Colorado Springs, CO (PRWEB) May 06, 2011
The images on the video were gruesome: grown men beating newborn dairy calves with pickaxes and claw hammers. “After 20 seconds of video, I had to turn it off,” says Dr. Jim Humphries, President of the Veterinary News Network (VNN). “I was sickened by what I saw and felt anger and disgust towards the individuals and the company that allowed this cruelty to happen.”
Dr. Humphries is referring to an undercover video released by Mercy for Animals after a two week long clandestine operation at the E6 Cattle Company in Hart, Texas. “I have been a veterinarian for 35 years and this video in no way represents the vast majority of good livestock producers in this county. Remember this is animal abuse and cruelty, and should not be confused with the humane production practices we see on the majority of farms today. But in a case this egregious, the spotlight of media, public condemnation and enforcement of the law will help move the industry to real solutions.”
Dr. Bernard Rollin, Distinguished Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University said, “This incident is one of the worst I have ever seen in 35 years animal work. Whereas many abuse situations involve ignorance or greed, this case demonstrates genuine sadistic heartless cruelty. We must show the world that such behavior cannot be excused or tolerated and provide practical solutions.”
And positive solutions, in the form of excellent training programs, now exist - but they must be taken seriously and more universally used.
Dr. Daniel Thomson, a highly respected expert in production animal medicine at Kansas State University has the solution, “Beef producers and veterinarians work tirelessly as a team to provide humane care for cattle across the United States. The American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP), working with veterinary and animal science experts, have created and published humane euthanasia guidelines that expressly forbid bludgeoning as a form of euthanasia for calves.” Dr. Thomson adds, “The utilization of the AABP guidelines, plus training, on-farm or on-line, could have stopped this abuse from happening.”
The economy plays a part in this issue as well. As profits slide, some producers have chosen to shortcut good animal welfare procedures and even completely remove the veterinarian from the operation. The sheriff for Castro County, where the E6 calf ranch is located, has reported to the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) that E6 did not have a veterinarian on site.
Production animal agriculture in the United States fills the huge demand for plentiful, healthy and safe animal protein. Producers, working with Doctors of Veterinary Medicine, provide important supplies of meat, eggs and dairy products for the world. The veterinarian must be a part of that production and also an essential part of the training for managers and workers so both safety and humane care are ensured.
With more than 96% of the US population eating meat and dairy products routinely, there is a strong demand. In the case of sick or “down” animals, expert and compassionate euthanasia guidelines are in place to insure the most humane death possible. “Make no mistake, this is not about vegetarianism,” says Humphries, “and it should not be about fund-raising for national groups who want to remove animals from our lives. It’s about the humane and compassionate management of production animals.”
Eleanor Green is the Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. Dean Green says; “Texas has a long, rich history in animal agriculture. Veterinarians and cattle producers work hand-in-hand to ensure compassionate care and healthy animals. This isolated incident is not representative of the care these animals receive. It does highlight the importance of thriving partnerships between veterinarians and producers in the entire spectrum of animal care and welfare.”
“When a farmer or rancher takes the time to educate himself and his production team, he is showing a great deal of responsibility,” says Dr. Dan Posey, Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “This, in turn has a positive impact on the care of his animals as well as the health of his business.” Dr. Posey added, “livestock producers who have taken the necessary steps to understand proper animal handling and care deeply value their partnerships with veterinarians. They know that an on-going relationship is critical for the humane treatment of all their animals. The veterinarian can then fulfill his or her role as the guardian of the animal’s health and welfare.”
This ranch either failed in properly training their employees in animal care techniques or management simply looked away. It is time for existing animal welfare programs to be used fully and in turn provide animal workers with essential, bi-lingual information for the proper care of livestock. Examples include the Animal Care Training system through the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University (http://www.AnimalCareTraining.org) and farm level welfare assessment tools such as the National Dairy’s Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program (http://www.NationalDairyFarm.com) and the Beef Quality Assurance Feedlot Self-Assessment tools (http://www.BQA.org).
While condemnations and references to animal welfare guidelines are a common reaction to such cases, the real-world solution is the veterinary relationship and proper training. If voluntary training is not adequate, then perhaps it is time to consider implementing compulsory education and training.