Love Thy Neighbor, or At least Wave and Smile

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This picture caused some problems for me this week.  I had used it to advertise our beginner chickens classes happening this Tuesday.  One particular person took personal offense at the picture and sent me a strongly worded email.  Her point was that I was not fit to teach the class because I raise my chickens in terrible confinement and that they are obviously living in very dirty conditions.  In fact, she couldn’t have been more wrong.  These chickens lived their lives in pens on open pastures eating bugs and being moved daily.  This picture was taken on the day of slaughter.  The chickens had been loaded into the back of a pick up truck and they were muddy because it had rained in the slaughter area.  Rather than move the chickens out off the mud and further away, we put them in back of the truck with fresh grass to eat and water.
I wrote a polite response back and encouraged her to take the beginning chicken class if she would like to learn more.  And that’s just it.  This women was genuinely upset and although I appreciate her concern for the animals, it was her ignorance of farming practices that got me thinking.  We as an industry must work to educate the public at large about the realities of farming.  This is a difficult time of year for all livestock producers.  The cold and thaw cycles cover everything in mud, the animals are anxious for fresh pasture and room to roam, and we are ready for the verdant beauty that summer brings to our properties.
But this is precisely the time to take the pictures and post about these hardships.  Show the animals, show the mud, show the frozen water and then explain how it effects your system and the animals well being.  Giving the public the opportunity to ask questions creates dialogue and understanding.  Making allies instead of enemies is the real goal and may save you a lot of time and money in the future if someone comes to you with a question instead of calling the humane society or the local sheriff.  We all know there will be those people who’s mind you can never change, but as a community and with neighbors who have an open dialogue, you can likely count on those that you have educated to admonish those people who are unwillingly to engage in the conversation openly and honestly.  There is real benefit in understanding that animals are very different than humans in their adaptability and their mechanisms to adjust their biological processes depending on the time of year.  As producers it is our duty to educate others on the symbiotic natural cycles of nature and farming.

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