Tuesday, March 17, 2009

HBO Documentary Tries to Paint with too Broad a Brush

I watched HBO's Death on a Factory Farm last night, and must say it was disturbing on multiple levels.

Before I go any further, let me add that I realize that there are people out there who are philosophically opposed to raising animals for human consumption. If you are among them, I respect your right to hold that belief and realize that we'll probably never be able to find any middle ground. For those of you who do consume meat and are concerned about the way that your meat is raised, I hope you will give consideration to what I have to say.

The undercover video was damning. If you saw the documentary, there's no need for me to rehash it here. Much of what was shown is simply unacceptable and indefensible in today's world, and I'm sure it's being discussed at length today on websites and around water coolers.

Equally as disturbing to me, though, was the running commentary that seemed to suggest that the footage shot at this particular farm was standard operating procedure on all or most livestock farms throughout our nation. This couldn't be further from the truth! Quite frankly, it made me angry that the filmmakers were trying to imply that I and other family farmers across this nation held our animals in such callous disregard.

American farmers view their roles in life as stewards of creation, responsible for using creation in a respectful way for the betterment of humanity. Those of us who raise livestock strive to provide the best of care to our animals so that both their life and death will be of maximum benefit to our fellow man. To do otherwise would violate the sense of ethics and morality that most of us hold at the core of our being.

I raise my calves from birth to grow into strong and healthy cows that will not only provide lots of quality milk during their life, but will also provide quality beef through their death. The only way I can do so is to provide the best care I possibly can to my cows. Yes, my bottom line depends on it, but my conscience demands it even more.

Livestock care is constantly evolving as farmers are working in partnership with veterinarians, scientists, and other animal experts to develop best management practices that will allow us to continue providing safe, abundant, and affordable food to the public. We see the social and cultural consequences of not following animal care guidelines and are holding each other accountable for raising our animals with care and compassion. And never forget that you, the consumer, hold us accountable every time you walk into a grocery store or market. The choices you make dictate both the food we supply and the methods as to how that food is produced.

If you have any questions about how your meat is raised, please ask! We farmers are happy to talk about the things we're doing on our farms. If you have anything for me specifically, please comment on this post or contact me via GilmerDairyFarm.com. You can also check out several of the links on the right-side column of this blog or go to sites such as Dairy Farming Today  to learn more.


Anonymous said...

Will, Thank you so much for doing your part and helping to tell the truth about what real farmers believe. ~annie

Unknown said...

This is our first day reading your blog, and I think we've found that you convey our thoughts very well. We did not see the HBO piece, but are very aware of what was to be shown. THank you for putting our thoughts as responsible caretakers in text. We will continue reading and surely commenting from now on.
-Roger and Kate Deters
Hy-Capacity Dairy
Fremont, MI

Anonymous said...

Really a good post; We need to figure out a way to get more non-ag folks to follow blogs like yours

amberlopez said...

I appreciate your story and I realize since you are a farmer you are more than likely more sensitive to this issue and it's purpose but please understand that when you say

"American farmers view their roles in life as stewards of creation, responsible for using creation in a respectful way for the betterment of humanity."

You are mis-representing the truth in the exact same way you are claiming the film does. Perhaps you are treating your animals well but the majority of meat comes from factory farms which are huge mega-business structures based one 2 motives only...profit and greed. Millions of farm animals are exposed to the most horrendous treatment only to die a tortured death while factory farming investors are turning their backs as their running to the bank to cash out on their profits.

Good for you for doing a respectable job on your farm but you are one in a million compared to the numbers of animals that are chained in a holocaust with no end in sight. If you truly want to continue being "responsible for using creation in a respectful way for the betterment of humanity: I strongly suggest you become part of the solution to the massive amount of animal abuse and factory farm loopholes that are allowing this to become so rampant because trying to deny it doesn't exist by claiming your hands are clean will get lost in the traumatized animal pictures and videos flooding the internet.

Will Gilmer said...

Annie, Roger, Kat, and Bov, thanks so much for your support, and keep up the good work you are doing yourselves!

Amber, I have been on numerous farms that are much larger than mine (the ones You would probably describe as "factory") and have seen over and over that economies of scale actually make it easier for farm families and workers to provide care to their animals.

amberlopez said...

I appreciate your experience but what are you doing to help animals on farms that are living in a holocaust today?

Anonymous said...

Will, I appreciate your web site and what it is doing to promote Ag education.
Amber, I would like to know if you have ever seen a so-called 'factory' farm. My family own what you would call a 'factory' farm and to compare it to the holocaust is ludicrous and only proves your ignorance in the matter. Our hogs may be company owned but we, the farmers, care for them and treat them better than most pets. I suggest you do your homework before making such outrageous accusations. See www.pork.org and www.lunchlearn.com the latter site will tell you where you can eat lunch and tour these facilities in Missouri.

Dairy Woman Strong said...

I have also been to many "facatory" farms in my day. WDG is correct in stating that these larger farms are actually able to capitalize on economies of scale, making them more financially capable to take excellent care of their animals. In the dairy industry, a larger farm can afford to have employees on staff 24 hours a day, caring for all animals. Technology allows dairymen to monitor cows even more closely (milk quality, cow health, milk production, cow activities)-technology which is more affordable with economies of scale. As in all animal agriculture industries: well cared for animals are productive animals, therefore more beneficial to the farmer/owner's bottomline. I hope this was helpful for you Amber.

Will Gilmer said...

This post has now been bumped from the "front page" of the blog, so I'm going to close comments unless someone submits a very insightful personal experience relevant to the topic. Don't worry, there will be plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks/months to talk about animal welfare on this blog.

There were a couple of very long, rhetoric-filled posts (coming from two very different perspectives) that I didn't publish because I've seen the same type comments on other blogs/boards devolve into a back-and-forth that really doesn't offer any insight or perspective on the original topic.

Oh, and I have a final thought for amberlopez because I just realize I failed to respond to her question about what I'm doing to help animals "that are living in a holocaust today":

I provide the best care I possibly can to my animals so they will provide maximum benefit to humanity through their milk and meat, and encourage others to do the same. By doing so, our customers get safe, nutritious, tasty, affordable products and the animal will have fulfilled its God-given purpose.