Saturday, March 13, 2010
DAIRY FARMERS: TELL YOUR STORY!
No doubt dairy farmers' reflex response is to recoil and hide. Keep people out. Don't attract any attention. Great, but that allows others -- including the U.S. Humane Society -- to establish the industry's "image."
California dairy farmers have now joined together in a statewide program to promote good animal care practices as well as evaluate dairy farms and verify that they are performing up to state and national standards. FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) has a five-point strategy that plans to:
Adopt National Dairy Farm standards.
Hold workshops and provide educational materials to orient dairy farmers to the standards.
Hold on-farm evaluations of dairies and provide a benchmark to measure improvement.
Support and assist animal care improvements.
Provide third-party independent verification of farm practices.
Michael Boccadoro, executive director of Dairy Cares, a statewide coalition supporting animal care and economic and environmental sustainability in the dairy industry, reports that about 80 percent of the state's dairy farmers have signed on to the program. Dairies and dairy products are the top agricultural industry in nearly every California county.
This program’s purposes are to educate and bring dairy farmers up to standard, and to reassure the public that someone is verifying what dairies are doing.
But this isn’t going to be good enough for some. Kristina Addington, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told The Merced Sun Star that the dairy industry is rife with animal abuses. "I think it's an initiative to create a false appearance that they care about the welfare of cows and that's a priority when clearly it's just a smokescreen for cruelty.”.
FARM is a good step. But it’s not enough. What the industry needs to do is open its doors. Invite the public in. Let "city folks" see what a modern dairy looks like and how they make cows "happy" -- or at least healthy and highly productive. How can you tell if a cow is "happy?" Some would like to ascribe human emotions, such as happiness, to cows.
Check out the video about Fair Oaks Farm in Indiana. http://tinyurl.com/FairOaksFarmIndiana
This "factory farm" has more than thrown open its doors. It created an educational/information center that has become a tourist attraction.
Rather than hide and hope no one notices you -- yeah, right, a big, sometimes smelly dairy on the outskirts of town -- California dairy farmers need to pull together to create a center along the line of Fair Oaks'.
Of course, I think that center should be in Bakersfield, where some of the state's newest and innovative dairies are located, and close to a huge urban center -- Southern California.