In a April 12 speech delivered at Fresno State, animal behaviorist Temple Grandin made an interesting pitch: Live video feeds of livestock operations. Why? According to the Fresno Bee, Grandin feels that “farmers need to do a better job of communicating with the public about their animal handling practices.” After all, most people have only been exposed to videos taken by animal activists showing “livestock animals being mistreated and abused.”
Apparently, some animal agriculture types in her audience agreed with her. “We need to own up to anything that we do that is wrong,” said Jon Dolieslager, an auctioneer at the Tulare County Stockyard in Dinuba. “But a lot of what we do is right, and people need to know that.”
What are the chances of this happening? My guess is next to nil. As Dan Mitchell wrote at The Big Money, “Of course, the kinds of companies that have been exposed by undercover cell-phone videos of suffering, abused cows aren’t the kinds that are interested in transparency.” And anyone who has read the works of people such as Matthew Scully or Jonathan Safran Foer knows that the livestock operations known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are at least as secretive as the CIA.
Even if some companies did decide to use live video feeds of their livestock operations, I doubt it would do much good. Chances are, they would simply set up Potemkin village-style model operations resembling a pastoral idyll out of an Old MacDonald picture book. Guilty meat eaters could then look at the videos and feel assured the animals they are eating lived a pleasant, peaceful life. Serious animal advocates would see the whole thing as a sham.
While in her own odd way, Temple Grandin does care about the welfare of the animals doomed to end up on a dinner plate, it appears as if her proposal to use live video on livestock operations is mostly about making the animal agriculture industry look good. In her opinion, the cameras would help the industry “gain the confidence of consumers and retailers,” especially since “animal welfare is of growing importance to retailers and major chain restaurants, such as McDonald’s.” This is, of course, the same industry that often employs Grandin as an animal welfare consultant.
What I would have really liked to see is Temple Grandin proposing live video feeds of slaughterhouses. It would be sort of a high-tech variation of Paul McCartney’s concept of slaughterhouses with glass walls.
Somehow I suspect the livestock industry wouldn’t even bother playing lip service to that idea.
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