Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Care Board Suggestions

As usual, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board has been on my mind. If you don't care much about this you might want to stop reading now and go surf the web somewhere else. I am thinking this blog could get a little, as they say, "inside baseball". But hey, someone has got to think about this stuff, right?

I sit on the Livestock Care Board's swine subcommittee. In theory ideas related to swine care should start with this committee and move up to the full board. That is a nice theory that works well on paper but not so much in real life. In real life ideas just sort of arrive from wherever, maybe even this humble blog, and some find their way into consideration and some don't. Depending on the size of your, shall we say "personality", your idea may get more or less consideration. So HSUS's ideas recieve ALOT of consideration because their personality is big enough to threaten the entire government structure of the State of Ohio. The governor's office, producer groups, and the Farm Bureau all have pretty sizable personalities in this discussion as well. So you are a little niave to think that the system is going to work according to theory. It isn't. It is going to work according to politics. The great hope of Issue 2, and the consequent Livestock Care Standards Board, is to bring this political process into the public forum and open it up to more voices and ideas. This blog is my humble attempt to bring some new ideas to the conversation and maybe move it in a positive direction.

So what are the politics? Here is the situation as I see it. HSUS threatened Ohio Agriculture with a punitive ballot initiative. Ohio Agriculture, along with their friends at the State House, responded with the creation of the Livestock Care Standards Board. HSUS then threatened Ohio Agriculture with another punitive ballot initiative. The Governor's mansion responded by brokering the so called "Ohio Agreement" to keep the whole arguement off the fall ballot and push it back to the Care Board. The Care Board has been happily doing what government boards do,write regulations to regulate animal care in the state of Ohio and slowly moving toward a discussion of the "Ohio Agreement". Of course, the Care Board is also doing the other thing that government boards do; protect it's authority and declare it's independence. Therefore, the "Ohio Agreement", though it must be dealt with, has had to wait in line until after the election and has not been given front billing. But the election is over and the day is coming. Of course, now there is an entirely new personality at the governor's mansion so all the calculations have to be redone by all the other personalities.

In the middle of and as a result of all this, the swine subcommittee has forwarded to the full board recommended wording for their consideration that would turn the "Ohio Agreement" and its language (practically verbatim) into regulation. The Care Board took one look at this language and sent it back to the subcommittee. I see this as the Board wanting to put its stamp of independence on the wording, that is what Board's do. They want to appear independent. It should not be a surprise to anyone. If the Care Board accepts the "Ohio Agreement" as written, then what is the point of having the board? The Board would look like it was doing what it was told to do by whatever personalities are involved and that it really had no independence. All that sitting around talking, sometimes referred to as "watching paint dry" would be seen as a waste of time. I doubt any government board is going to go charging down that path willingly. At the end of the day, the Board wants to be able to say that they protected the consumer citizens of the state of Ohio. So what is to be done?

Here is my idea, hopefully some bigger personality will bring at least part of it to the discussion.

Instead of using the language of the "Ohio Agreement" practically verbatim why not get to the same end point by a different route? Why not say, "After this or that date no swine in the state of Ohio shall be housed for more than 50% of each productive cycle in such a way that it cannot lie down, standup, turnaround for a major portion of each day." The Board can tinker with the start dates and the time percentage. They should stick in some wording to allow agressive, injured, or compromised animals special exception.

Under this proposal, a producer has the freedom to use housing methods for the benefit of the animal and people as he best chooses within that restriction. An inspector can pretty quickly inspect a facility for compliance. Count the sows. Count the sows in the stalls. Divide. Multiply by 100 if you really follow the math proceedure. And, wahla, in compliance or out.

To address concerns about grandfathering in existing operations perhaps the establishment of a new "premise ID number" with the state of Ohio premise registry could be referred to. If you are going to build or expand in such a way that you should have a new "premise ID" then this or that rule would apply to you. I really don't know the rules on these Premise ID's but it is an idea that could be explored.

I continue to ponder how the Care Board could facilitate an open audit process of facilities so that the industry and consumers might better get to know each other and develop a greater connection. My blog posting entitled "option three please" touches on this subject. I won't repeat it here. These things would put the Care Board's stamp of independence on the discussion.

In all these suggestions I am striving to minimize regulation and thereby increase the freedoms available to the people that feed each of us and have to develop compassionate ways to get that job done. I am trying to allow the Care Board to act independently but get the parties to the "Ohio Agreement" to a similar end point. And in all things to do those things that will increase the consumer's confidence in the quality of the food that is presented to them for nourishment.

