Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Calling Hours and Social Media

Today presents a new challenge to my social media experience.

 I feel compelled to attend "calling hours" for @Chris Raines, a person I only really know by way of Facebook and Twitter.

The challenge is, "What should I say?". I have no idea who will be there or what connection they may have to one another and myself.

Why attend such an event for someone that I only know with an @ or # tag associated with their name. It just seems appropriate that someone with skin on should stop by and extend thankfulness to those who mourn for the life and legacy that was and is @Chris Raines. While social media increases the spread and reach of our personality, there are experiences that are just best communicated by driving an hour or so and showing up.

So I am going to "show up" and pay respects to those who mourn. Respect from myself and a vast reach of @ and # tag friends that can't make it. I will not attempt to eulogize. That has been well covered by those that knew @Chris Raines personally. I hope my attendence will make a clear statement to the mourners that connections built in the social media world are just as real and lasting as ones that grow by personal contact.

So it seems uncomfortable to be going to this event. But some how it just seems proper.

What are your thoughts?

May God Bless.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve on a Livestock Farm

Christmas Eve brings a whole bag full of emotions to me each year. Today (12/24/2011) is a good example.

I sit at my office desk in the hog barn writing a blog because my employees are at work out in the barns. I just am not able to be at home resting with my family until they can go home to. There are not enough of us to rotate holidays. So we help each other get done, and skip some optional chores so we can go home. But the animals must be cared for. Why do you think "the cattle are" They want to be fed. They thought that the hay in the manger was for them.

Christmas day is my wife's birthday. I have wrestled for years trying to find a way to make it a special day for her. I have concluded it can't be done. When I get discouraged by the commercialization of my Savior's birth and think no one knows the meaning of Christmas anymore, I am reminded that it is impossible to overshadow Christ's day with my wife's birthday, at least in our house. Fortunately, I am married to an angel, and I have never seen her seem to mind that she has to share her day.

Then there are the empty chairs at so many tables of so many friends this year. This thought gets more clear to me each year as I experience the reality of time. Some day there will be sadness in my heart again because there will be another empty chair at the table. But isn't that the meaning of Christmas? Christ came to earth, knowing he would die. But he came anyway. Without Him there would be no Easter and no hope for those whose chairs are empty.

I can't speak of empty chairs and the responsibility of caring for animals without remembering the day I was old enough to "help" my dad Christmas day. I would haelp so the work could get done faster. That was the day I realised that once the animals were all cared for on Christmas day my dad and his employees stood around "in a sunny spot where the wind don't blow" and talked and joked for about an hour. Meanwhile, all these years, I had been at home, on my knees, on the couch, nose pressed to the picture window, looking down our country drive, waiting, waiting, waiting, for dad to get home. I remember both sides of this as clear as a can be.

But of course it isn't all empty chairs that I think about. I remember the high chairs filled with excited children. The christmas tree up on a table, or fenced off with a baby gate too. I can't think back on that without a smile in my heart.

There are alot of emotions that go with Christmas.

God is Good ...All the time.

Merry Christmas

P.S I think there are some people waiting at home for me.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Food: Fundamental Good

I am proud to be a part of agriculture and world food production in all it's forms. I see food as a "fundamental good".

Food is fundamental in that life depends on it at its most basice level. Without food life stops. Think about life on another planet. The first thing needed is food. Or think about life in a desert. There is little life because there is little food. My first experience in a big city, New York, I remember being concerned about where to get food.If food is abundant, life and people have a chance to thrive and all of civilization may spring forth.

Food is a fundamental good in that it promotes peace, prosperity, and contentedness. I have seen people fight for food. Wars arise, peasants revolt, nations pass from history because food was not available. I have not heard of two great enemies that will sit at a table and eat with weapons drawn. With the abundance of food comes the opportunity for the abundance of peace and the prosperity that follow. So food is a fundamental good.

With all the concern and clammering in the world over agriculture, food, and the business of food, let us not forget that at the end of the day, food is about doing good for one's self, one's neighbor, one's nation, and one's world. No matter how it is produced, food is fundamental to the life of the earth. Let us be thankful for those who strive to provide that resource for everyone's good. They are providing a "fundamental good".

Thank you for your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Can Government Create a Job?

My wife came home from a recent event where the question was asked, "Is it goverment's role to create jobs?". Some version of this question is tumbling around in the political discussion almost daily with the fall campaigns if full swing. Here are some of my thoughts on the topic.

In my view, governments role is to reward righteousness and to punish evil. This of course begs the question, "What is righteousness and evil?" I, personally, turn to the bible and the Judeo Christian traditions for my definititions. Righteousness would be those things that indicate an acceptance and appreciation of the God of creation who has taught us through scripture, example and history what things are pleasing to Him. God's character becomes the ultimate gold standard against which right and wrong are measured.

Evil then becomes all those things that indicate a rejection of these standards and a rebellion against the One who established them. The Ten Commandments come to mind as a clear set of standards that reflect God's character. Let it be said clearly that I stumble and fall across these things repeatedly. When I do, I have done something evil. The laws of our government tend to reflect an understanding of these truths and at some point rise up to punish us. The government and laws in a Muslim/Hindu/Communist/etc. nation will reflect a different understanding of rightousness and evil.

Now, having said all this, I have opened up any number of possibly controversial topics. Which church's opinion of biblical interpretation shall the government use? What about national defense? How is the size of a reward or punishment to be determined? Should the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings and courthouses? The list is quite long and I am not suggesting to answer any of these questions. I only wish to point out my understanding of the "role of government".

The second observation in this question hangs on the idea of "creating jobs". I am very much attracted to the word "create". I believe God created humans in His image. He also created the heavens and the earth and everything in them. Creating is a God image thing. It is part of His nature/character. It is what He does. So "creating " is a very good thing. Creating jobs, works of art, houses, cars, food are all fundamentally good.

In my experience, I create a job when I discover some creative activity that produces a profit. Profit is not a bad thing in my understanding. It is a reflection of society saying, "What you have created is worth more to us now than it was before you got involved." When society approves of what I have created in a way that allows me to profit my response is to create more. At some point, I am making enough that I have to hire people to help. So my creative effort didn't employ just me but others as well. This is how a job is created.

I don't see government "creating" things. I see govenment rewarding and punishing. Rewarding in the form of subsidies, tax incentives, and non-regulation or punishing with taxes, regulation, and outright making things illegal. An interesting dynamic is that for government to reward one person with money, government must take (punish) that money from someone else by way of taxes, fees, or whatever. And what happens to government's ability to reward job creation when the taking of that reward money destroys jobs faster than they are created.

