In case you missed it, vegan dietitian Ryan Andrews posted a blog entry last week about his recent visit to a feedlot. Ryan was given a personal tour of the facility which employs between 8 and 13 employees to care for 22,000 steers and heifers.
The write-up of his experience was so positive that it has been linked to by Beef Daily, Advocates for Agriculture, Cattle Network, the Center for Consumer Freedom, and dozens of other individuals and organizations who stand firmly against animal rights and welfare. It’s even been reprinted in the discussion forum of trapperman.com –a site devoted to trapping of fur animals.
A few days ago, Ryan posted a public response to the many emails he’s been receiving—positive comments from the agriculture people and negative ones from animal advocates. In responding, he backpedaled a little bit, acknowledging that as an invited and expected guest, what he saw may not actually reflect usual conditions in feedlots. He also shared some resources that make a strong case for veganism.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the article makes this outrageous claim: “From a profit standpoint, if animals aren’t comfortable, they aren’t going to eat. If they don’t eat, they don’t grow. If they don’t grow, they won’t be much use to the dude wanting to buy a big steak.”
Since all farmed animals must eat in order to produce, what Ryan is essentially saying is that all factory farmed animals–including hens in battery cages and veal calves in crates–are “comfortable.”
But, although he insists that he did not write the article to undermine the work of animal advocates, the feedlot article does just that. The fact that it has been so widely embraced by the animal agriculture community makes that clear. And curiously, despite this proof that the article is viewed as overwhelmingly supportive of animal agriculture, it hasn’t been removed from the website.
Several knowledgeable responses to the article provide some important and helpful perspective. I recommend reading Tracy Habenicht’s post on her Digging Through the Dirt blog (which is where I first heard about the feedlot article) and Erik Marcus’ response on Vegan.com.
I also found this excellent analysis of both the language and facts in Ryan’s article from blogger Joshua Stark, who is not a vegan. (Be sure to read the comments on both Tracy’s and Joshua’s posts, too.)