I thought I’d start this blog thing with a comment on the issue that basically has spurred me to start this blog in the first place: the bad press that farming has been getting recently. Movies like Food Inc and activist campaigns are interesting, but provide a skewed look at animal agriculture. It’s kinda like setting Pentagon funding by watching the movie Stripes. The idea that farmers abuse, neglect or exploit animals to increase profits is untrue. Money is involved in every decision on a farm, just like any other business. Farmers gotta eat, and provide for their families, but not looking after your animals properly LOSES you money.
Farmers are very aware of and interested in animal welfare. You might think about the welfare of pigs or chickens once a week at the grocery store…if then. Animal activists may think about farm animals daily. Farmers are with the animals hours and hours on end, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The farmers I work with on a daily basis care for and about their animals….a lot. People who call me about health problems on their farm are uniformly upset and worried….far out of sync with the monetary value. Are there farmers who do a better job than others? Sure. Do some farmers need to improve their standards? Of course. But the vast majority of egg farmers are good, honest, hard-working people who do their best to care for their charges.
Most of the hot-button issues in animal welfare are complicated….VERY complicated, and compromises between health, food safety and animal freedoms have been made. Laying hen cages unarguably improve hen health. They also restrict movement. The more freedom the hen has, the more disease she has. Full stop. Now….we can argue over which is more important….but you can’t say that cages are without benefit.
I’ll go into the cage issue much more later….its a pet project of mine. I just wanted to point out that there is a very reasonable “other side” to the animal activist arguement against laying hen cages. They are not perfect….not even close. Neither are aviaries, free-run or free-range systems. They all have strengths and weaknesses, and all of them have a place.
Mike the Chicken Vet