BSE may be the headline grabber these days, but other industry issues demand our ongoing attention. Food safety via healthy livestock is a priority on everybody’s agenda in the industry, to be sure. Meanwhile, let us not forget the animal-handling component of food safety — you can be sure others have not and will not.
Newsweek columnist George F. Will is among the high profile people with animal rights on his mind — at least that was the topic of his July 18 commentary urging his audience to read Matthew Scully’s book entitled “Dominion: The power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.” Scully used to write speeches for President George W. Bush.
It definitely is on my reading list, and I suspect it is also on yours. We may not like misguided reports about animal abuse as a moral problem. However, we need to keep up with such writings. If you have not read it, you should read Will’s commentary.
Recently, an industry veteran asked me to rate his company’s performance in the marketplace. Truth be told, I am not altogether comfortable with this kind of thing. My first mental reaction was to question his motive. Did he want my unvarnished response? What if he really doesn’t like what I say? Will that create a problem for me? I considered dancing around the question, but only briefly. As Voltaire cautioned, there are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts. I try not to do this.
Here is what I told him:
The industry in the aggregate is missing an opportunity to help educate today’s youth. Your company is a laudable corporate citizen given its charitable contributions covering a range of human needs. The company also is on the front line concerning sharing its resources with the communities in which it operates. But what is your company doing to tell our youth the truth about where hamburger really comes from? Consider this. When Clara asked in that famous commercial “Where’s the beef,” somebody should have answered with the real story. The beef is in that cow grazing in the field. It bothers me that children are exposed to human slaughter on television and in movies, but God forbid they should know that cows must die so they can have hamburger. Is it a pretty sight? No. Should kids go to kill floors? No. Would I rather not go on the kill floor? Yes. I also don’t want to be in an operating room watching surgeons crack open the human body. There are certain facts of life that we just have to face. There are also facts that need to be told over and over again. Certain animals are born, live a merciful life, and then put to death mercifully. It’s called humane treatment and handling.
Kids could handle this a century ago, why not this generation?