Is it government's role to create jobs? I guess I would have to say "no". Creativity is inherently a human experience and therefore job creation is the result of human expression. Government can reward or punish the creator of jobs but I don't see how government "creates" a job.

These are just some thoughts I have. Thank you for thinking with me.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Welcome ThinkTV viewers

Greatings! Welcome!

I am excited and happy that you have taken the time and effort to find my humble blog. The breadth and reach of this blog never stops amazing me. When I realise that people from all over the world stop by to read and consider my posts I am humbled. We live in amazing times. We live in exciting times. Thank you for your interest.

My farm's business name "Standing Oaks Enterprises LLC" has its roots in the mighty oak trees that stand in a grove on my farm. I seldom see these trees but I wonder what they have seen and endured in there life. Some have seen most of the events of our country unfold. Simply by standing there in a grove they remind me of the legacy of the past and offer hope for the future. I pray that my life could be that meaningful.

The name "Acorns for Thought" comes from my desire to encourage people to think and ask questions about farming. I hope to plant seeds of thought in people's minds. Seeds of thought that may some day grow into mighty oak trees of ideas. Ideas that will provide the food, shelter, and beauty that everyone should enjoy.

I approach life from my understanding of the JudeoChristian worldview. I am not an academic nor a trained and learned thinker so I do not presume to compete on that level. I am a farmer that has his hands dirty, his back aching, and sweat on his brow almost everyday. My blog approaches life from that angle and asks questions. I do not always answer my questions. Sometimes I don't know the answers. There may be multiple answers to a question and I will attempt to present the one that appeals to me. I only ask that you consider the ideas.

I invite you to consider questions with me and to feel free to comment. Perhaps in this discussion a seed of thought will be planted in someone's mind and begin to grow into something strong and beautiful. That would make me proud and very happy.

If this humble blog doesn't catch your interest, I invite you to click the link to CauseMatters provided below. You will find there a broad set of resources, not the least of which is links to other farmer blogs. Please enjoy, ponder, and grow with me and my fellow farmers.

Thank you for your time and thoughts.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Cross Cultural Opportunity

I will be attending a meeting of pastors and lay people in Minneapolis in the near future. The meeting is for the purpose of discussing responses to the recent changes in the governing documents of the Presbyterian Church USA. These changes provide for the elevation of people, who are openly practicing sinful behavior and refuse to repent, into leadership positions within the church.

So that I might be better acquainted with the discussions surrounding this event I have joined in on several online discussions. These discussions are, quite naturally, dominated by very skilled pastors. I have found myself in a new culture. The culture of the ordained, educated, and career pastor. I am not yet sure what to make of this new culture I am rubbing up against. Being new to the culture I fear misunderstanding what I see and hear and, I fear being misunderstood.

Being in a new culture isn't that remarkable. We all do it everyday. We move from through the cultures of our family's, our work environment, our schools, our communities, etc.on a constant and continuous basis. Sometimes we move into a culture for the first time and we realize that things just aren't exactly what we thought they were. I feel this way when I step out of my predominantly agricultural existence, other professions have their own cultures.

I feel like the proverbial "Bull in a China shop". I tend to say what I think on the strength of my own thinking and support it with nothing but the quality of the thought itself. My words are not measured and weighed for balance and substance against the writings or thoughts of others. They rise and fall on their own merit. This is a stark contrast to the online discussions I have been following. I suddenly find myself in the world of theological academics.

I look forward to this experience because I enjoy people and observing how they think, communicate, and make decisions. This conference will provide many opportunities to interact with people that know nothing of the world of agriculture and where food comes from. Since many of the people I meet will be very gifted and experienced communicators, they are career pastors, I hope to gain alot of understanding of how to approach commuicating agriculture's story to a non-ag world.

Already I am seeing things that contrast with what I am used to in the agricultural world.

Brevity and pointed, undefended, personal opinions seem to be avoided in this culture. I wonder if the defense of personal opinions leads to the death of brevity? Brevity is the stock and trade of the farmer. We are people of few words. Personal opinions are just that, personal. They don't need defending.

Money or finances seems to have a different twist in this world. I haven't quite nailed it down yet. I am used to openly discussing financial arrangements and trying to create the famous "Win Win". Money/finances can be used as a fearful weapon but in agriculture the discussions usually revolve around the good and productive side. In the pastor's world I am hearing most of the discussion revolve around issues of money as weaponry.

Thinking of money as a weapon first and for most is in contrast to hearing the hopefulness and creativity of the farmer when finances are discussed. Farmers see economic danger all the time but it is overcome with visions for bright opportunity just around the corner. If risk is one side of the coin, opportunity is the other, tends to be the mindset in the farmer's heart.

These are just a couple of my observations so far. I am trying to refrain from jumping to conclusions until I am more familiar with the culture.

As a person that loves to study people and how they think, this conference promises to be an interesting time. I would describe it as a "target rich environment" for the attentive observer. It should be fun to learn more about this culture, a non-ag culture, and consider what lessons can be gleaned about communication from it.

Thanks for thinking with me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Is that Appropriate?

I have been considering the question, "What is appropriate?" allot lately. I have faced this question as my family has been the subject of a lifestyle documentary for ThinkTV and in relating to things that I post on social media.

The question arises in the television arena when I realize that the very same picture can create multiple impressions in the viewer's mind. The evening the camera crew spent several hours filming the front of my home at sunset comes to mind. The camera never moved, only adjustments were changed, and through the camera my home was light a cheerful in a setting sun or quite and dark. The light and breezy image more closely resembled reality that evening. The darker more of the Walton's feeling came through. Would it be appropriate to use the darker image if it fit the producer's story telling needs?

Another shot is of my wife and daughter sitting in the yard studying school work. It is not outside of possible that they might do this but never late in the evening on a pleasant summer day. Is it appropriate to stage a shot like that of something that might happen. It will make good TV I have little doubt.

There are other examples similar to these from our time spent filming. I am completely comfortable with the spontaneous footage, but the staged footage leaves me wondering where the line is between communicating the truth about our life and creating a fantasy that will entertain the audience?

In the social media world the question is, "Is this image something that the general public should see?" or "Is this statement drawing attention to things in agriculture that the general public doesn't need to be reminded of?"

