Who’s the Animal Advocate?

April 11, 2013


The battle between the Ag Industry and PETA is back in the spotlight with a PETA ad featuring Ryan Gosling, speaking out against the dehorning of cattle in the cattle industry.
In a letter to The Huffington Post, Gosling writes, “Dehorning is a painful process in which calves have their horns gouged out or sensitive horn tissue burned out of their heads. There is absolutely no reason — and no excuse — for the cruel, unnecessary practice of dehorning to continue.”
What surprises me most, aside from readers giving credence to a celebrity’s political opinion, is the lack of reasoning behind the drawn battle lines. The Ag Industry is not “for” the abuse of animals. I was raised on a California cattle ranch and I too agree that animals have the right to be in a comfortable, low stress environment. Nothing ensured our getting in trouble with our Dad, more than being too loud, too rough or spooking the cattle. We were taught how to be quiet, smooth and efficient so as not to upset the cattle, the horses or our Dad. We were not alone in this manner of working with cattle.

At the end of the day, raising livestock is a business, a business in which there is no profit in abused animals. Stressed or abused animals don’t gain weight, they aren’t profitable. A Rancher’s monetary loss or gain is in direct correlation with how he treats his livestock.
Polled cattle now dominate the industry, in order to alleviate the stress on cattle. In studies, the dehorning of adult cattle has shown the setback in gain can be detected for up to 106 days post dehorning.That is 106 consecutive days of losing money in the eyes of the Rancher.

There are infrequent instances where polled calves are born with horns, which is why the conscientious Rancher dehorns a calf within the first week, per the recommendation of the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA). “The AVMA recognizes that castration and dehorning of cattle are important for human and animal safety when cattle are used for agricultural purposes. Because castration and dehorning cause pain and discomfort, the AVMA recommends ….Both dehorning and castration should be done at the earliest age practicable. Disbudding is the preferred method of dehorning calves. Local anesthetic and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be considered for other dehorning procedures. Research leading to new or improved techniques that reduce or eliminate pain and distress associated with castration and dehorning, or development of viable alternates to castration and dehorning, is encouraged.”
When the dehorning procedure is done at an early age the lack of weight gain is recorded for mere days, whereas when it’s not done until later the lack of weight gain can last months. Which is why this is no longer a common practice among Ranchers.

Similarly this is why a large percentage of Ranchers have not followed the trend in the use of calf tables.  Calf tables are miniature squeeze chute which can be tilted to the horizontal position used for doctoring, castrating, dehorning, or trimming hooves. The machine is undeniably time efficient but aggressive and distressing to cattle.  This is largely due to the fact that cattle are more sensitive to high pitch noises than people, which puts a significant amount of stress on the calf. The trade off between this machine and the traditional method of roping cattle, is time efficiency vs. weight gain efficiency.

If Rancher’s weren’t in search of ways to increase production as well as make life easier for livestock – Temple Grandin wouldn’t have had a worldwide impact on the Agricultural Industry. Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism as a child and went on to pursue work in psychology and animal science. Dr. Grandin is a designer of livestock handling facilities and a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She has become a leading advocate for autistic communities and has also written books and provided consultation on the humane treatment of animals. In 2010, HBO released an Emmy Award winning film on Grandin’s life.
Grandin’s autism has given her a unique way of seeing the world around her, which has proved invaluable to the cattle industry.
I’m a very visual person,” said Grandin, “I see details. And that’s what animals see, details. They think in pictures.”
As Grandin has studied livestock animal behavior over the past 35 years, she has on occasion put herself physically in their place – down in the chutes, for example – to determine what could be done to make the animals less fearful.
“The bottom line is that animals produce more and better meat and higher-quality food products if they’re treated well,” she said.
Obviously the Livestock Industry agrees with her in that her livestock handling facility designs are located in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. In North America, almost half of the cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system that she designed for meat plants. Curved chute and race systems she has designed for cattle are used worldwide and her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior have helped many people to reduce stress on their animals during handling.

Ranchers, as a group, are not inhumane. They are not in the business of animal abuse. There are inhumane people in every industry known to man, but the Cattle Industry isn’t dominated by such people. If it were, there wouldn’t be such extensive amounts of resources devoted to making the raising of livestock more efficient, and less stressful on the cattle.

In regard to Ryan Gosling – I truly respect his abilities as an actor. However this is accompanied by the knowledge that to be employed in Hollywood there are no prerequisites of intelligence, discernment, adequate reasoning skills or a solid moral compass. The lack of these qualities should deny a person a podium on social issues. I consider Gosling a credible authority on the film industry, and on whether Rachel McAdams or Emma Stone is a better co-worker, and that is where his authority ends.
I respect his opinion, and I respect his right to not support the cattle industry if he so chooses – I do not respect him for putting the cattle industry on blast for issues he hasn’t bothered to research. Nor does his blind parroting of PETA propaganda do any credit to his reasoning abilities. The Ag Industry isn’t against the humane treatment of animals, it is however against starvation. Starvation seems a much more pertinent issue to champion, Gosling, if discernment isn’t in your repertoire.

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  • theentheory April 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    It is nice that he found a cause, but he should research it a little more before becoming the face of said cause. I have to ask myself, “Who is this guy and why do I care?” I guess everyone is looking for something…

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