Thank you for your thought.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Can"t Sell it at Barnes and Noble

I recently attended an Animal Welfare Symposium at the Ohio State University along with several hundred other people. The Keynote speaker was Dr. Temple Grandin. For those who are unfamiliar, Dr. Grandin is a world recognized specialist in the matters of animal behavior, particularly, cattle (she is from Colorado) but also poultry and swine. She has built her reputation and expertise over a lifetime of dedicated work in the livestock industry. She has been a leader in developing affective methods of livestock handling that reduce stress and injury to people and animals. She has accomplished all this while overcoming the personal challenge of autism. She is a successful writer and has had a movie made documenting her life's work and struggles. She is a person deserving of admiration and respect.

During her keynote address and the question and answer time afterward she repeatedly proclaimed that sow gestation stalls need to be gotten rid of. Her primary defense of that statement was that, "You can't sell them to the public at Barnes and Noble in New York and come out alive."

While I can't argue with the truthfulness of the statement, I would like to unpack it just a little bit.

Earlier in the conference Charlie Arnot, from the Center For Food Integrity, had displayed a pie chart of the Roger's rules of adoption. In this chart we see that a very small percentage of people (2%) are innovators. They are free thinkers that make up their own mind and see things others don't. They are followed by a larger but still small group (16%) called early adopters. This is the group that sorts through the ideas of the innovators and choses the best ones. They are hard to move from their opinion once they settle on an idea. From there we proceed on to everyone else who adopt things at different rates. With this idea of in our mind lets go back to the statement of Dr. Grandin. "You can't sell them to the public at Barnes and Noble in New York and come out alive."

I would propose that Dr. Grandin is a classic "innovator". She realised animal handling needed to change long before anyone else. She determined what that change should look like and set her mind to it like the faces on Mt. Rushmore. If she will change her position now that it is set, I will be very amazed.

The people in line at Barnes and Noble, I would suggest, are more of the early adopter group. At least those that will see to it that you don't come out alive. There are, of course, all manner of people there in line. Controversy and hardship is what sells books and movies and Dr. Grandin can delivery the goods for both of these. So the line at Barnes and Noble represents 2% innovators + 16% early adopters = 18% of the population as far as those who are going to take action is concerned. Given this combustible mix of highly opinionated people I can see why you wouldn't sell gestation stalls and come out alive at Barnes and Noble in New York!

I am not trying to argue with Dr. Grandin's opinion of the needed demise of gestation stalls as a singular housing method. I am trying to point out that her statement about Barnes and Noble needs to be tempered with the idea that the other 82% of the population is trying to sort through these ideas and see which ones to adopt for themselves. If the housing method is banded by government or constitutional action, the 82% have just lost their right to chose. This seems terribly heavy handed and arrogant of the innovator and early adopters among us.

There is a fairly large part of the population, Mr. Arnot's chart suggests +50%, that don't know and don't care. They want safe healthy food that they can afford (period). Why should a few people feel they can take this choice away from the many? I just don't think that is reasonable.

On another note, why does this discussion of animal care come down to death threats so often? The Barnes and Noble comment is not entirely serious......I think? But there you have it. I am not sure. I know that death threats are very real to some of my friends who are attempting to stand up and push back on some of these issues. What is it in this very small group of activist people that makes them think the situation is so dire that they need to threaten people's lives. At some point they must lose their sense of proportion, and go from being innovators and early adopters to being zealots. To me this should inform the 82% that this idea doesn't need their full acceptance and support.

Thank you for your interest and thought.

recordings of the symposium are supposedly available at http://vet.osu.edu/preventive-medicine/animalwelfaresymposium

I have not yet been able to get this link to download the chart or Dr. Grandin's presentation but I am not the most gifted techy either. I raise pigs for a living.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Window

I live in rural America. After our Thanksgiving feast it is often my good fortune to get to stand at the sink and wash dishes for a period of time. This holiday was no different in that regard. While I was scrubbing some pot or pan I stared out my window, across the yard, to the barren fields, to the woods on the horizon and had this thought, "You know the first Thanksgiving meal was completely organic and locally grown."

Ok, so I am a little too wired on this issue. I have heard the story of the old farmer sitting at one of the farmer meetings that are held all winter long by this or that seed company or fertilizer dealer and he says something like, "You know, when I was young all our food was "organic". You know what we had then that we don't have now? Labor!!! That was hard work and people found easier ways to live." He is right you know. Did you ever try to grow a garden? It is hard work. We have found easier ways to live.