The birth of a pig, to me, is an enormous part of my life but as an image it shows slime and blood. In the purest form it shows that some pigs are born dead (stillborn) or even mummified (partially decomposed).  Dealing with this is what I do. Is it appropriate to show that aspect of my life to the general public?

Is it appropriate to write about the death of animals on the farm? Do I want to remind people that animals sometimes die and have to be disposed of on a farm? Is it better not to point out this obvious fact to the unthinking and let them live in their ignorance? Ignorance is bliss you know.

With the TV questions I guess I sort of shrugged and let it go. I know so little of the editing process and the needs of that profession to do a good job that I probably am not in a position to judge well where the lines should be drawn. The crew is professional and I will defer to their judgement and experience. Perhaps, the end product will suggest I chose poorly.

With the social media questions I am starting to adopt the 4th grade rule. If it something that a 4th grader would learn if they spent a weekend with me then it probably should be shared. I admit somethings must be shared with tact and thought, but the consumer should have access to the information. If I would not be comfortable showing or explaining something to a visiting 4th grader maybe I shouldn't be posting the item at all.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for thinking with me.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Touching Base

I feel guilty. Well, sorta guilty. No not that guilty. I haven't done anything. That is the point. I haven't blogged for a little while. That sorta, not really, kinda guilty.

The reason for the lack of blogs is pretty easy to figure out. There are three things sucking up my time that should provide food for the blogger juices for a while. The first is the heat wave we all have experienced. The second is my family's involvement with ThinkTV (PBS) in filming a 30 minute segment profiling our farm family. And the third is a discussion that is going on in the social media Agvocacy community and the Ag trade associations concerning what is appropriate to post online.

Each of these are a rich source of information and examples for my very active mind to work with. I want to share with the public (consumers) an honest picture of what my life is so they can better understand the people that produce food and what motivates us. We are a unique breed.

The question keeps coming up, "what is appropriate?".

Should I tell the public I will try almost anything to protect my animals from dying in the heat and how unpleasant dragging them out to bury is? Or should I come up with a different way to say it that doesn't cause the public (that isn't educated or thoughtful enough on their own to know it) to even think about it?

Should I go along with staging parts of our ThinkTV production so that the producer has the shots to work with that will best tell the story for the audience? Or should I insist on only allowing shots of spontaneous events? What will be left after editing? Are the two really any different?

Should I some how ease up on caring for my animals in the heat so I have time to deal with these other important questions. (I am writing this now because I have imposed a "Siesta" on the activities at the farm to let the hogs rest through the heat of the day uninterrupted by feeding and chores). Where are my priorities to be?

So there are some interesting thoughts out there to explore, when I get time.

Thanks for beginning to ponder these things with me.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Precious Honor

My family has been working with the producers of ThinkTV, a PBS station that airs out of Dayton Ohio, to produce a 30 minute documentary centered around a farm family. The show will be featured on the "Our Ohio" show that airs weekly sometime this fall.

We see this as a great honor to be chosen for this production. We did not apply. We did not recommend ourselves. The show found us. Through our activities in promoting agriculture and being involved in some of the current issues faced by the farm community our family's story found its way to ThinkTV and grabbed the producer's interest.
I am not shy about pointing out the connections between my Christian beliefs and how life seems to play out accordingly. I considered it an unusual honor when the producer, Richard Wonderling, asked if it would be possible to record my family at a church service. The fact that he perceived church, my family's faith, to be central to the telling of who the Wildman family is, was a great compliment.

It is very easy to forget in the daily living of our life that we are communicating much larger truths to those around us. In my gloomy moments, I question whether the hours, days, and years spent doing the mundane things of raising a family are really speaking to my children and community. I have such a vivid understanding of all the things I have done wrong and what a sinful father and husband I am. As I have listened to my children tell their story's this week to a camera, under the lights, with a microphone stuck in their face, I have shed tears of pride. Tears of pride because I can hear those things I and my wife have prayed for and worked so hard for, being reflected in the daily activities and lives of our children. Somehow the message I wanted my children to hear has found its way into their hearts.

I openly confess that the honor of representing an Ohio farm family on a television show appeals to my personal ego. To be selected from among the many qualified family's with great stories is a marvelous honor. But the joy of listening to and hearing my children reflect the messages my wife and I have tried to teach has been the greatest, most humbling, and precious of honors.

Thank you for considering these things.

Friday, June 10, 2011

World Pork Expo

I attend more than a reasonable number of meetings and events. "Was it worth it?" is the ever present question. Driving home from the "World Pork Expo" in Des Moines Iowa with my college age son, the topic inevitably came up.

One goal when atending a meeting is to gain one nugget of information that will pay for the trip/time. The priceless nugget from this trip appears in the sidebar of this blog. Checkout Dr. Nelson Kloosterman's work in the Worldview Resources section. I have not spent much time yet reviewing his writings but have it from good sources that he does a stellar job addressing, on an academic level, many of the issues I raise.

I look forward to being able to sharpen my mind and strengthen my heart by better understanding the world I live in and how we as people relate to it and others. Let me know what you think of this new link. I look forward to venturing into it with you.

Thanks for thinking with me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lindsay Hill, Why?

I repost this blog in response to the pain felt by so many at the passing of Lindsay Hill. I have not edited it to fit her specific situation because that might imply I knew her far better than I did. I have no knowledge of Lindsay's religious beliefs or persuasion. I offer this blog as "food for thought" to the many who may be asking, "Why?".

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, May 10, 2011

My old Animal Science Book

For whatever reason, I picked up an old friend from my college days. That old friend's name? "The science of Animals That Serve Mankind" by Campbell and Lasley. Yes, folks, I voluntarily started rereading my animal science book from college! I started, as is my adult custom, in the middle. Page 352 to be exact. Here is what I read,

"So basically influenced are we by the matter of food and drink that revolutions, peace, war, patriotism, international understanding, our daily life and the whole fabric of human social life are profoundly influenced by it - and what is the use of saying "peace, peace" when there is no peace below the diaphragm. This applies to nations as well as individuals - men refuse to work, soldiers refuse to fight, prima donnas refuse to sing, senators refuse to debate, and even presidents refuse to rule the country when they are hungry." Lin Yutang (1895 - ...)

As I age and watch world events the truth of these words speak more clearly to me each day. Farming is a fundemental good. I am proud to be a part of this noble profession. Because I, and my fellow farmers, do our jobs well, society has the first building block of peace and prosperity.

