FOR many of us, it's probably difficult to describe the emotion that arose watching the recent undercover video of animal mistreatment that The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) took at the Catelli Brothers facility in New Jersey.
My first reaction was disorienting as some of the content is surreal. The indifference and seeming routine-like reaction within the plant is difficult to comprehend.
Of course, one wonders how the culture in the facility reached the point of apathy among the employees about what's occurring around them. Somehow, over time, the line was crossed away from a zero-tolerance standard. That's a slippery slope that often continues until someone gets word to an activist group that manages to capture the act on film.
The shortfall is predominately the result of improper training, communication and supervision. As soon as a problem arose, it should have been corrected immediately. The video seems to portray a culture in which deficits, and the acceptance of such, became routine. An unfavorable habit and acceptance of the consequences worked their way into the facility.
I'm confident that most who work in animal agriculture would argue vehemently that it shouldn't be that way. We'd also argue that the buck has to stop with the leadership responsible for the company. The problem doesn't have anything to do with physical facilities; rather, we witnessed a regressive culture where humane slaughter was no longer the standard.
Of course, the activists spin the video. They'll argue that it reflects a broader, more pervasive attitude among those who work in animal agriculture. Their bent will be that eating meat makes society desensitized to suffering. It's that very perspective that drives these types of videos to get passed around social media.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The same week that HSUS released its video, I also saw two videos that better reflect what really goes on in animal agriculture and are far more deserving of getting media attention.
One of my good friends, who runs several-hundred purebred cows in a family operation, posted a documentation of the week's predominant "project" on the farm.
That's because his operation is in the thick of calving season, and needless to say, this winter has been especially challenging. To make matters worse, one of his cows had twins, and, as occurs so often, she claimed one but not the other. That's especially problematic in this type of weather.
So, how did the orphan calf fare? Because of some loving intervention, the calf is doing quite well. See, the video highlights a calf wrapped in a blanket being hand nursed ... in the family's kitchen!
In fact, I commented on Facebook, "That calf is soooo moving in! In about a week, it'll be following everyone around the kitchen."
The second video included a note from my friend that "our patient made dramatic improvement."
Many readers have taken on the same type of projects without a second thought. They don't avoid being up all night or even mind bringing calves (or whatever animal) into their kitchen. Why? For the simple reason that they care about the animals. It's all part-and-parcel of being responsible caretakers.
Never mind those who tell you that the incidents shown in some activist videos are par for the industry. None of us want an industry like that.
What's far more common, albeit unpublicized, are the little acts of care and husbandry that happen on a daily basis. Maybe, just maybe, one of those videos will go viral someday and tell the real story of animal agriculture.
*Dr. Nevil C. Speer is with Western Kentucky University and serves on the board of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, a national organization devoted to engaging livestock producers and livestock health professionals in developing solutions for issues in the livestock industry.