“While what we are about to show you is from one farm in one community, we’re told this can happen and is happening across the country,” stated Lloyd Robertson to a prime time audience on Saturday night. I don’t know if I’ve ever had such a strong motivation to start writing…that night I was tempted to sit down at my computer and bang out an angry retort. In the end I decided to give myself a cool down period to make sure that I didn’t say anything stupid in the heat of the moment (not that I’ve done that before).
I am a 6th generation Canadian farmer; my family has fed Canadians almost as long as Canada has been a country. Like my predecessors, I have a strong respect for the livestock I care for and the land that I farm. But one thing transcends this level of respect, the call to feed the world. It is impossible to explain this call – it is an intense feeling of responsibility to feed people while making sure that we are doing it in the most sustainable way possible so that coming generations will be able to grow food. If farmers fail at their job, people starve. It is a heavy burden.
In Canada today most people get out of bed never worrying about going hungry, there is always a meal around the corner at the grocery store. This strong sense of food security is what allows Canadians to worry about paying for a house, a car, university tuition, or the welfare of the animal they are eating. If the vast majority of Canadians didn’t know how they were going to pay for their next meal do you think they would worry about sows being confined in a gestation crate? No, they would want to make sure that they could buy a piece of pork as cheaply as possible so that they could feed their family.
I am not trying to use poverty as a justification for the practices shown in the video published by Mercy for Animals Canada (MFAC) however I feel it is important to point out the bind that farmers have been put in. For the entirety of human history non-farmers have demanded that food be produced as cheaply as possible and when the population exploded in the second half of the 20th century we were forced to industrialize our farms. This desire for cheap food is what has made the romanticised pastoral farm a thing of the past. Farmers did the best with the knowledge they had at the time.
Today we live in a different time, a vocal minority has some serious issues with the way we raise our animals and their concerns are not without cause. Producers have already started investing in research to help lay out the best way to transition to loose sow housing, alternatives to castration are being developed, etc. You see, the farmer’s pursuit for the betterment of animal welfare never ends.
In the coming days I am going to try and give a little more insight into why we do what we do and how we can make it better. I am not trying to convince those at MFAC that eating animals is ok; we have a fundamental philosophical divide in that regard. What I will try to do is prove to the meat eating public that what they saw on Saturday was a misrepresentation of my industry. Like much of our “news” today, this video used snippets of truth to cast sweeping generalizations about the pork industry…stay tuned to hear my side of the story.