Slices of cruelty were slapped across my screen a few minutes ago from the undercover footage taken on a dairy in the Southwestern United States. As disgusted and heartbroken as I may feel watching these videos that only display horrid and dishonorable actions, I see these type of events as more of a slice of reality. I that because undercover videos are not going to vanish and unfortunately I don’t believe cruelty in humans or animals will ever be completely extinct either. Even though I know that horrible events have occurred, I remain a proud member of the dairy industry. Why? Though it breaks my heart as an animal lover to see such awful treatment given to cows who work hard for all of us who consume dairy — we have to wake up to reality. We need change in the dairy industry and we can’t be so angry or prideful to think that it isn’t our problem. Here are my top five reasons why I believe that animal welfare is compromised all too often.
1. Lack of Training
Training employees is a key piece of success to any business and ought to be a top priority to any dairyman or woman. Successful dairy farms have easy to understand protocols, otherwise referred to as standard operating procedures (SOPs) posted on the dairy. These are taught to all employees and the employees are expected to utilize them or seek help if needed. I saw first-hand the success of having posted, easy to read SOPs during an internship on a large dairy in California. However continuous training is required if a dairy wishes to see mishandling of cattle stopped for good.
2. Lack of Animal Behavior Knowledge
This comes back to training. Learning animal behavior is not a one time lesson for anyone. From a dairy employee perspective to anyone who happens to watch the undercover footage, understanding the behavior of cattle comes in handy. There are basics which can be taught to employees and then on the job training and continual guidance thereafter to ensure proper animal care.
3. Lack of Animal Handling Skills
Another one that goes back to training. There are basic bovine handling skills that dairy employees must develop during on the job training and then need continual guidance thereafter. A zero tolerance policy for animal abuse should be installed. I have seen first-hand a successful zero tolerance animal welfare program running in a large dairy in Minnesota, it is possible.
4. Lack of Supervision
All of us have been or will be employed at some point in our lives and we all need supervision on the job. Without supervision I think it would be safe to say no matter the industry, employees will resort to their own way of thinking and behaving. Without the proper accountability to a supervisor anything can happen and will happen. I believe that most people want to succeed and want to do a good job. Supervision and training are a form of support. It is important to be supportive to your employees, show them how to be successful on their job and you will be successful.
5. Lack of Attention and Care
The recent footage is another red flashing light and alarm sounding to all members and partners of the dairy industry. This isn’t just one dairyman or dairywoman’s “problem”. Undercover videos are a reality and will continue to surface until the dairy industry decides to give more attention and care where it is needed most. We must have more transparent dairy farms if we want to continue dairy farming in this country as we do. We are all responsible for the images that throw us in to a criminal category. We have to do all we can, wherever we’re at and always be proactive to maintain high standards of care most importantly for the benefit of our dairy cattle.
The last thing I want you to remember though you see horrible footage about dairy posted across the internet is that dairy farmers do what they do because they love dairy cattle. Dairy farming is a way of life and the cattle a farmer owns are his or her livelihood. Dairy farmers care deeply for their animals and know that it is best to see the cattle well fed, watered, given clean beds to sleep in and whenever necessary given veterinary care. Cows are amazing creatures and work hard, but only for people who work hard to care for them. There are changes needed in the dairy industry, but I can assure you that dairymen and women are working to improve it and take better care of their animals. Please feel free to ask questions or comment in the comment section below.