There is a lady involved with the beef industry that is very willing to share her opinions on all sorts of social issues. A while back she pretty much stated that we men needed to grow a pair and start acting like men. So I will, and the first thing I will say is that’s no way for a lady to talk, but it sure did get me to thinking about things.
Her statement caused my mind to ask myself this question. Am I a hypocrite? That is a tough one because it will make you really get honest with yourself (unless of course, you’re a hypocrite to yourself about your own honesty to yourself).
I have many strong opinions about what I feel is right and talk about being right, but do I live them? I actually feel pretty good about most of what I do and feel like I am honest with you and myself.
In thinking all this over, it caused me to create some thoughts that may be helpful for you to think about.
What is my purpose in life and am I fulfilling that purpose? I feel real private about a lot of things, but like to share my opinions with others.
I don’t really know what my purpose in life is. I have not got that one figured out just yet. I do know that so far my job for lot in life has been the training and care of animals that are involved in food for humans and horses that used for pleasure or in the production of animals.
I am real happy about that. I don’t know why but I have always had a compassion for animals. I have always had some kind of a dog in my life, and for some reason dogs seem to enjoy being around me. I like that. I am fascinated with cats. They are a very hard animal to figure out. Some cats really like being around me, but some want nothing to do with me. I want to get to a point that all cats like to be around me.
Some people would think of me as a hypocrite because I say I care about animals, but I eat them (I don’t eat dogs or cats, I hope …) or am not against rodeo. Other people would say I am a hypocrite because I am not sure ranch rodeo is a positive thing for the beef industry and the natural horsemanship movement has not been the best thing for the horse.
I am not saying these things to offend anyone, but simply giving my take on things from the way I see it. People can do whatever they want to do in our society. If it is against the law and if they are caught they will be punished in some way. All I am doing is voicing my opinion on what I think will create improvements.
That may be my purpose in life. My wife and I have purchased many places in our 25 years of marriage. I am proud to say we have improved each place considerably in the time we owned them. I have thrown my leg over lots of different horses in the last 50 years and hopefully I have made improvements to most of them. In the last 20 years or so I have hopefully made improvements in the way people communicate with animals and other people. Yep, I know “improvements” is my purpose in life.
Lets get back to the animal subjects …
How can I say I care about animals but still kill them for food?
To be honest I never even thought about this for a big part of life. I have been in the cycle of life and have seen nature’s harshness with death from predators or old age and have seen how slow, painful, and inhumane this process can be. Growing up with a grandfather that was a butcher, helping him slaughter since I could go with him, and seeing how much more effective he was at a quick and fearless death than nature, it never even entered my mind that what we were doing was wrong. We had cared for the animals, provided them with shelter and feed, which was our purpose in the deal and in turn, they did the same for us. We gave them a good quality of life, better than what they would have had if we were not involved, and in return they gave us a better quality of life in the form of food and shelter just as we provided for them.
Animals either don’t know what death is and aren’t afraid of it. If they did or were they would act very differently before they are harvested. They would not walk calmly up the chute to their death. Animals do have fear and to me we need to handle the animal in a way that keeps it from being afraid as much as possible.
Agricultural animals can take incredible amounts of discomfort. They can survive at extremely cold temperatures, have broken bones or body parts cut off and in a very short time get back to normal behavior. The worst thing that I see for animals is fear. I don’t think the pain of branding or castrating is inhumane to animals, but the fear it creates probably is. This is why it is important to be very effective a doing these processes. To brand an beef animal with a hot iron, it should take less than thirty seconds and be done. If it must be done do it properly and quickly then get the animal back to the herd to feel safe.
When a predator attacks the fear is extreme and can last a long time. If I raise the animal in a way that reduces stress, increases quality of life, and ends the life quickly and with the least fear and pain possible, while keeping natures natural cycle in harmony, I don’t feel I am being a hypocrite, but a true animal activist.
I used to rodeo and rode bucking horses and bulls. I really miss having the physical skill to ride bareback horses. I don’t miss riding bulls, it probably ranks up there with the dumbest things I have ever done. If I care about animals how could I do that? Most guys that ride bucking horses have the utmost respect for the horse, and have a lot of feel for the way a horse is handled and treated.
The way I see it, the bucking horse has the highest quality of life of all horses I have seen, including the wild horse. Most performance and pleasure horses get to much nutrition and not enough exercise. Many are kept in small enclosures and are in small numbers so the natural social order does not happen. Many trained horses are constantly being put under pressure to perform under high pressure training regimens and some get no exercise at all with little to no social interaction because of the human taking such good care of them, as if they were a human.
