The Weekend Australian lead with an article “Going Going Gone: death of the saleyard” last Saturday. An article that was loaded with conjecture, unproven assertions and a raft of opinionated quotations that did neither side of the argument any favours.
On what basis (because there was no reference to a report or study) was the RSPCA able to claim that “cattle suffer undue stress when they are repeatedly mustered, yarded, loaded on to trucks into town and then kept for 24 hours in cramped sale yards before auction, after which the whole process is repeated.”
Sadly, the RSPCA (among others) is a wolf in sheep clothing. Appearing to be working with farm and government groups towards a united animal welfare policy, all the while continuing to strive towards animal rights and wrapping the movement up and pitching it to the public as animal welfare. And when the general public reads information that strikes out at farmers with sensational and emotive references, we would all be well advised to consider whether the author is really looking out for animal welfare…or animal rights.
What is the difference between animal rights and animal welfare I hear you ask?
Animal welfare is “a human responsibility towards animals in Australia and encompasses all aspects of animal health and well being, including proper housing, management, population control and habitat management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane killing.”
Animal rights is a philosophical and personal view .
In case anyone is in any doubt about Australia’s animal welfare stance, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is a good place to start to view public policy. There is also the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy Website.
NB: update – RSPCA issued a statement saying “While RSPCA Australia strongly encourages the direct consignment of farm animals because of the inherent stress caused by multiple transport and handling, we recognise that for many producers saleyards will continue to be part of the supply chain.”
As farmers, we love our animals. If you could only see my husband’s face when we find a new born calf learning to stand up; or when an abandoned kid goat turns up at the front gate. On Twitter this week, one Tweet wrapped it up perfectly. “Ironically the reason I farm is because I love animals so much, but they’ll never believe that (@MichaJohansen).”
To highlight another piece of misinformation floating around, Animals Australia (AA) is now trying to compare Australian antibiotic use in beef with the USA’s antibiotic use. AA has pulled a figure (un-sourced) out of thin air – “Here in Australia an estimated 70-80% of all antibiotics are fed to farm animals — mostly for growth promotion and to help animals survive the unhealthy and unnatural conditions of factory farms.”
There is an excellent fact sheet by the Australian Lot Feeder Association specifically debunking the antibiotic usage myth in Australia, but there is also excellent information in relation to what is deemed acceptable at the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority .
So, let’s stick to the facts, rather than conjecture, when mounting a rebuttal against each other. Let us all assume that it is unacceptable to pull so called facts out of thin air; to use blogs (such as this one) as anecdotal evidence; or presume that your conversation with a handful of co workers over lunch can in some way be deemed as a good example of what the community as a whole thinks. And while we are at it, stop forwarding emails and sharing information without checking the source or content first – what happened to free thinking?!
By all means, hit each other with peer reviewed papers from well positioned magazines, government and independently appropriated research – but do not trivialize the issue with personal vendettas and ideological fervor.