The Integrity of Humane Care

Connecting Gate to Plate Blog

The Integrity of Humane Care

Farmers care for animals as babysitters care for childrenImagine this; you hire a babysitter to come into your home and care for your children.  Two weeks after the seemingly qualified babysitter was in your home, you find videos posted on YouTube, your family’s name smeared across newspaper headlines and people glaring at you as you walk down the street.  The video’s content? You – spanking your child in an act of discipline.  Would you feel as though your privacy had been intruded upon just because the babysitter didn’t agree with your method of punishment (and had never discussed this with you)?  Would secretly video taping be seen as an act of integrity? Likely not.

Hidden video taping on a farm is no different. A farmer’s feelings about being portrayed as “abusing” animals are the same as what you’d feel if a babysitter videotaped you “abusing” a child with a hidden camera in a pen in the spanking scenario.  Both are an invasion of privacy, neither are an appropriate response and both reek of sensationalism.

Should a farm operate as a business with the expectation that all people caring for animals conduct themselves with integrity? Yes! Do animals deserve to be treated with respect for the sacrifice they make to provide us with food?  Absolutely.

As a pork chop producing mom in Missouri says “On our farm, animal care is our top priority.  For generations, our family has raised hogs with integrity while always seeking ways to improve the quality of care to our hogs. Thanks to modern technology, we can protect our hogs from diseases, injury, predator attacks and the harsh elements of the weather. We have a zero tolerance for neglect or abuse on our farm. We do not condone the behavior of bad actors. Overwhelmingly, the majority of farmers care for their livestock with the same integrity as our family farm does. We know healthy animals produce healthy food and we eat the same food as you do.” Hear more from Chris Chinn – and see a legitimately-produced video of a swine farm.

Farm speaker talks animal care

I've learned incredible lessons from cows, celebrated life's greatest wins with them, cried many tears when they suffered - and am grateful for the food they provide.

Just like vigorously and repeatedly smacking a small child on the back when he is choking might look like abuse if you aren’t aware of the situation, some things that may look like abuse on a farm are actually done in the animal’s best interest.  For example, one of my cows went “down” this summer – on a lovely green pasture. It’s a bad situation when there’s 1500 pounds of cow that can’t stand on her own and the temperature was over 90.   As I waited for help, I kept her heart going by beating on her chest (and it takes a pretty good thump to make an impact on that size of animal) and kept her alert with slaps to her face.  In the back of my mind I worried, what if someone was driving by and saw me?  Would they think I was abusing her? Probably. No matter how compassionately you treat a farm animal in distress – it’s not pretty. However,  I knew I had to do what was right to care for my animal and I’m happy to say she survived.

Farmers are deeply committed to the animals in our care. If our animal is in distress, we will spring into action to help. Please keep this in mind next time someone shows a new “shocking video” about the treatment of animals on farms. Remember that videos are produced by groups whose integrity is questionable, at best. Case in point, the Humane Society of the United States, with 50% of their costs going to fundraising, paying lobbyists and overhead costs according to Animal People News (an animal rights newspaper). HSUS campaigns on puppies and kittens, yet they spend more money on executive salaries and their $11 million corporate pension plan than local shelters. My guess is that they’re likely using a great deal of that money in producing the next farm animal video, in the hopes that it will help them with their membership woes.

I have loved animals for a lifetime – I understand how tough it is to see the nasty videos of animals in terrible situations, but hope you might consider the integrity at stake here. I’m not claiming every farm is perfect; I’m simply pointing out that that an agenda-driven group who violates private property, biosecurity, food safety and employee protocol (by not immediately reporting abuse) deserves to be questioned. After all, how would you feel if a secret video was shot of your family by a group with questionable track record that disagreed with your activity and it ended up on the news? Isn’t it time we stop overlooking the lack of integrity?

Does HSUS have integrity?

Consider the true integrity of farm animal care - talk to a farmer!

Additional background on hypocrisy of animal rights groups:
Cute Kittens, Playful Puppies & HSUS Lies
NAIA fact sheet on HSUS
SPCA Official’s Dog Left in Car Dies
HSUS’s Wasteful Spending Puts Them on Charity Watchdog List
A Note to HSUS: Genuinely Grassroots


  1. Eddie Miller on December 16, 2010 at 4:16 am

    This debate bothers me, and I don’t think you should be harping on it so hard. It is a person’s right to know where their food comes from!

    • Michele Payn-Knoper on December 16, 2010 at 2:48 pm

      Hi Eddie. I agree that people have a right to know where their food comes from, which is why I encourage EVERYONE to go visit a farm. My point is that sensationalized videos that are invasion of privacy by a not-for-profit that has questionable integrity do not accurately depict farms. An honest representation is one thing, but I believe it’s time for non-farmers to question what they’re seeing. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Twilya on December 17, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Eddie, you should know where your food comes from and I invite you to our farm anytime. Just because you see it on TV or the web does not mean you are seeing the truth. Technology can be very deceiving. I have watched many of the “Truth telling” documentaries like Food Inc. and you are not being told the whole truth. My husband and his brother are just every day farmers out there giving the world their best – every day. We are not rich, nor will we ever be, but we realize how important our role is in life is to you and that is not taken lightly. Come anytime. I only ask you come with your questions, work boots and an open mind. Come anytime.

