I recently had a long and rather tedious conversation with somebody who was trying to convince me that he was brilliant. I say tedious, because the conversation consisted of him telling me how brilliant he was, without actually providing any evidence of his brilliance, save for saying that “Smart people get how brilliant I am”. By definition, if I’m smart, I’m going to get it, right? Aha, he must be brilliant!
Call me picky, but if I am going to believe in somebody’s brilliance, I want examples, proof, something that I can relate to. Otherwise it just seems like a display of arrogant self-aggrandizement – a human peacock flaunting pretty feathers as a proxy for superiority.
Yet today it struck me that we often exhibit the same behaviors when explaining livestock production to the wider world. 98% of the population has no knowledge or understanding of animal agriculture. Does that mean they aren’t smart enough to understand how brilliant we are? After all, some would claim that “…some geek sitting in a cubicle in New York City never will understand animal husbandry and shouldn’t have (a) say (in livestock production)”* – therefore we don’t have to listen to their opinion.
Regardless of whether or not they understand animal production, the consumer has a huge say in what we do every single day. If supermarket X decides they don’t want beef with from animals given implants because some consumers have concerns about hormones, implants could be effectively removed from cattle production in a matter of weeks. If a proposition is put forwards to ban dehorning, castration or tail docking, it could well pass, especially in more urban states. Precedents exist for both of these examples (Merck Animal Health’s voluntary withdrawal of Zilmax, grocery stores sourcing rbST-free milk and proposition 2 in California to ban battery cages for hens) – and once a precedent is set, other examples may follow.
So how does this relate to last week’s tedious conversation? Actions speak louder than words. Thousands of “we care for our livestock” quotes are instantly negated the moment a new animal rights video is released showing a downer cow or battered piglet. Just a single documented incidence of a manure spillage makes the “we care for the environment” quotes look like industry spin.
We have to be ahead of the curve, showing people what we do every single day – not just through words but through pictures and videos. Calving a cow at 3am, bottle-feeding a calf throughout the night, trudging through the snow to give hay to the in-calf heifers, making sure the manure lagoon is leak-free – these are all facets of livestock production that we have to share. If we just keep saying how brilliant we are without backing it up with evidence that resonates with the consumer, we’re talking to a brick wall. Because, as the saying goes, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
*edited for spelling and clarity
The world has 7.2 billion people. The USA has 317 million people. That’s 4.4% of the world’s population. Among the 317 million, about 30 million are actively seeking more info about where their food comes from. That’s about 0.4% of the worlds population. That’s even more selective than the 1% of the wealthiest. As caretakers of animals and food-producing ecosystems, we must strive to feed the 99.6% and if we do that well, the 0.4% can find plenty of options for whatever they like. Would you rather have 99.6% of the market or 0.4% of the market?
Reblogged this on Farmingamerica's Blog and commented:
Great insight by Dr. Judith Capper. I can’t help but appreciate her point of view.
One day you were spouting off on FB about what is ideal for the cattle biz. I corrected you and you unfriended me. I am left guessing it was b/c you could not prove your statement and I had alreay proven mine. So how bout you follow your own advice
Aha, I’m assuming that you’re another “brilliant” one Doug? Very simple re: unfriending – I like my friends on FB to be actual friends, not people with a chip on their shoulder who’re simply out to try and prove a point. I’d forgotten all about this given that it happened years ago – it’s a shame that it still rankles with you.