make it more than a few days. It’s more than just the agriculture world that supports you, it’s those who are not extremists as well. Oklahoma State University’s Agricultural Communications Department and the United States Farm Bureau conducted a survey in 2007 that asked consumers questions that aren’t exactly typical in regards to the animal rights vs. the farmer war. They collected over 1,000 opinions from a survey that consisted of 50 questions and the results were quite shocking to those who already had braced themselves to expect the worst on both sides. Socially speaking, when asked about the importance of well-being, U.S. farmer’s well-being is twice that of farm animal’s well-being. Human poverty, the U.S. health care system, and food safety was shown to be 5x as important as the well-being of farm animals. Here’s the kicker: one human suffering was outstandingly equal to 11,500 farm animals suffering AND respondents felt that if farmers and ranchers have to conform to higher animal welfare standards, they should be compensated for the changes. Everyone agrees that animals shouldn’t suffer and the results of this survey are not suggesting that it is condoned, however it does show that consumers care about the producer even more than previously thought. A majority of 1,000 people means that 501 people are also willing to band together with the agriculture community and support decisions made that will not give into what animal rights activists try to scare you into doing. It comes down to this: the agriculture world will be here to back you whenever you need us, but we want you to make sure you make the choices and decisions you do with a rational head that knows the support you have. We are a big family and families stick together no matter what. I take responsibility for my part of not standing up earlier and showing my support during all of these downfalls lately. My support can only do it’s best, but just know it’s there. I’ll do whatever I can to help you or the next guy because I understand the history, passion, dedication, time, etc. that comes with this job and it would only be fair to be some sort of help whenever needed.

Keep this in mind,

Shelby Bodine.”

This speaks for itself I think, so let’s do what we can and show our support. This is about us as a whole, whether it’s organic, grass-fed, feedlots, sow barn, crops, genetic engineering, etc. we are agriculture and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

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