Euthanasia is an unfortunate albeit necessary reality in the life of farmers. Consumers don’t have to think about this frequently, but when forced to, it’s a source of concern and sadness. The closest thing animal-loving consumers have to compare to the decisions farmers are making are the decisions they make for their own family pets. Since pets are considered “members of the family” for nearly 80% of pet owners, it’s understandable why conversations involving mass depopulation will raise eyebrows, concern and scrutiny – especially when these animals are healthy. And this concern won’t stop with consumers who are already passionate about farm animal welfare – it’s likely to spread to those who rarely ever think about farm animals. That’s because avoiding this story is nearly impossible for people who are following the news.
When it comes to our food, any major supply chain disruption – especially related to meat – there will be national news. I recall headlines of potential bacon shortages related to ASF in 2019, and in 2012 due to impending supply issues. In both cases, the topic entered national headlines that included “looming disaster” and “time to panic.” With Covid-19, it’s a given that livestock producers will receive questions and closer examination in a time when heartbreak and devastation among the agriculture community is rampant. We expect there will be visuals hitting the news and social media – some of which will be shocking.
Thomas Monson said, “Our most significant opportunities will be found in times of greatest challenge.” This is one of those times. Understanding we can’t change reality, what are some things you can consider to help consumers better understand the situation and ultimately have compassion versus outrage for what’s happening? Here are a few ideas:
- Most importantly, when you have the opportunity to talk about your personal situation, share the fact that this is an incredible crisis for your family – just like it is for families around the world. Share the fact that you’re an animal lover – that you’ve dedicated your life to spending more time with animals than humans, and that you’re just one person in a community of farmers who is dealing with a heartbreaking reality.
- Help consumers understand that what farmers are faced with is unimaginable. As hundreds of individuals working at processing plants around our country have become sick with Covid-19, the capacity to process animals is greatly reduced. Euthanasia is the last resort, and never in history has it been necessary at this scale without the threat of disease. Assure them you’re working with your veterinarian to make these decisions.
- Help consumers understand what hasn’t changed for the farming community – that you’re ethically committed to responsible care of animals, for the environment and for people. Help them understand that you work every day to do what’s right to ensure the health and safety of animals in your care. Describe how you work with your veterinarian to make decisions that protect animals, prevent illness and eliminate suffering.
- Reinforce that the health and safety of essential individuals is imperative at every level of the industry. The impacts of this pandemic have changed our world, and it’s imperative we pay attention to the emotional and physical effects, as humans will ultimately find solutions to move us forward.
If producers, organizations or associations are in need of help communicating with media or other stakeholders, please feel free to contact us – we’d be happy to assist.
Written by Roxi Beck.