July 15, 2016

The Hypocrisy of the Farm Rescue Movement

 |  By: Dairy Talk

A recent story on The Huffington Post shows the sheer hypocrisy of the farm sanctuary movement. It falls into the category of “do what we say” and never mind what we actually do because we’re doing the same stuff as real farmers and for the same reasons.

The story outlines the rescue of “Theo,” a little Jersey calf who grew up to be a steer. You can guess how he got that way (though no details are provided).

Turns out Theo was born on a Maine dairy farm, but was sold a few days after birth because he was a bull. The person who bought him also ran an allegedly illegal dog breeding operation. When it was raided by authorities, Theo went into custody along with the puppies. Peace Ridge Sanctuary, an animal sanctuary farm, learned of the puppy mill raid and agreed to take Theo in. The plan is to let Theo live out his life along with a couple of companion ruminants, Mary and Rhoda, two Alpine goats.

But even the folks at Peace Ridge knew that Theo, left intact and unneutered, presented a possible liability and threat to not only Mary, Rhoda and the Peace Ridge staff, but anyone who came to visit. Though small in stature, the only thing more aggressive than a Jersey bull is a raging White Rhino on methamphetamines. So the Peace Ridge folks, not being stupid and doing what every farmer would do, had Theo the bull become Theo the steer.

And herein lays the hypocrisy. Animal rights groups come down hard on farmers when they castrate or dehorn animals, separate calves from dams or any other common sense management practice that’s done for safety, health and welfare of the animals and their keepers.  If farmers do it, it must be cruel and is done so only for profit. If animal rescue folks do it, it’s done for only the most altruistic reasons.

Farm rescue folks also miss one other important point. The only reason Theo exists, the only reason his dam became pregnant with little Theo in the first place, was to create food for people. Given the basic biology of the bovine sperm cell, there was a 49% chance that Theo would become a Thelma and a 51% chance Theo would become a Theo. The odds were slightly stacked against him, and Theo came into the world as Theo.

On a dairy farm, if you arrive as a Thelma, you will be raised to produce milk. If you arrive as a Theo, you will be raised to become someone’s dinner. (The only alternative is to euthanize tiny Theo, and I think we all agree that would be a terrible waste on so many levels.)

There is nothing wrong or immoral about raising Theo for food. In fact, he’s an important link in the food chain, converting grass and forage that humans can’t digest into meat protein that they readily can. But the farm sanctuary folks don’t see it that way. They will let Theo live out his life in his pasture, using the land and resources that could be put to better use raising food for a hungry world. Where’s the morality in that?