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Published June 29, 2010, 01:07 PM

Zero tolerance needed on animal abuse

WACO, Texas — I’m speechless. I watched with revulsion. I’m filled with disgust. It’s animal abuse at its worst. And it must be stopped.

By: Mike Barnett,

WACO, Texas — I’m speechless. I watched with revulsion. I’m filled with disgust. It’s animal abuse at its worst. And it must be stopped.

I’m talking about a disturbing undercover video released by the group Mercy For Animals that shows farm workers abusing cows and calves at an Ohio dairy. It shows workers violently punching young calves in the face, body slamming them to the ground, and pulling and throwing them by the ears. It shows workers using pitchforks to stab cows in the face, legs and stomach. It shows workers maliciously beating restrained cows in the face with crowbars. And it gets worse. Be forewarned. The video is very graphic in nature and includes horrible and foul language. But it’s a video I think every livestock producer should watch.

Why? We talk all the time about animal cruelty. It’s time to do something about it. If this video does not outrage you and make you think different about your business, then we might as well fold up shop.

Cruel treatment

MFA portrays the incident as proof that animal agriculture cannot regulate itself and that “meaningful federal and state laws must be implemented and strengthened to prevent egregious cruelty to farm animals.”

You know what? Consumers might just look at this video and agree with MFA. It will get wide exposure. It will be a powerful motivator to move public perception one more tick toward favoring tight regulation of your business.

Already I can hear the industry’s defense. “There are a few bad actors. . . .” “We have industry initiatives to train livestock producers. . . .” “We have scientific standards for animal care. . . .”

All of that is true. Those are arguments I’ve used myself. I wholeheartedly agree with each of them. But it doesn’t matter.

What matters are the horrible images of animals being mistreated by depraved and sadistic human beings who are part of agriculture. Unfortunate? Yes. I do not think there are many of them, but the whole industry will pay the price for their actions.

Hunting for bad actors

The simple fact is the groups who are releasing these videos are intent on putting producers out of business. They prowl the countryside looking for those “bad actors.” Posting these rare instances of animal abuse is a power play to stop animal agriculture cold.

We better wake up to the fact that groups like MFA and the Humane Society of the United States and PETA are as cold-blooded in their intent to do away with animal agriculture as those who mistreat animals. They don’t care that the vast majority of producers treat their livestock right, giving proper care to maintain healthy, productive animals.

They want consumers to quit eating meat. They want consumers to quit using dairy products. It’s as simple as that. They will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. And a few uncaring individuals in agriculture are supplying the ammunition to shoot us all.

Putting onerous controls on the entire industry is not the answer to stopping animal abuse. You and I know that and if the consumer would stop and think, they’d realize it only drives good producers out of business, making meat and dairy products more expensive.

Prosecuting the “bad actors” to the full extent of the law is the answer. Zero tolerance. Lock them up. Throw away the key. Let the livestock industry take the lead in making an example of them. We — as an industry and as individuals — must be out front in making it known that these actions will not be tolerated. Animal abuse is wrong. And it must be stopped.

There is no excuse for this kind of behavior.

Editor’s Note: Barnett is director of publications for the Texas Farm Bureau Federation.