Yesterday, I had a terrific animal rights conversation with a consumer.
During a tour of the Illinois State University farm in Lexington, we stopped to view the sow gestation stalls. The stalls we were viewing were “flex stalls.” ISU is working in conjunction with University of Illinois to determine whether these stalls reduce stress.
After about a minute, one of the students asked the inevitable, “Why are they biting the chains?” (Rather than gnawing on the bars, most were chewing on the chains that allow the dividers to swing back and forth.) An alumnus/farmer explained the situation to the young lady.
Looking on, I could tell this was her first time seeing hog production. She began to ask follow-up questions, such as, “Are they comfortable?” The alumnus gave me a look, and we started explaining the facts behind the animal rights debate.
After a few minutes of discussion, she impressed me with her take on the situation. She essentially said it’s not her place to determine the best way to raise pork since she is not a farmer. However, she does enjoy the taste and doesn’t feel the need to pay a lot more for it.
What a rare occasion that a consumer didn’t feel it was their place to pass judgment on an industry they’ve never worked in. On the drive home, I heard a joke that sums up my view of consumers who jump into the debate without all the facts.
Carl Hurley, an Eastern Kentucky University professor turned comedian, told this story. He and a friend were walking across a field to go hunting. Along the way, a bull spotted the duo and charged. They ran toward the only tree in sight. Hurley grabbed a branch and pulled himself up. His friend missed the branch, but ducked into a hole in the tree. He popped out, and tried to grab the branch again. The bull charged again, so he ran back into the hole.
Hurley’s friend did this three or four times, each time running back to the hole. Finally, he got a hold of the branch and pulled himself up. Hurley said, “You fool, why didn’t you just hide in the hole?” He answered, “There was a bear in the hole.”
Hurley says this is the moral of the story, “He understood the situation a little better than I did.”
As consumers blindly attack animal agriculture, they’d do well to remember this little story.
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