On the next page, page 353, I found this interesting statement,

"The modern era of the science of nutrition was pioneered by the French chemist A. L. Lavosier, in the 1770's. Lavoisier was the first to recognize that animal heat was derived from the oxidation of body substance. He compared animal heat with that produced by a candle. The general form of the apparatus Lavoisier used in his experiments was illustrated in two drawings made by Madame Lavoisier. The methods of study he used, however, are unknown, because Lavoisier was executed on May 8, 1794, at the age of 51, by the Paris Commune. He was found guilty of allowing the collection of taxes on water contained in tobacco."

I am guessing that he found himself on the wrong side of the French revolution. It reminds me of the endless need to "backup your work" and, more importantly, be mindful of the wrath of the people when they get tired of paying taxes.

And finally, on the same page, "All flesh is grass." --Isaiah 40:6

Which turns out to be a sawed off quote. Here is the larger version.

"A voice says, "Cry out," and I said,  "What shall I cry?" "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass." Isaiah 40:6-7

The chapter in my text book proceeds to explain how plants and animals are made of the same compounds (stuff) just in different proportions and combinations. I suppose one could then suggest that we are what we eat. I of course would hold that men are much more than the some of the "stuff" that makes us. We have a spirit and reflect the qualities of the One that made us but that would be leaving the department of Animal Science. With that in mind I read on about various wonders of Hydrogen, Carbon, and Oxygen and how they interact. We are fearfully and wonderfully made!

That reminded me of why this was the last animal science book I read at college. May God bless those that can comprehend large quantities of this knowledge and make good use of it. Farming is a noble profession the the peace of the world rests on the skill of those involved in it.

Just some thoughts to consider:

Thanks for thinking with me.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter, Animal Rights, and The Cycle of Life

Today, is "Good Friday". The day Christians celebrate the death (crucifixion) of Jesus Christ. In two days we will celebrate the Resurrection (rebirth/new life) of the same man. This is the Easter story in part.

I believe that all created things carry with them a message about their creator. I have been reading a book that attempts to discover who Wm. Shakespeare was as a person from his writings. A trained musician can learn something of the personal nature of the performer and the writer by examining the music they create. We learn something about a property owner by looking at their property and how it is cared for. "Talking Heads" try to define politicians by their actions. And on and on it goes.

We learn something about our Creator as we interact with those things He has Created. All of creation carries with it the imprint of the one who made it. Scripture tells us that if God's people will not praise Him then the rocks of the field will. The incredible order and complexity of life tells us something about God. Even evolutional theory suggests that things are moving from the simple to the complex, exactly the opposite direction you would expect. In attempting to explain away the Creator they end up pointing straight at Him. So I see all things carrying with them the stamp of the Creator.

Adam and Eve are told by God in the earliest part of their relationship, do not eat the apple or you will die. They ate the apple any way and now we see death and dying all around us. They traded life for death. And in doing so, caused the reordering of creation by God. This reordering is most clearly stated in the story of Noah.

Now all around me I see life and death. We call it the "life cycle" or now as popularized by Disney in "The Lion King" the "Circle of Life". The world we live in is set around this paradox, something has to die for something else to live. Scripture describes this cycle of life many ways but the one that comes to mind is that of a seed falling to the ground must "die" before a plant can be "born". Scripture teaches that if you want to live you must die. Ever since Adam and Eve the creation has been pointing out this truth about the Creator, He holds "life" in his hand. He is "Life".

We have arrived back now at my opening description of the Easter Story. Death brings forth Life. The Easter Story is addressing spititual matters but it is through this story we learn something of the Creator and how He values his Creation. The president, Barrack Obama, recently said, "There is something about the (Easter Story) death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior that puts everything into perspective." I believe he speaks correctly on this matter.

What then do we make of those who are repulsed by the killing of animals as expressed through the  animal rights and vegan movements? Are they trying to deny the "Cycle of Life"? Are they somehow more or less Christian because of their belief that animals should not be used to promote human life? I choose not to see any of this.

I see a group of people responding, either knowingly or otherwise, to the situation created by Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. They are attempting to choose "life" over "death" and return our world to its fundemental harmony with its Creator. (Note: if you listen carefully you will hear the sound of the environmental movement in the background.) I see a group of people that is well intentioned in that regard and they are, either knowingly or otherwise, pointing us back to the character of the One who created us.

My concern is that I don't believe that we as human's can reorder creation. That order is set by our Creator and has spiritual implications that we cannot possibly affect. We have arrived back at my opening description of the Easter Story. Death brings forth life, and in the person of Jesus Christ, that transformation is spiritual and fundemental to our human experience. It is through the work of Christ on the cross and in the grave that our spiritual lives can be reborn (given new life) and our personal world reordered to be in harmony with the Creator. It is through Christ's work not ours (animal rights, veganism, earthday, etc.) that the world is reordered.

Happy Easter!!!!

He has risen!!!!  

 Thanks for thinking with me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Voice for the Voiceless

We want to give a "Voice to the Voiceless" seems to be a common rallying cry for movements great and small. From abortion opponents to death row inmates, from abused women to starving children, and in many other places these words are used to tug at heart strings and elevate the speaker's moral standing. These words are meant to suggest unselfish concern on the part of the speaker for those that cannot defend themselves.

I recently heard this phrase used by self proclaimed animal rights advocates connected to the veal issues in front the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board and started thinking. What are those who use this phrase really saying? How exactly does someone know what the voiceless want said? Where do you go to be appointed as a spokesperson for the "voiceless"?

How can we know what the voiceless want said?

I think of my son, Simon. He is eleven years old and struggles with the challenges presented by Down's Syndrome. Not the least of these challenges is a near total lose of the ability to speak clearly enough to be understood. The only people that seem to understand what he says at all are his mother and sister. Because they have spent endless hours caring for him some level of communication exists. They are experts at piecing together the mix of hand signals, sign language, environmental observations, and what passes for Simon's speech because they have immersed themselves in Simon's world. If you don't immerse yourself in his world you will have NO clue what he is talking about. The way mother and sister give a "voice to the voiceless" is to be an expert in "Simon speak". There is no school for this language. Rosetta Stone won't help. You have to dive in and swim. It is the only way.

So, then I extended that thought to being a "voice for the voiceless" livestock. Animals have no known conversational language with humans that I am aware. Dr. Doolittle was an imaginary person with imaginary skills as best I know. With time and attention, we can learn the signals that livestock give off. Our family dog is an example. He signals when he is hungry, wants to go out, someone is at the door and several other things. There is communication at that level. But I at know time could presume to know what that animal is thinking or even if he is thinking. Without language I simply don't know how to tell what he wants said. I can project my ideas and feelings onto him, but there is no assurance I am correct.

