St. Marys Journal Argus editorial
The most recent newsletter of the Animal Welfare Approved organization, which inspects and certifies hundreds of US livestock producers so they can attach a consumer-friendly label to their products, includes a very revealing article about a low-input agricultural training centre in Vermont.
“Green Mountain College’s oxen, Bill and Lou, plowed the fields of the college farm together for a decade,” writes newsletter contributor Steven Fesmire, a professor at the facility. Successive leg injuries, Fesmire explains, eventually kept Lou from being harnessed to the yoke. “With the college’s support, our farm decided to slaughter the team, in keeping with an aim of the college’s Farm and Food Project to ‘close the loop’ with our dining services.”
Enter the animal rights movement. “Due to pressure from protesters directed at local slaughterhouses, the college was unable to carry out its decision,” Fesmire reports. “Instead, our veterinary service euthanized the injured ox.”
The tale bears striking similarity to the series of events chronicled on Jan. 16 by Sebringville-area hog farmer John Nyenhuis. Acting as one of the panelists in a meeting organized by the Huron-Perth chapter of the Ontario Landowners Association, Nyenhuis related how his trouble started when, out of what he described as a sensitivity for the welfare of three of his market-destined hogs, he decided instead to deliver them personally to a local abattoir. The porcine trio, he explained to a packed audience at the Brussels Auditorium, were all suffering from varied degrees of hernia — basically, the skin on the underbelly had given way, and a portion of what’s normally inside the skin was exposed to the air and ground.
Surely, it’s safe to say that hundreds of hogs with some degree of hernia are loaded onto transport trailers around Ontario and sent to large-scale slaughtering plants every year. With one or two food safety inspectors on duty as dozens of similar trailers arrive during their shift, it’s also safe to say that virtually all of them are allowed to pass unhindered through the sorting pens onto the slaughtering floor — with nary a notation in the inspectors’ notebooks.
And it’s equally safe to say that very few of those hernia-affected hogs suffer any worse than their counterparts as they make that trip from farm to killing room.
Nyenhuis, however, was worried that his three little pigs would be among the ones that DID suffer more acutely due to their hernias. So he decided to have them slaughtered close to home, for his own use.
How that ended up with him in hot water speaks to the way various levels of authority — under pressure from animal rights advocates — have misdirected their resources when it comes to protecting animal “welfare.”
The problem with the rightist approach is that it arises from a belief that animal agriculture will someday disappear. That’s not going to happen, but because the rightists believe it will, the movement simply targets whichever elements of animal agriculture it perceives as the “low-hanging fruit” — any animals at risk of being killed for human use that can be saved quickly. So an aged ox, destined to be respectfully honoured in passing by a college-full of his keepers, is instead killed in secret and buried.
And Nyenhuis, instead of filling his freezer with locally-raised meat from animals that travelled a very short distance, in spacious confines, before being slaughtered, is forced to purchase his meat from a grocery store —after a much longer voyage by the livestock.