Like most farm kids, 4-H and FFA played a huge role in my life. From ages nine to 19, I was a member.
The money I earned from my animal projects helped me pay for my college education. The public speaking and leadership skills I developed, prepared me for my professional life. Basically, the expertise and responsibility I learned from these organizations have yet to stop paying dividends.
Unfortunately, fewer and fewer of our general public are aware of these organizations and the benefits they bring.
FFA is not a well-known or popular activity in the high schools of our major cities. Giving kids access to animal agriculture is simply not a priority to many. However, we are now starting to see more and more repercussions from the general public’s lack of knowledge about what and how these programs work.
I’ve noticed more and more fundraising campaigns started on behalf of 4-H and FFA market animals. These animals had been bred, born and raised for the express purpose of human consumption. The students knew the purpose of their projects. They put in the time, effort and work to complete their projects only to be met with ‘ag shaming.”
Activists, believing they are doing these students and animals a favor, are the ones behind this movement. They are so disconnected from agriculture, they believe that teaching our future farmers to care, respect and engage their animals is inhumane. They act horrified that our “children” are subjected to such barbaric practices and must suffer emotional distress when separated from their “pets”.
These are the same people that have no idea what modern farming practices are like. They do not understand that we have best practices and protocols meant to promote and protect our food animals. They never see the bond between a commercial rancher and their animals. They fear and hate what they do not understand: animal agriculture.
The most recent GoFundMe I witnessed was for a FFA hog. The activist did not have enough capital to purchase the project animal, had no way to transport it, did not know what to feed it and finally, had no long term housing for it. After her fundraising was complete, the activist was admonishing the already overworked FFA leader for not transporting the hog for her, threatening to transport the hog tied down in the open back of a pickup bed unless someone helped her. Needless to say, this hog will most likely not have proper care and engagement.
Activist resource’s would have been better spent on saving an actual shelter pet, an animal that is bred, born and accustomed companionship with people. Not a farm animal that will continue to grow to over 600 lb. and live up to 20 years, especially when one lacks basic animal husbandry knowledge.
Teaching our future farmers to act with compassion and care is not only the right thing to do, it makes financial sense. Animals that have their needs met are profitable. Our young farmers should be proud of the skills they are learning. To combat the activists, those of us that have been or are involved with 4-H or FFA need to continue to be more vocal about all of the benefits these groups have to offer.