The best we can do in being a "voice for the voiceless" livestock is to be an expert in that particular animal. Rosetta Stone won't help. The Ohio State language department doesn't offer a class. To become such an expert we must immerse ourselves in the animal's world to the extent we can figure out from the signals of the environment, body language, and noises are communicating about the animals. This communication becomes very subjective as it is impossible not to project our human emotions onto these animals. But we simply have no way of knowing, that I am aware of, if these projections are correct. Just like with Simon, we must be immersion experts to have any hope of an idea of what is going on in an animal's head but we will never know for sure if we are right.

After I pondered this for a while it hit me. The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board is a collection of just that sort of experts, and they have reached out to experts around the globe to broaden their experience base even further. If there is anyone in Ohio qualified to claim the title a "Voice for the Voiceless" it would be the members of the Care Board.

Many people and groups have submitted their thoughts and "interpretations" of what the livestock want said. These groups include farmers, academics, animal lovers, pet owners, politicians, and on and on. At the end of it all the Care Board is the one that has been appointed by the people of Ohio to ultimately be that "Voice of the Voiceless". In Ohio, 2,020,851 citizens voted to create the Care Board and, in effect, be the real modern day Dr. Doolittle and talk to the animals.

All of this is not to overlook the fact that the farmers of the State of Ohio are the ones that are immersed in the daily lives of the livestock and as such are the experts in this field. I have full confidence in their accumulated experience to properly interpret what they see and use that communication to care for the animals well.

Just as I must give extra wieght to my wife and daughter when they interpret for Simon because they are the best expert available. It is my hope that the Care Board will give special wieght to the statements from the experienced farmers who have been commenting. Extra wieght, simply, because the farmer is the greatest immersion expert in these matters that is available.

Thank you for your thoughts

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The "Inequality of Consequence"

I have been watching the media coverage of various events lately and I am struck by the recurring pictures of protesters everywhere. Protesters in the middle east. Protesters in the Wisconsin State House. Protesters at the local school board (concerned citizens in larger than normal numbers). And now I hear a rally is being planned by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for the next meeting of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (OLCSB) on May 5, 2011.

We the people
Why have otherwise peaceful places of government suddenly fostered soooo many protest? What should we think of these things? How should government respond?

Let me speak to the one that I have some knowledge of, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.

The voters of Ohio established the board to consider issues surrounding farm animal care in the state of Ohio. The bipartisan board is to look at these issues through multiple lenses. Economics, bio security, animal welfare, and science to name a few. They have made several decisions on issues over the last year and are moving forward methodically toward others. The announced rally by HSUS promises to be the first test of the board's resolve in the face of  opposition. Will the board hold firm to it's announced intent to allow the close confinement of veal calves for a period of time or will it reverse direction in the face of opposition?

As a farmer, I really enjoy the quiet of my rural life where the main rule of peaceful existence is "Mind your own business, and your neighbor probably isn't as big an idiot as it appears as you drive by". I, along with the millions of others that supported the establishment of the board, don't want to have to deal with protesting and rallying. We want to live quiet and peaceful lives at home, with our wives, our children, our land, and our animals. I really don't want the board to start making decisions based on who posts the most comments to a proposed rule, or who can rally the most vocal crowd at a meeting. The board is supposed to me making decisions based on the best available science, experienced reason, and thoughtful comment.

But vocal opposition to governance seems to be the way of the world right now. Is that right? Is that good?

I fully expect the agricultural community to quietly conform to the decisions of the Care Board even if those decisions do great harm and ultimately force decisions that otherwise would not be considered. Will the vocal opposition ultimately conform to the decision of the board? To do so would indicate their acceptance of the idea that the board is looking out for the best interest of the people of Ohio and the care of the animals within it's borders.

In God we trust
Why is there angst in the agricultural community over these decisions?

There appears to be a basic inequality of consequence between the agricultural community and the vocal oppositition to Care Board decisions. What do I mean by an, "inequality of consequence"?  It is the idea that to one community of people a board decision has greatly disproportionate effects than the same decision has for another community.

The agricultural community knows that a bad Board decision can be disastrous to the agricultural community on all levels. Emotionally, socially, financially, and even spiritually a decision hits the agricultural community very deeply. For some there will be no opportunity to "fight again another day". For some a bad Board decision will force them to decide where to live and what to raise. Some will move to new communities, disrupting marriages, families, schools, Churches and all the things that go with being relocated. They and their talents will have been forced out of the agricultural community of their choice, never to return.
The pursuit of happiness

From my view point, a board decision that is upsetting to the vocal opposition is, well, upsetting. They may be mad, frustrated, and disgusted but at the end of the day they can go home to life pretty much as it always has been. A single decision does not change the social fabric of the community they live in. They will not be forced to decide if they want to continue to live and raise their children in the state. It will not put them at financial peril. Their lifestyle will not have been threatened.  It may actually strengthen their resolve and pull their community together. In any event they will be able to "fight again another day". Their talents will not have been lost to their community.
We must earn their trust

I have left several questions unanswered in this short discussion. I hope they propel your thoughts forward.

Thanks you for your attention.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The role of "Food" in your life.

I have been away from posting for a little while because I have been involved in many meetings that have consumed my time. February and March are the "meeting season" for farmers if you are unfamiliar. Seed meetings, crop protection meetings, annual meetings, church meetings, family meetings, business meetings, and so on. But all this time in meetings has given me time to experience people in a new way.

Farm people seem to look at life/food slightly differently than our non-farm counterparts. I admit I have not yet got a good handle on how my non-farm counterparts think but I know it is differently. As a farmer, food is life. Food animates every action of every day.

Farm people know at the bottom of their soul that food can interrupt their day at any time. Just today my facebook "friends" had a lively stream going about doing chores in their formalware and heals. If the cattle get out while you are at church, guess what? If the machine breaks and chores are delayed, guess what? If someone gets sick or delayed, guess what? You may be taking care of food in your formalwear and heals. Life/food just interrupted your day.

Likewise, a farmer knows at the bottom of his soul that food puts money in his bank account and takes it out without warning or asking. It is not uncommon to see the equivilant of a year's worth of college tuition move in and out of my bank account from a change in the weather on a foriegn continent. If the weather is "good" and prices are favorable, guess what? If the weather is bad or prices are troubled, guess what. Life/food just interrupted your day.

