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Taking Ownership Of The Animal Welfare Agenda

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Did it surprise you to discover an element of truth to each statement?

Straight from the hip

In 1990 a little book called The Animal Rights Handbook was published with a forward by John Kullberg. At the time of publication, Kullberg was the President of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). In his forward, he said of the book that it “brings us back to the abiding principle of animal rights: that non human animals deserve to live according to their own natures, free from harm and abuse.”

What is of interest here is the melding of animal welfare with the term animal rights. It made me think that at that time, our North American industry was not getting the animal welfare message out.

In review of the chapter entitled “Love Animals, Don’t Eat Them” the authors talked about cattle production. In reading it, I found myself fascinated with a little exercise. Try it yourself. After each statement quoted directly from the book, answer “true” or “false”.

Cattle don’t roam the range contentedly chewing on grasses until it’s time for slaughter. Often they are raised in crowded conditions and fed an unnatural diet of high-bulk fillers, including sawdust, to get them to their desired weight.

They are usually castrated, dehorned and branded without anaesthetics.

Frequently transported in metal trucks, where they often get sick and injured from crowding and extreme temperatures, they go from one location to another for fattening and slaughter.

Cattle lose up to nine per cent of their body weight while being transported.

Dairy cows are constantly manipulated in order to maintain a profitable flow of milk.

They (dairy cows) are often dosed with hormones – which can cause shock or death – to tune their reproductive systems to the factory’s schedule and to decrease the time between pregnancies.

Did it surprise you to discover an element of truth to each statement?

Alberta livestock producers got busy. By 1993, supported by industry and led by Susan Church, Alberta Farm Animal Care was tackling the mingled messages claimed by animal care and some animal rights proponents. She knew, as did the supporters of the day, that consumers were questioning animal care and they needed factual information.

In a recent interview she said: “We knew animal rights were there and they were shifting perceptions of what was going on. We needed to take action before change was imposed.”

Not only did Church and the original group with a tiny budget and a big heart take action they also took ownership – and that is the point. In 1990 I remember the discussions that such a book as The Animal Rights Handbook made it to press. It was a turbulent time. Yet, somewhere between the dust and dehorners, industry took ownership of the issues that were truly theirs.

Long before 1990 and long after this day, animal welfare will continue to be the most compelling issue for livestock producers. This really is our opportunity to proactively meet societal needs while improving livestock production and handling practises. For more information visit the AFAC website at

Brenda Schoepp is a market analyst and the owner and author of Beeflink, a national beef cattle market newsletter. A professional speaker and industry market and research consultant, she ranches near Rimbey.[email protected]

About the author

AF Columnist

Brenda Schoepp

Brenda Schoepp works as an international mentor and motivational speaker. She can be contacted through her website at All rights reserved.



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