On the Losing End
by Jesse Taylor
This past week I had a little argument with a gentleman. Actually, he won the argument. I had no choice but to admit that he was right in his assessment of the facts.
It all started with a conversation between two older ladies. They were discussing the successes and failures of last year's gardens. One lady said her neighbor's son worked at a large chicken house and that he was going to bring her a pick-up truck load of chicken manure for her garden. The other lady said one of her neighbors offered to bring her some cow manure from a "super farm" dairy he worked at.
At this point, I stepped in and offered advice to be very careful of using manure from strange sources, especially from "industrial" farms. I explained how it may contain toxins and even antibiotics used to keep the animals healthy. It has been show that plants grown in soils contaminated with these things will take the contaminants up into their leaves, stems, roots and fruits. Eating those plants might give you a dose of things you may not want.
Naturally, they'd never suspected anything such as this and wanted to know why such things were used on animals meant for human food. I explained that they had to be used to keep the animals healthy because they were being raised under such unnatural and stressful conditions. Because of this, they were more apt to get sick and that sickness could spread like wildfire in such close quarters. Antibiotics and other toxins for both internal parasites and external pest controls were being used from paranoid fears based on knowledge gleaned from scientific agricultural research that proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that stressed animals are more likely to get sick.
About this time, the gentleman behind me stepped in and made comment that such things were being blown all out of proportion. He said any and all medications were used as preventatives and were used at recommended dosage levels under strict guidelines.
I remarked that I was certain that was the case, but they were being used, none the less.
He said that I made it sound like the stuff was being dumped into the feed "willy-nilly" . He said that wasn't the case at all. That stuff costs money and the profit margin is slim enough as it is without shelling out more than you have to.
I said I agreed and that he had a good point, but the stuff was still being used.
At this, he said it had to be used. He said you can't afford to take chances with a large operation getting wiped out by disease. He said if you don't supplement an animal's feed...any animal's feed...then you're taking a big chance. When you put your money on the line you want to make sure those animals reach the market. He claimed no farmer worth his salt would ever consider a feeding program without those supplements.
I told him my Grandfather raised his own hogs, chickens, cows and draft mules without feeding them any fancy supplements. So did my Great Grandfather and his father before him and his father before him.
He said I was talking about ancient history, now. That just won't fly in this day and time. Things have changed and I, obviously, didn't know what I was talking about. He said he could tell I didn't have any experience farming any kind of livestock. He could tell from the way I talked that I didn't have the least bit of experience or knowledge about what it takes to manage farm stock.
At this, I had to admit he was right. Indeed, I do not know what it takes to successfully pack 360,000 chickens, eight to a cage, into a two story building and keep them healthy enough to live and lay eggs under those conditions. I do not know what is required to pack 8,000 head of hogs into a building and keep them alive under those crowded conditions. I don't know what is required to pack 20,000 turkeys under one roof and keep them alive under such cramped conditions. Also, I do not know what is required to maintain the health of 1,800 head of productive milk cows who are forced to exist and produce extreme volumes under adverse conditions. Furthermore, I'm not sure I ever want to find out. I hope I never have to force any creature to endure such an unnatural, unhealthy, cramped confinement situation.
At this point, he ceased to speak to me. You would've thought he'd be happy. As he so correctly, pointed out, I had no experience in successfully forcing any creature to suffer under unnatural circumstances. Neither do I desire to have any experience in such matters. Most certainly, I do not desire to feed my animals toxic substances so as to make their manure unfit for application in my garden. It's funny how winning a conversation can make some people so angry!