The same can be said for disease outbreaks. A crop can be wiped out by a single disease. A herd distroyed by a single outbreak. These events are always lurking in the back of a farmer's mind, reminding him/her that life/food can inturrupt your day at anytime.

As a consequence, when I sit down at a meal, there is a small voice in the back of my head that gives thanks to a force far bigger than I am for my provision. It is this voice that I am unsure my non-farm counterparts hear.

I read the mommy and the foodie blogs. I watch the cooking channels. I don't hear the constant undercurrent of wonder that there is food to eat being expressed. People seem to assume that there will be food. Food in all manner of variety and abundance, abounding food choices, affordable food, food, food, food, everywhere. My counterparts seem to look at food and see arts and crafts (presentation), chemistry class (new recipes), sensual experiences (flavor and color), medicine (health food), entertainment (party food) and at some level nutrition. I don't get the sense that my counterparts are looking at food and seeing there life and financial welfare passing before their eyes.

I am not sure my writing skills have allowed me to capture all that I am saying in this post. I see a fundamental difference in how the two communities think about food. I am just not sure I can put my finger on it yet. I do know that as a consequence the two communities can come to some very different understandings of what, how, and why food should be produced. Can you help me put my finger on this better difference better? If you are a non-farmer how do you think about food? What role does it play in your life? I would love to hear from you.

I appreciate your thought.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is this "Sustainable"?

I recently was exposed to this chart during a presentation by Niel Dierks of the National Pork Producers Council. The ramifications are quite challenging to me as I discuss my Christian worldview in this blog.

What would I say if this were a chart of the number of bacteria in a bottle of wine. I would say without hesitation that this kind of growth can not go on, it is "unsustainable". Eventually, the bacteria will use up all the available nutrients and the population will crash. Hopefully, for the person drinking the wine, this crash will be all the way back to zero.

If this were a chart of the price of shoes for my wife, I would say very quickly, that this price rise cannot go on. At some point, purchasers just can not be found and the price of the shoes will decline. I would say that this price activity is "unsustainable".

But this isn't a chart of bacteria, or shoe prices. This is a chart of the number of people in the world!

If I conclude that this kind of growth is "unsustainable" I am faced with a challenge. The chart simply screams at me that there is an unavoidable disaster headed straight at us. The environmental and population control movements are motivated by the undeniability of this chart. Somehow, the number of people in the world is going to be limited by the availability of resources (food, fuel, shelter, etc) or human actions (population control, war, or whatever).

How is a Christian worldview to look at this?

I don't want the people of the earth to suffer the same fate as the wine bacteria but I abhor war and population control as solutions since I believe both offend God.

I suppose the first thing I recognize when confronted with the inevitable panic induced by this chart is that from my Christian perspective the world's resources aren't limited. Since I believe that the earth was created by God from absolutely nothing and that God is still closely involved in man's lives, He is perfectly capable of providing for all of my needs. Indeed, He has demonstrated this ability many times, and often will allow us to get ourselves into rediculous positions just to see if we are willing to depend on Him for provision. The Isrealites wondering around in the wilderness, surviving on manna, are a classic example. (Genesis chapter 16). That is not to say we should use resources carelessly, quite the opposite is true, but that we need to recognize what the chart does not. There are more resources available to the human condition than just those we can harvest from the earth.

The second recognition of my Christian heart to this chart is the future. I believe there is an end to this earth and in many ways it is dreadful and unpretty. The biblical book of Revelation is hard to understand but even a simple hog farmer like me can see that it is talking about a world in chaos, disaster, and dreadful death and despair. The bright light through it all is the promise of a new Heaven and a New Earth to those who believe and endure. There are many understandings of all the events in Revelation, but the picture of chaos followed by Christ restoring order by bringing new resources to the situation is undeniable.

So I see this chart as a call to stewdship of resources with a levelheaded recognition of an impending end. We need to be prepared for the end personally, spiritually. This chart is a call to repentance and dependence on God. It is not a call to desperation and panic.

Thanks for your thoughtfulness.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Who Leads on Animal Rights?

A facebook friend recently ask a question that I find interesting on several levels. A portion of the question was something to the effect of, "Why aren't Christians leading the fight for Animal Rights?"

In order to side step the whole question of, "Who is a Christian?"  I would like to replace "Christian" with "People with a Judeo Christian Worldview". I have detailed in other blog posts my thoughts about what a Judeo Christian Worldview is so I will not repeat it here. I will simply say that to give animals "rights" in the sense that humans have "rights" from the Creator is to step outside of the Judeo Christian Worldview as I understand it.

I would rather focus on the interesting topic of "leadership".

Leadership of  a movement requires "followers". In order to have "followers" it is necessary to be trustworthy. If people do not trust someone they will not follow them very long. If a leader loses the trust of his/her followers the ability to lead disappears into thin air. So to lose "trust" is to lose "leadership".

Let's take these ideas and look at the "animal rights" movement. Traditionally, animals have been cared for by individuals called "farmers". "Farmers" were down to earth people that society "trusted" to take care of animals. Over time farmers have developed larger and larger organizations, as a response to market economics, that look and act much like corporations. Indeed, these organizations are quite frankly corporations, albeit they are many times owned solely by one farmer and his family.

Corporations have a reputation of being driven by money for the benefit of their investors. Traditionally, corporations have not enjoyed anything like the level of trust that "farmers" have had. It is just hard to get your mind around the idea that a corporation can be as caring and nurturing as a farmer. Again, quite frankly, corporations have done many things to earn this reputation. They try very hard to earn your trust and be trustworthy, but they just aren't as comfortable as someone with skin on.

Somewhere in this growth toward a corporate structure there is a "tipping point" in our willingness to extend trust to the farmer and concerns for the animals begin to boil up.When the "tipping point of trust" is discovered farmers lose their ability to lead issues related to animal care. Exactly where this tipping point is varies for each person based on a whole host of things I suppose. But it certainly seems to exist.

Now bring into the thought that there are people who long ago reached their tipping point and are motivated to move that point in their direction and you will begin to see the modern "animal rights" movement. You will see a group of people organized, surprisingly, as a corporation, dedicated to moving this tipping point of trust in their direction. To this end every opportunity is taken to show that farmers are not trustworthy. Every misstep is highlighted. Every emotion manipulated. No stone is left unturned in an effort to break the bond of trust between the farmer and the consumer in a desire to move the tipping point.

