Advancements of animal well-being will evolve as the industry continues to learn. As Morrison states, “Most of us realize that animals are important to us, have contributed much to our lives in several spheres, and thus deserve thoughtful attention to their welfare. It is their due, and the principle of fair play demands it. The present awareness of our duties toward those under our control—and this more or less extends to every animal on the planet—requires centuries to mature. The process continues… We can do still better in many instances, and we will, with the aid of science and good will.” It is the cattle farmer’s responsibility to continue this study—it will improve the efficiency of our businesses while also ensuring that we exercise the “moral conscience” that, according to Charles Darwin, sets humans apart from animals.
While this short study of Dr. Morrison’s book does not even come close to giving full credit to the great ideas that he shared, it does pull out what I felt were the most important “lessons” for those of us involved in animal agriculture (specifically the beef industry) to ponder.
It is true that with every day that passes the average American gets further and further away from a rural agricultural life, but that separation does not have to ensure that mistrust exists between those that produce food and those that consume it. A universal focus on science based best management practices “on farm” which work to create consistent and competent high quality animal care will ensure that animal wellbeing continues to improve. With the documentation of these practices and the ability for farmers to communicate that “I care” to the consumer, that gap can be filled with the positive flow of information rather than the negative falsifications that currently plague media reports.
We must focus both internally to analyze and improve the care that is currently offered to our animals, and externally to share our story with the consumer. Either way that you look at it, the focus must be on animal wellbeing—not animal rights.
Quality animal care is both the right thing to do and the economical thing to do. The future of the thousands of cattle farmers in
Bovine Veterinarian's sister publication, Drovers, featured Burkholder in an "I'm a Drover" column. Read it here.