So back to my window story. I wondered if I were a Pilgrim what would we be eating? Only what we could find out-side our window. Nuts, berries, game, were abundant then. Not so much now. I live in rural America and I would be hard pressed for food that way, much less the 98% of the country that doesn't live in rural America. What is outside their window? At best a yard. It would be a bleak Thanksgiving for everyone if we had only that for our dinner choices.

You see, as man has gone forth as he was commanded by God to do in the early chapters of Genesis, he has learned to subdue the land. He has learned ways to pull a living from the earth that is not as hard as it once was. It is still hard. The curse of sin has guaranteed that will be the case until Christ returns and reorders man's relationship with the world.

Are man's intenventions that ease this burden perfect? Absolutely not. Man is not perfect. Is the world without man's inventions perfect? No. Not as long as the curse of sin endures. Stare deeply at the natural world or just watch the National Geographic channel and you will see a world full of violence, upheaval, and uncertainty where everything is strugelling to survive. Yes, we could eat like the Pilgrim's and many of use would die from hunger. What is outside your window?  Or we can accept some of the imperfections of man's inventions that produce abundant and varied food and be thankful for the grace that made it possible.

In the land of the Pilgrim's we hear the story of learning to plant corn on top of a buried fish. This made for better corn. An invention of man that made life easier. Why? Well, the fish is high in protien. Protien is high in nitrogen. Corn needs abundant nitrogen to grow. So the rotting fish was fertilizing the corn by giving off nitrogen.

 Today we have invented nitrogen fertilizer as an easier and more accurate way of burying our fish. The plant is still getting its nitrogen. We have learned an easier way. I plant about 30,000 corn seeds per acre on some 600 acres every year. If I am to do it like the Pilgrim's, where do I get the fish? I might suggest we would need to drain the ocean through a screen each year to get enough fish. Man's invention has made it easier. It is still hard. It is not perfect. But there is abundant food while we learn to do better.

There is plenty of room for the critic to put forth his concerns. The work of man in fighting against the curse of sin can get pretty edgy and downright frightening. Every action has a reaction. The reaction is not always known immediately. Steps are taken that need to be reevaluated. But the struggle to invent and to find easier ways to pull a living from the earth must go on or we will surely die.

Thank you for your thoughts.

P.S. If you are unfamiliar with the Genesis story there are "click tab" resources on the right side of this blog that will help.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Commitment to Quality

I enjoy blogging. The idea of expressing myself to the world at large appeals to me. To be quite honest it appeals to my ego. I am a person that always has an opinion and tend to think it should be accepted by others as intelligent and thoughtful. This attitude may make me appear arrogant but it doesn't make me unique. The blogger world is full of people just like me. For this reason I am appreciative that you take the time to read my posts. Thank you.

In an effort to keep the quality of my posts to an acceptable level I am trying to only post when I have something intelligent to say on a subject that others might be interested in. Consequently, I really don't have a big post this week. It is not that I am not thinking, I most certainly am, but rather I don't want to say something that would end up making me look bad. It would hurt my ego and that would make me mad.

Here is a partial lists of topics I am thinking about:

The underlieing shift in worldviews that comes with the change in Ohio politics from a Democratic Governor to a Republican Governor and how does that affect the way goverance is done in the State of Ohio. Of course, my main focus is in the Department of Ag and the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board specifically. There is an earthquake shift happening but I am unsure what to make of it yet.

No matter the worldview of the government officials, how does that play out in the hearts of consumers. What do I make of the large group of consumers I met at the "Fabulous Food Show" in Cleveland last weekend who were absolutely not asking how food is raised. At least that was not what brought them to the show. I was amazed at the number of peole that drove 1-2 hours, to pay $8 parking and a minimum $30 admission to see "Food Network" stars and wonder around the vendors at the show. More amazing was that people with this kind of money would stop, turn around, and come back to get free recipes. Are recipes that hard to find? Is free that important? What is going on here?

How should a Christian respond to the extreme volatility in the economy right now? Does my heart get troubled easily or is my confidence in God's provision? What do my fears say about my faith?

So many questions are out there. I will eventually think of something to say. Until then, thanks for reading, and have a great Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Option Three Please

The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board is faced with an interesting challenge in the coming weeks. Let me attempt to describe it simply so that the challenge can be seen clearly. I see all things through the lense of a pork porducer but I think the situation is the same for other species.

The question before the Board is, "What do we do about the "Ohio agreement" with HSUS?". There are, at present, two options to chose from. Neither, appears particularly beneficial when a person stops and thinks about it very hard.