Farmers are starting to realise the need to pull back on the tipping point by giving consumers more reasons for trust. They are responding in multiple ways through social media, traditional media, increased transparency, inspections, and even legal rule making. All in an effort to pull the tipping point of trust in their direction.

Just some more to think about.

Thank you for your thought.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oprah's Vegan Week is about Food

So, the news today is, Oprah (and her staff) are going "vegan" for a week. I wonder how deeply she has thought about and researched this lifestyle? What are the thoughts/beliefs that this lifestyle is built upon? Many of the posts on this "blog sight" try to deal with this very issue. I would encourage any reader, especially, Oprah (and her staff) to spend their "vegan week" thinking about some of these posts. The foundations of "veganism" lead to a very disappointing and sad end to the human soul.

I want to discuss a claim that, "In America 1% (+/-) of the people feed everyone else plus a bunch of the rest of the world." The thought first came to me Sunday as I listened to the pastor's sermon. The text was Christ's discussion of the church being a vine and how God maintains that vine (the gospel of John chapter 15). My thought may or may not be related to the text.

John 15 (New International Version, ©2011)

John 15

The Vine and the Branches
 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.    5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
   9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.


My thought is that the 1% are being a little arrogant and short sighted in their claim. We in agriculture couldn't do what we do without the other 99% doing what they do. We are all dependent on each other as a society for food, fiber, and energy.

Don't we all have one very basic need in common? Food. The most basic question each of us asks, at some level, everyday is, "What is there to eat". Throughout history the strength of a society has always been determined by how well they could answer that question. Society says, "We must have food before we can do anything else." If everyone must spend all day, every day, trying to get food there is no time for education, science, philosophy, art, construction, etc.. Think of the TV show "survivor", or a PBS show about the adventurers (Doner, Greeley, Pilgrims, Jamestown, pioneers, etc.). The first job is "Find Food". The history of war usually pivots on this issue. The medieval siege was about food. Napoleon in Russia was about food. The battle for the Atlantic was about food. The Berlin airlift was about food.

In the U.S. we are blessed with a societal system that has been able to "free" enormous numbers of people from the task of "Find food" to do other things. Some, I would argue, all, of these things contribute to the production and availability of still more food. I can not think of a job field that does not impact agriculture. Manufacturing is absolutely essential for the machines. Petroleum is essential for energy, fertilizer, and chemicals. Electronics power everything. The list is endless and I can't begin to realise the connections.

The point is that we, every American, should be, and can be, involved in the answer to society's most basic question, "What is there to eat?" because we are all part of the same vine.

I am of course overlooking that part of the sermon that deals with those parts of the vine that are not helping. That would be another point for Oprah (and her staff) to ponder.

Thank you for your thought.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Non-Christian Creed

Can't follow my Christian worldview? Here is a very bright man's attempt to follow a non-christian worldview. Borrowed from a friend:

Here is a satirical poem on modern, humanist/naturalist thinking written by Steve Turner, an English journalist.  This poem called, "Creed" is quoted in it’s entirety in Ravi Zacharais’ book, Can Man Live Without God?  I included the full text of it here.  Enjoy...
We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don't hurt anyone,
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.
We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy is OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.
We believe that everything is getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.
We believe there's something in
horoscopes, UFO's and bent spoons;
Jesus was a good man
just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher
although we think His good morals were bad.
We believe that all religions are basically the same--
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of
creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.
We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
then it's compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Khan.
We believe in Masters and Johnson.
What's selected is average.
What's average is normal.
What's normal is good.
We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors
and the Russians would be sure to follow.
We believe that man is essentially good.
It's only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.
We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.
We believe in the rejection of creeds,
and the flowering of individual thought.

"Chance" a post-script
If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
and when you hear
State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!
It is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.

For further mental stimulation and spiritual reflection I included three quotes from Ravi Zacharias.  These are listed on the website:
"There can be no reproach to pain unless we assume human dignity, there is no reason for restraints on pleasure unless we assume human worth, there is no legitimacy to monotony unless we assume a greater purpose to life, there is no purpose to life unless we assume design, death has no significance unless we seek what is everlasting."
— Ravi Zacharias
"I thank the Lord that, even though things were so wrong in my life here, I finally was brought to the realization of what all those struggles were about. There are some wonderful things from your painful past, things with a beauty you may not have realized at the time."
— Ravi Zacharias (Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows)
"Capturing the beauty of the conversion of the water into wine, the poet Alexander Pope said, "The conscious water saw its Master and blushed." That sublime description could be reworked to explain each one of these miracles. Was it any different in principle for a broken body to mend at the command of its Maker? Was it far-fetched for the Creator of the universe, who fashioned matter out of nothing, to multiply bread for the crowd? Was it not within the power of the One who called all the molecules into existence to interlock them that they might bear His footsteps?"
— Ravi Zacharias (Jesus Among Other Gods The Absolute Claims Of The Christian Message)

Just some more to think about.

Veganism: the moral thing to do?

People fascinate me. How they think. How they make decisions. It all intrigues me.

So I read blogs, news articles, and books. Just watching what people say and wondering why they say it.

In the world of "Animal Rights, Veganism, etc." these things can get quite interesting.

I have a Facebook "Friend" that recently was defending veganism by saying, "It is an individual's choice, you can choose what you want, but for me, veganism is the only morally and ethically reasonable choice." That statement seems fine until you think about it.

If veganism is a moral choice then isn't there one answer that would be proper for everyone? Isn't morality about doing what is right in the eyes of God? How could eating meat be morally right for one person and wrong for the next in the eyes of God. Does He play favorites? If my killing and eating one of the beautiful animals He created is morally o.k. then why not for you? The great Philosopher and thinker C.S. Lewis described morality like this....

The basic problem is that if we get to chose our morality then we each are our own God. If we are all gods then there is no Singular God. How sad is that?

Ethics then is what we should do based on morality. If we cannot come up with a basic morality why even worry about ethics? If we get to choose our own morality we surely get to do whatever we want.

So, as I see it, veganism is not an individual moral ethical choice. When it is pushed forward by statements that link it to morality it now becomes a religious movement that needs to questioned. What is the god that is being worshiped by veganism?

I recently was told by Wayne Pacelle, head of HSUS (the nation's leading animal rights organization), that animal agriculture is a "noble profession". At the same time he stated that his organization was working to "fundementally change people's relationship to animals" and actively promotes veganism. In my humble opinion there is only one person who can "fundamentally change" man's relationship to animals. That would be the God that created both. The God of Christianity. Until He changes that relationship, man has a stewardship responsibility toward the animals. To claim that we can change that relationship ourselves is to lift ourselves up.

