November 20, 2015

Walmart's Toy "Slaughter" Truck Fiasco

 ERTL Big Farm 1:32 Peterbilt Model 579 Semi with Livestock Trailer
Photo Credit: Walmart
Recently the Internet blew up with a Facebook post by of a posted a photo of the toy truck pictured above, and simply saying, "Seriously, Walmart?" The response was, unsurprisingly, complete outrage by its followers. One responded, tweeting, "This is unimaginably disgusting. Walmart selling a toy slaughter truck. #vegan."

Of course it snowballed from there, many others echoing the same sentiments of this "slaughter truck", claiming things like, "the reality is violence; it isn't fun, it isn't neat, and it's something I wouldn't want my kids to enjoy playing with." Another urged Walmart to, "not support the desensitizing of children." Most of these people that Walmart, according to The Dodo, "pissed off" were the vegan and animal activists in their defense against symbols of "barbarism towards innocent animals."

An online petition has been created in demanding Walmart to remove the plastic, not real, toy from its shelves, and so far over 12,000 people have signed. Walmart has not yet, as far as I'm aware, responded to the their demands. 

The really sad thing about this, though, is that the people who have literally flipped out over this farm toy have taken things at face-value far too much. They've made quite a knee-jerk reaction to something they've learned to associate with killing animals, all thanks to the animal rights activists posting all about the "evils" and "horrors" of animal slaughter and anything and everything associated with it. Yet they've never stopped to think that maybe there's a lot more to this than what they've been told.

The indisputable fact is that this it not a "slaughterhouse" nor "slaughter" truck. A slaughter truck or kill truck, as it's more accurately known, is a smaller unit that has no holes in the sides, and is built to hang freshly-slaughtered carcasses back to the main slaughter facilities, as well as other parts of the animal later to be disposed of properly or sent to be used for something else.

I know, a Google Image search on the words "slaughter truck" gives you pictures of trucks that are very similar to what the toy is mimicking. Do note, though, that such pictures are actually primarily from the anti-livestock activists in their effort to show how horrific and barbaric the treatment that livestock endure is, and that these trucks that are often used to take animals to the slaughter plant reflects that.

But, the fact is that animals aren't killed on there, and they're not built to kill or slaughter animals. These trucks, because of the holes on the side which are meant for air circulation for the animals during travel, are actually livestock transport trucks because they take livestock, like pigs and cattle and horses and sheep and whatever else, from one farm to another, from farm to pasture or vice versa, and yes, from farm to the slaughter plant. The "Good Ol' Days" of herding cattle from the ranch to the cattle buyer 100 miles north like was done in the late 1800s, and loading animals into train cars are long gone. These trucks are needed to take animals from one place to another as safely and efficiently as possible in a timely fashion. It's not pretty, but it's far, far more effective than anything that has been tried and done in the past.

Besides, how else are animals going to be able to travel? It's far too dangerous on foot because of the myriad of roads that criss-cross like a thick spider web where potential for animals to get hit by a car is significant. It's plain dumb to transport an animal like you would your pet dog or cat because most, if not all, are as tame or well-mannered to go along for a car-ride as a happy-go-lucky pooch, causing a whole lot of danger to both driver and the animal.

So, these trucks are meant to transport animals from one place to another regardless where that end-place is; there are compartments inside that separate animals into groups, ramps so that two tiers can be had for them (best for lighter stock like weaned steers, sheep, goats, and pigs), and they are put in so that they won't lie down during transport. If they lie down they are much more likely to get injured.

I do hope Walmart doesn't take this toy off the shelf, but if they do, there's always the many farm-ranch supply stores that have toy sections where parents can buy such a toy for their rural-loving kids. And, there's been a new campaign that just started with Farm Toys for Tots! Check out Dairy Carrie's latest post via this link to find out more.

November 10, 2015

Don't Raise Cattle Just For the Money.

Raising cattle--either beef or dairy--has its challenges and rewards, and it's certainly not for the faint of heart. It's a whole lot of hard work, almost never based on a schedule, nor does work end at 5:00 pm. There's no such thing as days off on weekends nor statutory holidays, no vacation, no benefits, nor a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly salary. Payday is once a year, and money is spent throughout the rest of the year on taxes, insurance, rent, machinery repairs, veterinary bills, utility bills, and repayment of loans to name some. Can't forget money needed for food, clothing, and basic personal hygiene. And if the government is helping out with some subsidies or disaster payouts, that money isn't squirrelled away into a personal savings account. No, that money goes right into the farm to pay for necessary things like repairs and vet bills I mentioned above.

I could go all, "I was raised on a farm so I know this stuff and you should believe me," but the truth is that farming and ranching isn't easy. Growing up on a farm gave me a lot of opportunities to be outside a lot and learn a lot of values, morals and qualities I hold dear to today. But farming didn't give me or my folks much in terms of money, money, money. Budgeting and must I say hard-core book-keeping was a way to keep track of spending so we weren't going to go into serious debt. We weren't making a living, we were earning one, but earnings weren't much to be excited about.

