Imagine this scenario: A teenager gets on the PETA Website for youth at: www.peta2.org. PETA stands for people for the ethical treatment of animals. At that Website they're able to order a free DVD with an innocent sounding name "If pigs could say 'woof.' It's anything but innocent- the theme of the lead clip is that if pigs could bark like dogs, they would be revered pets, not tortured animals, as the DVD implicitly implies with some horrific, black and white video and foul language form a supposed barn worker.
The problem with all this is that there is no one there to tell the teenager there is another side to the story. There is no one to tell them that the vast majority of producers don't cruse repeatedly at pregnant sows in crates and jab them with hot shots, nor do they slam young pigs against the concrete floor for the fun of it, as the video implies. And when another segment in the video says ear notching is 'mutilating their ears' there's no one there to tell anyone watching that it is a common, simple procedure practice for decades to identify animals.
All that came home to roost recently when I ran into someone whose daughter had seen the video clip in question. Apparently she was a vegetarian already, or on the verge. Now she's 100% anti-meat. And worse yet, she's very nearly convinced two teenage girlfriends to join her and swear off meat. All she had to do to make her case was pop in the DVD into her computer and let them watch for themselves.
DVDs and Internet stories don't come with disclaimers that what you're about to see is one-sided. The PETA video does come with a disclaimer that it contains graphic material and strong language, as well it should. All this despite the jacket of the DVD portraying a cute pig dancing on a beautiful day with only a few clouds in the sky.
How do you get to the teenagers before they make a drastic, life-altering change that ultimately affects a livestock producer's bottom line? That's a difficult question. One source says it's time to get tougher on the few bad actors that make it possible for PETA to get such video, by whatever methods they use to do it. Usually it's some sort of undercover operation, by their own admission, such as sending someone in as an employee on one of these farms or in a slaughterhouse until they secretly film the abuses they hoped to find.
The Indiana Legislature recently passed a bill that will help, at least to some degree. Called the 'good character' bill, it gives the Indiana Department of Environmental Management more clout when handling permitting procedures for livestock operations that have had violations in the past. Until now, there was nothing stopping those operations from filing for the right to expand or even build a new operation, where their former performance would be called into question.
Randy Curless, a Wabash hog producer, believes this bill is a step in the right direction. A similar bill died two years ago when a few legislators tried to tie unreasonable setback requirements to the bill. Both animal welfare and hog producer groups seem happy with the result this time around.