 Now how does this idea of a noble profession work?

 If animal agriculture is a noble profession why does it need to be funementally changed. If fundemental change is needed then someone has been seriously mistaken for a very long time. That doesn't sound like a "noble" situation. That sounds like someone saying you have been wrong and I intend to correct you because my morality trumps yours.

That doesn't sound like veganism being a moral choice we each make. That sounds like a new morality stomping on the old. If you want to promote veganism on the strength of your morals then you need to realise you are saying to everyone else that they are immoral. You are not saying they are "noble".

Here is a link to a blog that explains, "Why I am a vegan". I would ask you to use your high school literature training as you read this article and ask yourself some questions. What is the author's view of non-vegan's? What is the author's view of economics? What is the author's view of people that think differently? What is the author's view of the world? You get the idea.

Just more to think about.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Power of a Simple Thing

It is interesting to me to see the power of a simple thing.

Consider the proposed rules for the care of swine being considered by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. Specifically, 901:12-8-02 C2 which says that in outside housing "wallows are allowed for thermo-regulating". I am on the subcommittee that passed this language on to the full board so I have to take some of the credit/blame for this wording.

Let's think about this for a minute. The Care Board is in effect saying, "O.K. Mr. farmer person, if you house your pigs outside you may allow them to dig a hog wallow to cool themselves in the summer or warm themselves in the winter." Like any farmer person could stop a hog from doing that!

But wait. A farmer person can stop a hog from digging a wallow.

It is called a cement truck and a fence (concrete lot).

Now a whole chain of events has just started. Along with the concrete lot comes a building for shelter and something to provide water. Then some form of bedding will be needed to keep the animal comfortable. With the bedding comes a manure spreader and lice and mange. Bedding and manure spreaders mean only one thing to a farmer, work. So the building gets fancier and and more expensive with the addition of slotted floors, cooling fans, heaters, misters, etc.. Would you be surprised to learn farmers are always looking for an easier way?

Somewhere along the way the farmer realises that the pigs are healthier in these buildings. All the nasty recurring diseases that live in hog wallows have disappeared and the medicine bill has gone way down. So the farmer person says to himself, "You know what? I don't miss those hog wallows and all the work and sickness."

Here is a short video to illustrate what the farmer figured out:

 Because the buildings are expensive they have to be operated to capacity to generate income to pay for the building. Since the building likely required debt to finance it, the banker wants to know that this income is secure. So the farmer contracts with suppliers and end users to create a stable economic flow. Having created a stable economic flow (reduced risk) the farmer pretty soon figures out that if he wants to make some additional income for the family to have nice things he simply needs to build more barns.

See how this one simple thing, a hog wallow, has the power to turn an industry? If the Care Board were to ban the hog wallow, a fairly straight line exists to where the industry is today. Pigs inside, cared for by farmers, on contract to end users, in ever larger organizational structures.

If you allow hog wallows, will the industry start housing pigs outside again?

Something to think about.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I can't treat a dog like that!

My daughter got a dog this summer. That is nothing terribly important in itself. A farm girl graduates from college, moves into a house with a big fenced-in back yard in the country on a state highway, and gets a dog. No news in this story yet.

The dog is a very friendly, playful, blue tic pointer kind of mix that loves to ride in cars/trucks. The downside has been that the dog can jump out of the fenced in backyard. So Dad (that is me) built a pen with higher fences and the dog jumped out of that. So, to keep the dog and the driving public on the state highway safe we were forced to tie the dog to a chain while my daughter was at work. We didn't like it. The dog didn't like it. And apparently, the dog warden didn't like it.

You see the dog pulled his tie-out stake out of the ground, so we had to tie him to the only thing handy that he couldn't pull, a tree. It all worked pretty well while we searched for an affordable pen solution for the jumpy dog, until it rained. That is when the dog warden leapt into action. Apparently, a tree, even a big tree, isn't proper shelter for a dog in a 1/4" rain shower in the late summer. To be fair to the warden, he just gave my daughter a warning, telling her the dog needed a dog house but the point was made. In the eyes of the State of Ohio a dog can not be left outside in the rain. That would be cruel. So the dog now has a house that it won't go in, sitting next to a large tree that can't be moved. We have since fashioned a pen in the garage that has worked very nicely to keep the dog out of the rain, sun, fresh air, local traffic, and the view of he warden. Everyone is happy, accept maybe the dog.

None of this story has any value until you combine it with this piece of information from the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board recommended standards for swine (901:12-8-02 C) which says that all a pig needs for proper outdoor housing is: a tree, a wallow, and some bedding. You don't see the irony yet?

Animal rights activist argue (and consumer surveys agree) that farm animals should be cared for the same as pets. So why is it wrong to have a dog outside in the fresh air and sunshine and rain, but perfectly fine to turn a pig out with just a tree, a mud hole, and some bedding? Or to say it another way, "If the humane thing to do is bring my dog inside where he can't run and jump and enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and rain. Then why shouldn't I be required to bring my pigs inside. Even though bringing them in denies them the ability to do what pigs do, lie in the mud, enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and rain?"

As a pig farmer I have done just what the animal rights activists seem to be saying, " I treat my pigs very much like pets." They are inside where they are safe and cared for and not exposed to the harshness of the outdoors. There are certain tradeoffs made to do this but the net result is a very well cared for pig.

The tradeoff that seems to bother people is that, inside, the pig may be housed in an individual pen that prevents it from turning around. The justification for this goes back to the nature of the pig. Just as dogs will establish a "pack" when first mixed together, pigs will fight to establish a social order. These fights can get quite rough and dangerous to the animals and there caretakers. So the solution that developed was to confine the animals individually and stop the possiblity of a fight. This would be the equivilent of not housing two dogs in the same room if you know they will fight. It actually is common sense.

Likewise, the pig is prevented from turning around for the very practical reason that it prevents the pig from filling its eating area with manure. Isn't it reasonable to expect that an animal have a clean place to eat from? I don't feed my dog in a filthy dish. Do you? So the whole arrangement is arrived at by reasonable people making trade offs for the best interest of the pig and the caretakers. I admit it is offensive to our sense of how things ought to be at first but when understood it becomes a necessary trade off. We are not offended by restricting our pets natural abilities for their own good or our convenience. Should farm animals be treated any worse?

It is something to think about.