Option 1: The Board upholds the agreement, as written, and thereby ends the use of gestation stalls as a singular housing strategy by 2025 in Ohio. The off shoot of this is that sows will have to spend some part of their time in group housing environments. While there are managers and systems that can do a fine job in this environment, not everyone can do it 100% of the time. It is inevitable that when sows are housed together they will fight to establish a social order and in this fighting some are going to get chewed up pretty good. It is also inevitable that pictures of these sows will find their way into the media. These pictures could be used to discredit the Livestock Care Standards Board. I can hear it now. The voice-over audio accompaning video of two sows in a death match fight says, "This is what the Care Standards Board approves as human treatment of animals ......". This is not a good option from the Care Board's perspective, in my opinion.

Option 2: The Board disapproves/ignors the "Ohio Agreement" and thereby allows the use of  gestation stalls as a singular housing method in the state of Ohio. HSUS has made it very clear this option will be met with an all out assault on the states producers through a ballot initiative. This campaign would feature every ugly thing that can be put on display and do tremendous harm to the reputation and stability of the farming community well beyond the borders of Ohio. The board would be painted as a bunch of industry hacks and a sham and be discredited in the eyes of the voters that gave it authority to deal with their concerns. It seems to me, this is not a good option from the Care Board's perspective.

It is obvious a third option is needed. A course of action that brings something new to the table that is a stretch for both the farmer and the critic. A course of action that reaches to the consumer to address his concerns in a credible and obvious way. A course of action that allows the Care Board to address the issue in a way that there is hope for it to be resolved in the future, over time, not just to continue as a point of contention into the future.

What might this option look like? How can the consumer be reached in a new way? What things are out there that stretch the producer and the critic but add value to the consumer? I am aware as a producer of a couple things that could be done. Things I am a little uncomfortable with for various reasons but that might be of interest to the consumer who is wanting more transparency and information on where food comes from and how animals are being cared for.

For example: I give farm tours from time to time. These allow people to see what is happening and to experience it, but I can't completely control the impression that is made. The same for news stories and interviews. Both stretch my comfort zone, much like my wife cleaning the house before the guests arrive. There is nothing to hide but some things don't need to be seen. I can't really control what the guests think when they leave.

I am aware that video monitoring technology is available. http://www.realpigfarm.com/ is one example. American Humane has a more advanced system I am told. Could this technology be used to "open the doors" on my operation to the consumer?

Along the "farm tour" line of thought, could groups of random consumers (a jury pool type deal) be given access to farms to fill out audit questionaires and then that data be compiled to guide and direct the industry and enforcement actions.Questions to the pool might be of the type, "Rate your perception of the condition of the animals at this farm", "Does the farm operator appear to be providing for the needs of the animals", "is the farmer making reasonable tradeoffs to advance the animal's well being?", etc. These audit results would then be used to develop a score card that farms could use for comparison and to make adjustments to increase future scores and to defend themselves from accusations.

Part of the "Ohio Agreement" discusses joint research. Could developing this audit questionaire and the data baseline be part of this research. Maybe this random consumer group would followup on complaints with ODA and provide another set of eyes and ears to the process.

These suggestions are a stretch to my comfort level and are way beyond my ability to design but they would provide the consumer with greater access to his food and it's care. The critic would be tested because the consumer might just conclude that the farmer is generally doing a stellar job and is deserving of continued support and appreciation. This would hurt the business of being a critic but should critics have a full time job?

My point in all this discussion is that there has to be an "Option 3". Somewhere there is knowledge and understanding that can be brought to bare on this challenge for the Care Board that will be beneficial. The Care Board needs to be able to chose an option that is a "good" option. Right now I only see two "bad" options being discussed. In all things the consumer and his needs must be brought front and center since without a happy and comfortable consumer things are going to keep getting worse.

Thank you for your consideration.

Monday, November 1, 2010

You can vote often!

On election eve, I thought I would share how you can vote early and vote often and be perfectly legal. I, the American farmer, earn your vote everyday when you shop. Your dollars "votes" will determine the course of Agriculture into the future. So how you decide where to spend your dollars "votes" is of great interest to me and my peers everyday. So vote early and vote often!

I enjoy watching how people "vote". I have heard for years that people are becoming more and more cynical, less willing to trust anyone or thing. This seems true in my own life. I don't really trust much of anyone. The doctor? No, I internet research any major opinion he has. The government? No, this is a proven puddle of muddle. The court system? No, you are a fool not to settle before the trial, who knows what a jury will decide. The academic? No, he is doing research for his sponsor. The producer of almost anything? No, he is biased trying to protect his money. The media? No, they filter everything to fit their need. The list goes on and on.

