Dr. Bernard Rollin, Colorado State University Distinguished Professor in Philosophy and Bioethics, shared his insights during the February 4th Animal Care Wednesday Webinar. Dr. Rollin highlighted some of the current challenges to improving animal care, specifically related to beef cattle production.

Some of the challenges discussed were:

  • Legislative referendums that are being created in various states
  • Animal activists and their organizations
  • United States producers that choose not to adopt new technologies that could replace painful procedures (e.g. surgical vs. immunocastration or retinal scanning vs. branding) or change living environments/facilities that hold poor societal views
  • Increased societal concerns over animal treatment at shows and on farms
  • Changes in animal use (“beasts of burden” and food sources, pets/hobby, research)
  • Changes in demographics of the United States population (< 1% involved in agriculture and food production)

Many of the challenges that livestock producers face are due to changes in societal values. When animal caretakers do not take the time to understand societal values, a source of disconnection unfolds. “Opposing the societal changes can cost you customers,” Dr. Rollin explained. Society wants producers to practice husbandry as in the good old days, but believes it is not intuitively practiced anymore. Both society and producers can agree that unnecessary pain and stress is not beneficial to the animals that produce our food. Good husbandry is simply treating animals that are sick and providing for all their basic needs under natural conditions. So how do producers show society that the current practices are in fact husbandry and not just “animal industrial agricultural practices”? This first means evaluating cattle production ethics, or “Tradition”, and determining the “necessary” management practices under which to raise the animals. Society asks producers to do this without compromising the animal’s natural needs. Dr. Rollin says, “Take the fact that practices are not socially acceptable, find an alternative and turn it into a marketing advantage.”

To hear all of Dr. Rollin’s discussions about the challenges that exist to improving animal care, visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln 4-H Animal Care Resources website. Previously recorded Animal Care Wednesday Webinars covering a variety of topics including Ag Gag laws (anti-whistleblower laws), proper livestock handling for producers and youth, and research updates on animal husbandry practices can also be viewed at this site.