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Talking Hog Production with an Animal Welfare Class

Talking Hog Production with an Animal Welfare Class
Stepping up to the plate and discussing animal welfare from a farmer's perspective.

I was asked recently to participate in a video conference with an Animal Welfare Class at Vermont University. My first instinct was to say no, as I never feel quite qualified for this kind of thing.

Then I reminded myself that we have been asking the public to come straight to the source for information – when they ask we need to be ready to step up to the plate.

So while apprehensive, I agreed. I was very self-conscious and had to repeat to myself often: "Don't roll your eyes and don't be defensive." (I am an eye-roller, just ask my Mom. I tend to get defensive, too, especially about agriculture.)

Related: How is the #RealPigFarming Social Media Campaign Working?

Modern ag works: While some romanticize life on the farm the reality of animal behavior is much different. Farmers care for their livestock everyday shouldn't they be the ones helping the public and animal welfare advocates to understand.

During the video conference, one student asked: "What cognitive and social interaction do you provide for your pigs on a daily basis?" I might have physically hurt myself controlling my eyes.

My answer: "I allow them access to feed and water 24/7, that's truly all that hogs care about."

The answer that was floating through my head was a bit too honest and sarcastic: "Are you kidding me? I don't even have a full understanding of what the word 'cognitive' even means and social interaction for hogs involves nosing through their pen mates' manure. I allow them to do that as much as they would like. I once tried to teach them knitting but the absence of opposable thumbs made knitting difficult and since they are in barns all the time they felt they had nowhere to wear the scarves they might knit."

Related: #RealPigFarming: A Social Media Movement for Modern Hog Farms

Luckily I was joined by a wonderful example of a true agvocate, Wanda Patsche, a hog producer from Minnesota. She was much more poised and eloquent with words than I.

After the video conference she put together a great blog post entitled, "What I Wish People Knew About Pig Farming" on her blog Minnesota Farm Living.

Wanda writes:

"It’s easy and feels good to reach for ideology. It’s pleasurable to visualize the sunny 70-degree days where pigs roam pastures under trees and never hurt one another. You know, the whole Charlotte’s Web scenario. Who wouldn’t love a world like that? But we don’t live in Charlotte’s Web’s book, we live in reality."

Thank you, Wanda, for being an agvocate. Please read and share her post!

The opinions of Jennifer Campbell are not necessarily those of Indiana Prairie Farmer or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

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