If there is any source that seems credible it is my neighbor's and peer's. Their experiences would seem to represent an unbiased source of information, be trustworthy. The internet has given this strategy new power. With "Facebook" and "Twitter" and other social media I can get instant information from nieghbors and peers on almost any subject. "Emily's List" and others have made a business out of this very thing. If one person gives a poor comment on a product or service I will shy away, if two or three are negative I probably have serious reservations. Am I unique in this behavior? I doubt it.

The real issue is trust. Who are you going trust? (see my previous blog "worldview part 1). Without trust, our society breaks apart pretty quickly. If you don't trust anyone, you are going to live your life rushing from one thing to another. You will be constantly worried about every decision. If you can't trust those in a position to KNOW the answer, how will you ever gain security in any decision? Who will you follow? How will you feel safe? It really is a scary world to think about.

Enjoy your voting!

Thanks for your thoughts.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Note to the reader: These comments are posted as I reflect on the tragic lose of a distant cousin in a traffic accident.

I am not young anymore, but I am not old either. I guess I am in "mid-life" by default. I have seen enough of life to know that terrible things happen without warning and that much of life "doesn't make sense". I suppose it is this lose of idealism, knowing that it may not "all work out" that causes men of my station in life to enjoy going home at night to the wife and kids. Being safe and secure out wieghs the thrill of many adventures that could be had.

Age has not dulled the inevitable question of, "Why?"

I have turned that question over countless times for this and other accidents and have come up with two answers. The long answer is, "Only God knows, and He is not telling." The short answer is, "Well, heck." Both are equally comforting and useless.

Today, I looked at the "why?" question from around the corner, so to speak. If I can't find an answer, what does it say about me that I still ask the question? That turn of thought, I believe, sheds some new light on the situation and brings forth some comfort. Let me explain.

I ask "why?" because I want life to have meaning, order, and purpose. Think of the young child who asks the same question to the point of distraction. The child is trying to find the organization, purpose, and meaning in the world he/she is getting to know. We as adults do our best to answer based on our knowledge and understanding.

The point here is that I asked, "Why?" as opposed to shrugging my shoulder or even not caring.

By asking, "Why?" I am saying, "Life should have meaning." By this simple reflex question I am rejecting the idea of a world that is created by random chance. (see my blog on creation/evolution) If we are here as the result of random chance imposed on enormous lengths of time, spread across incredible amounts of events, then what meaning could there be to life?

When I ask "Why?" I am declaring from my inmost being that life has meaning, therefore it was created with a purpose. If it was created with a purpose there must be a creator. If there is a creator, He surely has left a trail of signs in His creation that describe him. For example: A piece of pottery tells us something of the potter. Was he skilled? Did he understand form and function? Did he invest in beauty though it added nothing to function? Did He sign his name to show his pride? Theologians would yammer for hours about this under the title, "General Revelation" as opposed to "Specific Revelation" if you are interested.

Do you start to see what I saw as I "looked around the corner" at this question, "Why?"

My distant cousin's life and death had meaning because it drew me closer to the Creator (God). What greater use is there for a life than to draw yourself and others closer to God? It is the reason I write this blog. I want to help others move toward God. If I can do that, the life that has past will have meaning and many others will too. And so a tragic accident starts a ripple in the sea of humanity that will reach out to many more for years to come.

Do I know where these ripples will go? No. Do I have any control of these ripples? No. Will the ripples affect positive things in the world? Yes!

What is the purpose of man? To love, honor, and glorify God, his creator.

May you have found some encouragement in these words.

Thank you for thinking.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dirt is a four letter word

Dirt. Many people do not see "dirt" in the same way I do. Some think so little of it that it can be used as a term in a put down. Someone might say "you are dumber than dirt" as a way of insulting you. I personally don't see "dirt" that way.

The creation story tells us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and that he eventually separates out dry ground (dirt) from the water. This dry ground (dirt) becomes pretty important to everything else since it is where plants, animals, and people find a comfortable safe place to dwell. Later in the story of Genesis we read what happens when God brings the water back (the great flood) and all the dry ground (dirt) disappears. In forty days man is wiped out and the nature of life on earth is altered. Noah and his family are the sole survivors and the first thing they look for as the waters recede is dry ground (dirt). So it seems to me that dirt is pretty important stuff and it should be respected and cared for.

Last weeks blog, "the humility of a farmer" detailed how the dirt has the ability to keep me forever aware that I am dependent on something far beyond my control for my existence. Perhaps people who don't farm for a living can more easily forget this fact but the truth is still there, "Almost every part of our human experience starts with "dirt"". Let us reflect a moment on this thought.