  3. Rob on December 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    I can see both sides of this argument, but let’s stay on the theme of integrity, and turn the focus back to the consumer.
    My sense is that many people will react just as strongly to the living conditions depicted in this latest HSUS video as they will to the distinct actions of animal abuse, and declare that gestation crates out to be outlawed. Then they’ll head off to a fast food restaurant for a McRib or out to the grocery store for a cheap pound of bacon, never giving it a second thought.
    I often wonder if the farming community should simply respond to these type of criticisms with the response, “This is what cheap, vertically-integrated food production looks like. If you want something different, put your money where your mouth is — not by joining a group like HSUS or PETA — by seeking out and paying for food produced the way you think it ought to be. Agriculture is a diverse industry, and farmers are responsive, innovative people who produce food to the very best of their abilities given the dictates of the marketplace. At the end of the day, you vote for the type of food system you want to see every time you eat.”
    The vast majority of farmers will do the very best they can for their animals, but in a country where most of the food is sold under the law of the lowest price, it’s not always going to be pretty. If people want pretty, they need to have the responsibility and integrity to create and support that market, and farmers will gladly respond to meet that demand.

  4. Emily on December 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for this post Michele,
    But I would change your analogy a bit. I would say, it is more like you hire two babysitters to care for your large family. You train both of them and entrust them to care for your children. While you are gone, one of the new babysitters abuses one of your children. Instead of reporting to you, the other babysitter video tapes it. Then holds onto the tape until they can release it so that it makes you look like the child abuser. In most of these undercover videos it is an employee not the owners. The owners are just as shocked to know this is going on and no one reported it to them so they could fix the problem.
    NOT reporting abuse is just as offensive as the abuse.

    • Michele Payn-Knoper on December 17, 2010 at 6:07 pm

      Excellent example, Emily.

  5. Lindsey K on March 9, 2011 at 5:23 am

    I agree with a lot of what you said in this blog. It is really frustrating when consumers are so quick to take information off the web at face value, and never dig deeper. As long as someone sounds convincing and seems to know a little in regard to what they are talking about, it’s good enough for them. Consumers say that they are interested in knowing where their food comes from, but if that’s the case, why not go directly to the source? The farm! Instead they follow celebrity trends of eating only protein one day, raw foods the next and then eventually going vegan and never knowing why. It’s because everyone loves a shocking story or video that they can become enraged about and boycott a company or a product. Yet they never consider the authenticity of the video or the people who may be affected by it. That’s why I appreciate you questioning the integrity of the people who create these videos. It always seems that the videos of animal cruelty are from hidden cameras or an inside source with no actual merit behind it. While they are trying to catch the industry “in the act” so to speak, they are violating people’s privacy, property, biosecurity and food safety, like you said. But they never get reprimanded for it. Instead, the majority of consumers will watch and believe a video on the horrors of factory farming, rather than calling up a local farm and seeing for themselves what’s behind the barn doors. The reason why sensationalism works is that animals have always been depicted as these furry little creatures with feelings that we spent hours playing with at petting zoos and singing about on Old MacDonald’s farm. These activists have the ability to pull at our heart-strings with the depressing imagery of a dark and dirty barn with overcrowded cages of debeaked chickens, calves being ripped away from their mothers after birth and pigs with docked tails not having any room to turn around. Rather than actually describing these practices and why they are used, they use words like abuse and mutilation. Or when it comes to videos of employees acting badly, how do these activists know if this behavior is accepted by the company or if they are just actions of an amoral employee that no one has reported? I can guarantee that animal cruelty is not written into the company mission statement. Instead, they could show the owners or managers these videos and allow them to take the necessary actions in firing these people and strengthening their company’s goals and values. They criticize companies for being inadequate when it comes to animal care, but then they don’t give them a chance to improve before humiliating them on the internet. I don’t even think it’s about caring for the animals sometimes. I just think activists want to tear down the agriculture industry. If they truly cared, they would come up with suggestions and work hand-in-hand with the famers to improve the conditions. I feel like what they don’t understand is that treating animals poorly is not in the interest of the farmers. They care for their animals and understand that a healthy, happy animal is a more productive animal. Keeping animals inside in crates and cages is not cruel, it is done to keep the animals out of the elements, protected and to ensure they get proper rations of food and water rather than having to compete for it. Animals are what provide us with food and keep our diets healthy and full of nutrients, and we owe them the highest standard of care. While the farming industry is not always perfect, they deserve a chance to speak out and defend themselves against malicious activists just trying to get a deliberate reaction.

  6. A Dirty Dozen, Agvocacy in Action on August 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    […] The Integrity of Humane Care How would you feel if your family was  video taped in secrecy in your own home? MPK shares the feelings of farmers in this situation with animal rights videos.  She questions the integrity of an agenda-driven group producing videos while disregarding private property, biosecurity, food safety and employee protocol. […]

  7. Bea Elliott on March 11, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I just find this line of rationalization so very awkward “animals deserve to be treated with respect for the sacrifice they make to provide us with food”. Really? You believe the animals are “sacrificing” themselves to the kill floor? That they are willingly “providing” us with their bodies to be consumed? And “respect”? Ah — But of course in order to feel good about the violence that is done to them you must convince yourself that a living being can be “respected” while her life is snuffed out. That’s the reason you use the language that you do. It’s disingenuous. Most critical thinkers will, can and do see right through it.

    It would be quite different if there were no other options… If it was necessary for man to eat other animals – But certainly we know by now that we can thrive on a plant based diet. This makes your word-bending-justifications all the more troubling.

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