Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My November Column

Every month I write a column for the Dakota Farmer magazine.  I've really enjoyed writing it over the last couple years.  Last months column was pretty special for me.  I've had several people tell me that this has been their favorite article I've written.  Take a look and tell me what you think.

Click here to see the magazine article.

The cable news channel CNN ran a story on their website this summer that raised the question “Does 4-H desensitizes kids to killing?”.  As a former 4-H member for 13 years and the parent of a first year 4-H member this certainly caught my attention.  Over the course of those 13 years I spent countless hours leading, washing, combing and clipping on calves.  I did everything I could to make them as comfortable and healthy as possible.  So how could anyone ever believe that this somehow desensitizes kids?  
According to the story, some believe that 4-H helps desensitize youngsters into having no emotional attachment to animals raised for food.  A few of the commenters even tried to claim that this was some grand conspiracy by the meat industry to keep them in business.  Apparently by forcing these kids to sell their livestock to be processed somehow turns them into greedy, uncaring people and will lead to a life of mistreating the animals in their care.  
The truth of the matter is that it teaches kids about responsibility and how life works and is sustained.  We just capped off our 4-H year with a trip to Rapid City, SD for the Western Junior Livestock Show.  It’s a tremendous show that our son was very excited to be part of.  For his first year in 4-H he decided to show a bred heifer named Morgan.  All summer and through the fall he learned how to care for his calf.  He probably put a hundred miles on his bike just going back and forth to the barn to check on her.  In the end his hard work paid off when he proudly marched his well-behaved heifer into that show ring with a grin on his face.  
While we were at the show I tried to figure out how all of the hard work each one of those kids had put in that summer could somehow be a bad thing?  I didn’t see any desensitized kids.  What I saw were hard working, polite young people, working with their families and their fellow 4-Her’s to learn responsibility and proper livestock care.  
I also couldn’t help but think what a better place our world may be if every kid had a “Morgan” in their life for just one summer.  Morgan will be in our herd for the next several years but like every cow on the ranch her time will come to an end.  However, the lessons she taught our son will last forever and for that I’m grateful.  


Mary said...

You are absolutely correct. Raising an animal as a 4H or an FFA project teaches many life lessons. The competition and lessons/objective plan factor also brings the partnership lessons into the real world. The whole mission for these young people is well rounded. The animals are honored with care and foresight. Very good article.

Anonymous said...

AMEN - As a former 4-Her and FFAer, the first thing I did was introduce my children to 4H when they were old enough. Unfortunately, not enough is told about the 'family time' and the responsibility introduced into the childrens life though these programs. Our children have all experienced death. Death of a pet, death of livestock and most recently death of a young family member. I feel without teaching 'the life cycle' through agriculture, we would have had serious emotional issues in the most recent death. The liberal media tends to focus on one aspect of life, and the negativity related to that issue. The problem with society today is sheltering people away from the REAL ISSUES. I am proud to raise my family and be part of agriculture, my children have been exposed to much more than most other children - even the ones in their own school. It will definately empower my children to be better adults through exposure. - Carey Counsil, Brenham, TX

Anonymous said...

I am a 4-H leader of a beef club and have been for 30 years. Many kids have been a member of this 4-H club and they have all turned out to be nice responsible adults. Yes there were tears on sale day from most of them and me too. But the life lessons they learned during this time was priceless. I also was a member of this club and had tears when I sold my calves. Thanks for the column

Anonymous said...

I ranch and have an upcoming 4-H'er. While the ranch life exposes our children to the realities of life, and sometimes death, it is in no part an advocacy of 4-H. 4-H is a wonderful program that promotes proper care of animals and other earthly beings and builds life-long skills in the children fortunate enough to be able to participate. Desensitizing to killing is a place for video games, computer simulations, war, and the media.

Anonymous said...

I think you are so right- if anything, 4-H and FFA *sensitize* kids to the reality of how meat gets on the table. I think the reverse is the most concerning trend- generations of people who only buy meat from the grocery store are the most likely to become desensitized to its source.

Then this leads to consumers prioritizing low prices, which leads to poor animal husbandry practices to meet that demand for the least expensive meat. If every child did 4-H or FFA, I think our country and culture would be a lot more preoccupied with making sure that all meat animals were raised in ideal conditions and with good care, and would be willing to pay for it. said...

In life there is death. The only way students can appreciate life is to see that everything on earth has a purpose. Farm animals are no different. I believe, as I found when I showed animals, that FFA & 4-H students respect animals more than other kids and are not desensitized to them. I suspect the author you read never tried raising and showing an animal. They would then see how hard it is to send the animal to the sale barn or simply put it out to pasture and find its place on the farm. Enjoyed your post.

Anonymous said...

This is a story that cannot be told too much. I understand in IL PETA is wanting a memorial marker put up where some cattle were killed in an accident on the highway, overturned truck I think. I was told this second hand. linda