In the month before our county fair, our mail box is filled with letters from 4-H kids inviting us to the fair and to take a look at their show animals. For example, “I’m in the sixth grade, my second year in 4-H in the beef project, and I love it! My steer’s name is Chipper, come take a look at him. Sincerely…”

Coincidentally, I received a copy of a letter to the editor, in another town that said, and I paraphrase, “…desensitizing children (emotional manipulation) to betray the animal’s trust by raising it, then sending it for slaughter is animal cruelty and a sad commentary that we encourage that dichotomy of thought in young people.”

I called the writer of the letter to the editor. She was a smart, articulate, animal rights activist and entrenched in her opinions (like most of us). It was very difficult for us to find any middle ground, except that we both favored spaying and neutering dogs and cats. She was a vegetarian and saw no reason to raise animals to eat in the first place. When I suggested that production efficiency was worthwhile, she said it was just to make money. Besides, farmers are subsidized, she said. I tried to make a distinction that the relationship of humans to pets and humans to livestock was different. It fell on deaf ears.

She tried to convince me that a pig’s right to express their ‘pigness’ was more important than my evaluation of their comfort based on measurable production parameters. She actually said pork should cost a lot more. I’m sure a lot of pork producers agree with her, but she’s not a consumer like most of us.

In her ideal world, everyone would eat grain and greens. There would be no milk, no eggs, no steak, bacon, salmon, sushi, chicken enchiladas, cheese, ice cream or locusts consumed by humans. We would live the culinary life of a mountain gorilla, while coyotes, chimpanzees, polar bears and sharks would scour the earth for meat on the hoof.


The minor ruckus in the community where the activist’s letter to the editor appeared served its purpose. She made her point and mobilized the local county agent and the 4-H kids to think through and articulate their positions. The activist chooses to live in her own cocoon, ignoring that 96 percent of the population eats meat which has to be raised by someone from somewhere. The excerpt from a letter by one of the 4-H kids expresses my view as well as it can be said:

“A 4-Her is knowledgeable enough to understand the difference between a pet and livestock. Sure some tears may be shed at the sale. The tears show how much dedication and effort was put into a project. Yes, bonds may be formed, but these animals are bred as market animals. The only ‘emotional manipulation’ occurring is the maturing and realization that these animals will be feeding a family for many nights.”

I couldn’t have said it better. It is our lot in life to feed our fellow man. Let’s hope we do it well. PD