One Bad Apple

I recently took a day-trip to Couer d’Alene, ID (an absolutely beautiful area, I highly recommend a visit). Anyway, while I was there, I came across a big street fair with vendors from all over the area.  Clothing, jewelry, food galore, and mixed in the crowd was a PETA demonstration. 

Participants were dressed in black clothing and white masks, and were holding screens that played videos showing animal abuse.  The ag community continually struggles sharing our story with consumers, while this group can confidently degrade everything we are working towards.  Now, I know many people don’t fully trust PETA’s representation of the industry, but often think, “they had to get the video from somewhere.”   

The easiest way for me to think about and describe the work PETA is doing, is with the following scenario:

Imagine that you were at a farmer’s market.  A beautiful day with booths full of fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables all grown locally.  You stop at a stand, Annie’s Apples, to buy fruit for the week.  While looking at the big, shiny, red apples, you come across one that is small, disformed, bruised and just mushy.  Rotten. 

Seeing this rotten apple, you decide that if she had one bad apple, the rest of them at her stand must not be worth buying.  Annie doesn’t raise her apples properly.  If this one is bad, how can the rest be good?  She can’t be trusted. 

You then tell your friend’s not to buy apples from Annie.  This develops as you and your friends share on social media a picture of the gross little apple.  Now, all your connections not only think that Annie’s apples are bad, but every farmer must produce those bad apples.  They’re not only skeptical of buying apples from Annie, but from any apple producer.  No apples from farmer Annie, Adam, Alex, etc., etc.  Since their apples can’t be trusted, that means they can’t be trusted.  They’re abusing the apples just to make a quick buck.  They don’t actually care about the apples or the people eating the apples.

This scenario seems a little crazy, right?  Who would purposely abuse an apple?  And if one person thought that was a good idea, does it make sense that every apple farmer would purposely sell rotten fruit?  No. If an apple is bruised it isn’t going to taste good, and will cost the farmer money by trying to sell a poor-quality product.

Well, the same thing is true of animal agriculture.  Most farmers care deeply about their livestock.  Stress causes the animals to lose weight, makes it more difficult to care for their young, lowers their milk producing ability, causes meat quality problems.  Basically, stressed animals go against every goal that a farmer has for his livestock.  Those videos come from bad apples; often in the form of undercover, ‘animal rights activists’ working on farms.

Yes, there are a few bad apples out there.  There always has been, and there always will be.  But next time you see something posted, or maybe an in-person PETA protest, I hope that you don’t let one bad apple destroy your opinion on the whole bunch.

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