Yes, raising cattle is a way of life, and the only way to earn a living that doesn't involve being forced into an urban setting with annoying or nosey neighbours to contend with, nor having to commute to a 9 to 5 office job. The latter though, is definitely not uncommon with most farm and ranch families as a means to keep the operation afloat. My folks were no different: Dad looked after the farm while Mom had to go to town every weekday morning to work. The only reason we could keep farming (and I as a child could continue to benefit from farm life), was because of my Mom's unselfish need to keep working so we could continue to have a way of life as a farm family.

Now it's incredibly difficult to show or speak to people from non-farming backgrounds on how farming and ranching is far more than just money. Too often economic reasoning is used to justify such a rural life. And even explaining things so that an understanding of how farm or ranch life is putting the animals first before the people responsible for their care can be difficult to communicate. But how else can people like me that have either come from the farm and continue to support farming and ranching, or are still in it, tell it to the urbanized consumer? If there are any other way of delivering such a message I'd love to know.

I understand the whole surmise behind this common misconception: Big tractors, lots of machinery, with sometimes nice trucks and a lot of land. Yes, farmers and ranchers use a lot of "capital" to raise crops and feed livestock, much which cost a pretty penny or two to get, which often meant loans needed to be taken out to even update some of the old stuff. But lots of capital should never be an indicator of a lot of greenbacks in the bank. For most it's the opposite: more loans to pay off than money they'd like to have saved up for a sunny day, so to speak. Really, farmers and ranchers are nothing like the rich minority that can afford a big house and lots of "toys" to play with, and a lot of spare time to play with them and host a lot of parties. What a producer has is what he or she needs to make a living. They don't have time to play with an expensive sports car or throw parties. The farm, and so the animals, are far more important than social events or showing off how wealthy they are, if they are even that.

Before I mentioned veterinary bills as one of the costs associated with cattle-raising. These include the cost of a bottle of antibiotic like Draxxin needed to treat a sick animal. So if cattle producers really were raising cattle just to make money, why would they even bother spending a lot of money on some antibiotics when they could sell any sick animal than deal with the risk associated? It's been said time and time again how producers put their animals first and do quite the diligence to ensure the best welfare, health and well-being of the animals in their care. Dairy cows that are deliberately mistreated won't produce milk. Beef cows that aren't carefully selected to be good moms won't raise good calves, if at all. And, if a steer was down with an illness easily curable with some expensive antibiotics, a "cattleman" just in it for the money (whom is not a true cattleman) would sell said steer for income than take the time and money to treat it. A cattleman not solely in it for the money would not sell the steer. Instead he'd spend the money on the needed medication (even if it's a $500 100 mL bottle of Draxxin), treat the steer, and keep an eye on it even if there is a risk that steer won't survive the night, and the money spent on antibiotics was all for nothing. And when an animal is lost (which is never a matter of "if"), it's tough. It's a helluva lot more than just potential money down the drain, that's for sure.

Raising cattle means a whole lot of risk is at stake. There's far, far more risk associated with raising livestock than what most can comprehend. An incurable or untreatable disease can wipe out an entire herd, be it anthrax or just one cow that came back positive with BSE, meaning the rest of the herd may need to be euthanised as well. Predators targeting half the calf herd resulting in a lot less calves to sell is just as tough. Risk for cattle producers isn't the same kind of job risk that most people can understand. Got laid off? Go find another job. Injured? Worker's compensation and employment insurance (for many jobs) can cover that easy. But for producers? Tough luck if half the calf crop is feeding the wolves. Tough luck if three quarters of the cows aborted their calves because they all were sick or at some poisonous plant that wouldn't let them carry to full term. Tough luck if a disease either killed or really reduced productivity in your animals.

And really, what's wrong with farmers and ranchers even trying to earn a living? What's wrong with making some money, even if none of it goes into personal savings? This utopian societal thinking doesn't exist nor will it ever. Nothing is for free, and farmers and ranchers certainly never get away with taking nor getting things for free, nor for cheap (unless they got lucky an an auction, but that's another story). No one I've talked to has given me a straight answer on ways farmers/ranchers can do what they do without earning or paying for anything. All I've seen, from my own perspective, that anti-farming or anti-beef people wish ranchers "would just die off," or that they should "just quit" what they're doing.

That leaves me asking, so who's going to look after the animals left behind? The anti-beef people who so badly want these hard-working individuals to just quit or die off? And how is a rancher supposed to "just quit" with years of dedication put into raising animals, a bit of debt to pay off, and no desire nor hope of finding a "better" job that will never hold a candle to the past career? Why do you think a lot of farmers and ranchers well into their 70s and 80s are still at it? It's not because it's all they know, it's because they love it, dammit, and won't trade it for anything else in the world. And I'm pretty sure those "old fogies" looked into living in town and retiring and all that, but what they seen was nothing more than a whole lot of boredom. So why trade a way to earn a living raising animals for something you can make a living at but be bored and unhappy for the rest of your life?

Raising livestock, like cattle, is all about earning a living, not necessarily making one. Earning a living is all about living the life you enjoy regardless how much money is being made. Money isn't a factor when a person enjoys doing what they've always wanted to, and shouldn't be. This is the same thing with raising cattle.

So if you want to raise cows, make sure you want to really love doing it. Otherwise, if you're just interested in making money, you're better off find yourself a different career. There really are far, far better careers where you can make a whole lot of money than living and working on a ranch or farm.