Where does food come from? Dirt
Where does petroleum come from? The earth. Well that is a form of dirt.
Where does wood come from? Trees that grow in the dirt.
Where does glass come from? Sand, another form of dirt.
The list goes on and on. Everything wraps back around to "dirt" at some level.

I heard/read a joke that went something like this. Some scientist came to God one day and said, "We have finally figured it out. We can now make man without your help". To which god replied, "That is pretty good, show me how you do it." So the scientist bent down, scooped up a bucket full of the finest dirt they could find and..... God said, "Wait just a minute! Go get your own dirt!"

My point in all this is just to emphasize that we are all directly connected to the "dirt" and that we really don't know all that much about it. It is for this reason that I try to take good care of what has been trusted to my care. I simply don't know much but I do know that "dirt" is foundational to my understanding of who I am and where I come from.

I see society as a whole becoming more aware of this situation almost daily. I see people expressing interest in where food comes from in the natural food movement, what impact human behavior has on the earth (dirt) in the environmental movement, and many other things. In my view all this is people's reaction to God pointing out to them yet again that there are things at work that are much bigger than we are and we need to pay attention.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Humility of a Farmer

Last night I finished havesting perhaps the best soybean crop and the worst corn crop, I have ever grown. The interesting thing is that these two crops were grown side by side on the same farm. I have no explaination for this seeming incongruency. To add to the confusion the neighbor across the road grew a beautiful crop of corn with the exact same variety of seed. He was so proud of it he put up a sign. All of this leaves me frustrated as you can probably tell.

But that is the interesting thing about making your living from the land. It is not always about you. It is about factors that only God can tell. In the early verses of the bible we read about the first sins of Adam and Eve and the consequent statement to the effect that "man will have to struggle to grow a crop from the ground as a result" (read the first several chapters of the bible for the full story). This struggle, as illustrated by my experience, keeps me firmly aware of my inability to control the outcome of the simplest thing.

How complicated is it to put a seed in the ground and grow a crop?

And there you have it.

Farmer's are as proud and arrogant a bunch as anyone else. That is why I am sooo concerned about my neighbor's good crop. But the events of nature keep me humble. I will be several years regaining my confidence as a farmer after this embarrassment. Which reminds me of a simple quote I picked up somewhere, refering to my ego, "Don't worry if your ego gets hurt it will always grow back." Isn't that the truth. But as long as you  are attached to the struggle with the soil for your daily bread, humility will lurk around the corner.

I hear echoes of this struggle in my non-farm friends. They love to plant a garden because they have pride in their harvest. That pride will cause their harvest to taste better and be more nutritious than anything bought at the store. Or they will be quite discouraged if their garden produces little or nothing. Their pride will be hurt. It is a very interesting phenomenon is it not.

Thank you for your consideration.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Creation or Evolution?

Today I would like to expand just a bit on my thoughts surrounding creation versus evolution. Keep in mind I am a hog farmer by trade and not at all well versed in the great debate of this topic. I simply see the choice as this: I can believe that I exist for a reason with a purpose as part of an organized plan (creation), or I can believe that I just got excruciatingly lucky and through some cosmic good humour here I am (evolution and the "big bang").

I have stated in other blogs that I choose "Creation". The reason really isn't very complicated. There is a big piece of me, my internal self, that wants to have a purpose in life. I think it is patently depressing to think I exist for no reason what so ever. Why excercise any discretion or self discipline at all if I am here just as random chance? I just can't accept in my heart of hearts that life is that pointless.

This choice has some profound impacts on how I live my life. If what we are, and what we see around us, is all the result of the same cosmic event "the big bang" and the resulting evolutionary process, then the concept of "rights" would not exist. The only "rights" would belong to the most powerful. That thing that could wipe out everything/something else. We/everthing would have been created equal, finding our roots in the same cosmic event (the big bang) but somethings would have asserted themselves above others by their ability to wipe them out (evolution). Under this view it would appear to me that as a human at the top of the evolutionary chain I can do what I want to whatever I want, the only constraint being my self interest of not doing something that would wipe me out in the mean time (ie, nuclear war or global warming).

In terms of how I would care for animals the implication becomes somewhat clear. I could treat animals in anyway I wanted to get the response from them I desired for my own self interest. That is exactly what I am accused of by my critics. On the extreme end of these critics are those who would argue that animals should have rights equal to humans. In Switzerland animals have public defenders in the court system as a result of this idea. Do you see the connection back to worldview? If everything came from the same cosmic event everything should be equal in terms of rights. If things aren't equal then it is because someone has asserted their superior position in the evolutionary chain of events and pushed someone/thing else down.

