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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Answering Tough Questions

You are a new graduate in a mixed large animal practice in rural America. In becoming integrated into the community, you take the opportunity to engage with young professionals from diverse backgrounds. Many of these young professionals question your involvement with modern agriculture and "factory farms," where the care of animals and food safety is secondary to production and profit (their view). How do you respond to these inquiries?

Cattle in a feedyard - notice they have plenty of room to
move around, lie down and are very calm.
In these modern times, very little is as it was, especially the way we raise our food.   The world population has grown to a point beyond what our forbearers would have thought possible. In the struggle to feed people, agriculture has had to adapt along with the rest of the world.  Meeting the protein needs of a growing world is where animal agriculture must rise to the challenge. 
Animal agriculture has gotten much larger, and much smaller, all at once.  Farms and ranches have gotten bigger, but the number of people in farming and ranching has declined drastically.  Those still in the fight must meet higher standards and produce more, much of the time with less land and other resources. 
One production method modern animal agriculturalists utilize to meet the needs of a protein hungry world is the raising of animals in confined areas.  Pigs, poultry, dairy cows, and finishing beef animals can successfully be raised in smaller geographical area, helping to assuage the ever shrinking amount of land available.  Every building that goes up and every square foot of concrete or asphalt that is laid down is one less square foot available to feed people with.  Properly done, these animals are comfortable and have their needs met daily in our care. 
Confinement animal agriculture is often mislabeled as “factory farm” or other demeaning terms.  They are thought of as institutions where animal welfare is secondary to profit.  This is not true.  Profit is important, but only in that it allows the business to keep functioning. Profit must follow animal welfare.  If animals aren’t well cared for, they won’t perform.  No performance, no profit. 
Doing what’s best for animals is doing what’s best for an animal agriculture business.  It’s also doing what’s best for a food animal veterinarian.  Most importantly, it’s doing what’s best for ever hungry population of the world.
Thanks for reading,
John Dwyer

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