I choose to believe that I am created by the same God that created all this "stuff" around us and that in that process humans were given a special place in Creation. I don't see where believing that everything was created is any bigger step of faith than believing that it all came about by a cosmic event. The only way the cosmic event idea is even worth considering is if you have some small idea that given enough time and enough events anything is possible. You will note these are the main ingredients of the big bang theory and evolution, huge amounts of stuff/events, spread across unfathomable amounts of time. It all becomes too much to comprehend and then accept as an "accident". I choose the creation account. It is much easier to get your arms around.

As a result I see myself as a steward of God's creation. I have a responsibility to care for the world in a way that brings glory to Him. It is through fulfilling this responsibility that I find a purpose for my existence and life becomes meaningful. This purpose and meaning then drive me to self discipline and to act against some of my more destructive inclinations. I will discuss these in a latter post.

Thank you for your time and consideration

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How I view it (part 2)

How do I view the world and my relationship to the animals that are in it? Thru what lense do I filter all the ideas coming at me to determine what is "true"?

Some times the direct answer is the easy answer. This is especially true since the direct answer and the indirect answer will both need a lot of explaining. The direct answer would be, "I use the Bible as my authoritative source to filter all the information that is coming to me and to guide my steps when I must move without complete information."

Now let the explaining begin:

I believe that the world and all that is in it were created by God for his pleasure and to bring Him Glory. I would, of course, include man (humans) and the animals in that creation.

I believe that in this creation man has a special position that affords him special priviledges and responsibilities. Among these responsibilities/priviledges is to use animals for food and to provide for their proper care.

I believe that man's relationship to this creation has been dynamically changed once already in response to man rebelling against God's clear instructions and gracious provision. I also believe this relationship will dynamically change again in response to God's final resolution of the problems caused by this rebellion against Him and the extension of God's great mercy.

You can find the narrative that drives almost all these statements in the first 9 chapters of the Bible. That would be the book of Genesis, chapters 1-9. I would provide a "link" but there is something sentimentally sacred about the printed word that just doesn't lend itself to the electronic age. If you have no such sentiments a quick search will get you there.

This all relates back to the three possible views discussed in "how do I see the world" (part 1). I am saying that I view the world through a classical lense accepting the Bible as my authoritative guide. I choose this view because it has fit best with what I have observed (the modernist in me) and that it feels most reasonable to me (the post-modernist) part of me.

What have I observed that confirms my reliance on scripture (the bible)? Well, first off, would have to be that man is unable to resist simple temptations. That certainly fits with the people I know. How about you. This is illustratred by Adam and Eve seeing that the fruit, "was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom..." in the bible story. I struggle to resist a second helping of anything that is good for food. That is before we get to the pleasing to the eye and making me smarter questions.

Another observation comes from working with birthing animals everyday for years. Why is it that the normal birthing process in a pig appears to be relatively painless? At the duely appointed time a sow will lay down, appear to relax and sleep, and have a litter of piglets in an hour or two. That certainly is not how my wife experienced this event! I find the answer in our story when God says to Eve, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children." You have seen this too if the family pet has had offspring at your house. I would expect it to happen on a rug, or under a bed, or in the garage, or some other inconvenient spot. Where is the pain and the screaming for drugs?

Man's special position is seen when, "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." Why did man's first garments come from animals? Was there a shortage of fig leaves? Was skinning the poor beast easier than getting some cotton or silk? What does God care about easy or hard anyway? He is God. It is all a snap away.Why is it that man sins and some animal gets skinned? I would propose that it is because man has a special position in creation and God knew it.

Later in the story Noah gets off the Ark and God says, "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." And so as societies advance in wealth and prosperity I observe people demand more protien from meat. It seems to be a desire of the humane condition. People measure their wealth with the size of their herds, and flocks, among other things. How many pets do you have? Is two more prosperous than one? Have you realised you were counting?

There are more examples that I can go into but this is enough for today. The idea of evolution needs to be addressed in this discussion at some point. Until then I appreciate you thoughts and attention.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My View of the World (part 1)

Wayne Pacelle (the head of the Humane Society of the United States, aka HSUS) recently told the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board something to the affect, "we come from two radically different world views". I have to agree with him on this point. I have spent hours trying to understand his view with only limited success but I have come to better understand my own views through the process. I will share mine in layman's terms and some speculation of  Wayne's in the coming posts. Hopefully, you will start to understand Mr. Pacelle's statement and the challenges it presents.

First, let's try to understand the term "Worldview" in layman's terms. "Worldview" refers to what system do we personally use to decide what is "true" in the world. There are three basic alternatives 1) an authority figure/source 2) science and 3) personal experience/feelings (ourselves). Some examples may be helpful.

An authority figure/source might be a parent, a teacher, a sacred text (bible, koran, etc), the church, the government. It is anyone/thing we personally rely on to decide "Yes that is true". I call this "Classical" worldview and it is built on faith and trust in others. It is here that we worry about our reputation. Are we "trustworthy"? Is the person, teacher, text, government, reliable? Reputation becomes all important to this classical worldview.

Science, of course, refers to using replicated trials to determine what is "true". If an experiment ends the same way everytime then there is a truth that can be defined. That "truth" is referred to as a scientific "law". Thus you get the laws of physics, chemistry, motion, etc. Science developed in modern times to substantiate the "classic" truths. The classic view said the world had order, created by God, therefore there must be "laws" that govern our universe. Science looked to define these and thereby strengthen the reputation of  the classic views. There were problems when the classic view didn't fit the science, like when someone, was it Capernicus, decided the sun was the center of the universe and not the earth. But that is another tail. Science I refer to as the "modern view" and it is dependent on the replicated trial.

Personal experience/feelings, as we all know, comes in many different varieties and leads us to many different conclusions. Ecomonics struggles so much with this issue. If two people are given the same financial information they will act differently from each other and may act differently themselves at two different times. Defining what is true based on personal experience/feelings gets very dicey indeed since everyone becomes a "law" unto themselves. One person's humane treatment of animals may be another person's torture of animals. This I refer to as the "Post-modern view". It is dependent only on an individual opinion.

With these three alternatives I begin to see that I decide on what is true using a different method at different times. I take peices of each and try to work it all out together in my head to decide on what to believe. If I am going to drop a rock, for example, I combine science and experience and conclude clearly it is going to fall. If I am ordering dinner I will take personal exerience combined with science and my classical views of food and decide what to eat. And so we move through life combining and recombining these three elements to create our unique self.

Is your head spinning yet?

I think I will stop and regroup my thoughts before I venture into explaining my "world view". That will give you the reader a little while to consider what I have presented. Please don't hesitate to post any questions so I can gauge how to move forward.

Consider these phrases from modern culture:

I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except by me.
Hope and Change
Don't hurt my feelings/self esteem
Science disproves the bible
I feel it is not right to .......
What you are doing makes me feel uncomfortable.

Thanks and more later.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I can't vote in Ohio!

"I can't vote in Ohio!" is a typical response I get when discussing Ohio's Livestock Care Standards Board http://ohiolivestockcarestandardsboard.gov/ with non-Buckeyes. My response, "Neither can Wayne!".

The conversation usually starts out with pleasant sociable remarks in the way that is common when strangers meet. When I mention that I am from Ohio and sit on the board of directors of the Ohio Pork Producers Council and the swine sub-committee of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board I have just painted a target on myself and the conversation becomes serious real quick. If my wife or kids are with me they start looking for a chair and some way to distract themselves because they know where this is going.

My question for you is this,"If so many in agriculture have an opinion on Wayne Pacelle, HSUS, ballot initiatives, and animal care why aren't they flooding the Care Board with comments?" I have been to the meetings and particularly the "public comment" periods and watched as almost no farmer's get up to speak. When Wayne spoke recently, he was one of four people to make "public comment". I was another, and the only farmer to speak. Yes, I spoke into the very same microphone that Wayne used. I bet it was still warm from the touch of his hand. Should of been, he spoke for twenty minutes. Where was everyone else that talks about all the things they would say to Wayne?

If you can't make it to the microphone send an e-mail to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. They read every one. They aren't getting that many that I have heard, but you need to speak your opinion for it to be heard. I would suggest you forget the data downloads and the economic arguements, though they are needed, what really counters an animal right's statement is your personal story of caring for livestock. What you have sacrificed? What injuries you have endured? What heartache you experience as a hardship of raising livestock. Your personal story is what resonates with the consumer and takes away the power of Wayne's words.

The opportunity of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board is that all comments are welcome. You do not have to vote in Ohio to make a comment and impact the discussion. This discussion is not in a private room at the governors mansion by invitation only, you are welcome to speak. I have heard it said, "There are two ways to attend the party. You can be seated at the table or you can be on the menu". The question is, "Will you tell your story?"

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Beginning

After several years of hesitation, I have decided to open a personal blog. It is my desire to have a place to express myself more fully than is allowed by Facebook and Twitter. My hope is to present facts, thoughts, and ideas to the reader so that they may better form opinions about topics that interest me. I appreciate your attention, input, and consideration.