If you study the life of most bucking horses, they are raised in a herd, with lots of room to roam, get a pretty good balance of nutrition, and don’t have to work or be stressed for long periods of time like pleasure and performance horses. When they are learning to be performing bucking horses, they can have quite a bit of stress until they learn how to work in the system. The quicker they learn the easier it gets, so it is important to train them to the system.
Many of the problems that show up in performance and pleasure horses, such as soundness, disease and stress induced vices, are very rarely found in bucking horses. They live and perform longer as well. To me this is fact that the bucking horse has the best quality of life in the horse world. There may be more risk of injury because of the extreme energy they put out for 30 or 40 seconds, but this is actually what keeps them healthy, the short periods of high stress is exactly what nature does to keep an animal aware of danger, and healthy enough to do something about it.
As I look at rodeo, it appears to me that folks don’t see the big picture. Would I be a hypocrite if I justified tie-down roping? I don’t know if I can justify it and am not trying to, but I will give some observations. If we break roping and tying a calf down into its component parts it makes it easier to analyze. The horse and rider chasing the calf create fear so the calf runs. It is proven that an animal has one main thought at a time, so if the calf is running, that is a natural thing for calves to do, and as long as it is not for to long of a period of time it does not over stress the animal. If it is caught, this is the only time in the run when pain is really involved. The horse stops, the calf keeps running and he is stopped by the rope. It used to be the calf was jerked over backwards because of the sudden stop, but calf ropers have learned to not jerk them hard to keep them on their feet to get a faster time.
If you watch a bunch of cows and calves together, and a new calf that is only hours old try to suck the wrong cow they get butted or kicked real hard, and it does not hardly phase them. Calves take way more punishment from other cows than they do from the sudden stop of the rope.
The next thing that happens is the cowboy runs down the rope. This creates fear in the calf and it again thinks about and tries to run away. After the roper gets a hold of the calf, he flanks him down. To be honest this is when the cruelty can happen. If he is flanked real high and hard, it could knock the air out or stun the calf. When a calf or any fleeing animal is on its side and restrained they will struggle briefly and then usually give up and lay quiet.
Mother Nature has created this. When a prey animal is caught they struggle for a while then give up and go somewhere else with the mind. This is the way animals deal with the fear of attack. You can see this in a tie down roping run. If the roper flanks smooth, strings the front foot quickly, then scoops the hind legs low and firm the calf does not have time to struggle. When the roper gets of the calf the may struggle a couple of times then lay quiet until untied. Many times after the run the calf almost walks or trots off in a better state than when he started.
All this takes from 7 to 30 seconds. Now there are some things we could do to minimize the jerk of the rope like a calf collar to reduce the ropes pressure on the neck. That may help but I have to remember that the calk takes more abuse from its own mother or other cows. If the horse overworks this would be helpful in keeping the rope from choking the calf.
Of all the timed events tie-down roping is the most criticized. It used to be called calf roping. This is why it is thought to be the most abusive, because you are dealing with young, cute calves. In my opinion it is the least abusive of all timed events that involve cattle. The one that gets the least mention is the one that I feel is the hardest on cattle and that is team roping. Team roping steers are big and look tough with their horns. When you have a horse that weighs 1200 pounds plus, and a steer that can weigh well over 500 pounds and you are going around 20 miles per hour, and you rope that animals hind foot or feet and you dead stop it all that is a bunch of stretch from his heels to his horns.
I point these things out to show, in the way I truly and factually believe animals deal with stress, pain and fear.
I am not a big fan of ranch rodeo. I like most of the people involved, admire the skills the competitors have perfected, love the tradition and gear, but I cannot find a way to justify the events. All the things they do in a ranch rodeo pretty much go against everything we try to promote with the Stockmanship and Stewardship program the National Cattleman’s Beef Association sponsors. These practices are not what I envision as what the customer sees as Beef Quality Assurance. I am not saying they are wrong for doing it, and don’t think ill of someone that promotes or participates in it, but I would be a hypocrite if I tried to justify it.
The difference between rodeo and ranch rodeo is the events. Rodeo animals can be patterned and trained to accept the pressure and the events are quick. Lots of pressure under 10 seconds, then back to the herd. If you look at ranch rodeo there is quite a lot of wild chasing and quite a bit of stress on the cattle and really no way to pattern or train the cattle before, and the pressure can last quite a while. With ranch rodeo the real good competitors get it done quick and effectively, but many times things don’t go as good for some, and these circumstances create what I see as the problem. Professionally run rodeos have become very strict with rules and time limits and are quick to punish for animal abuse. This is the way it must be.
I would be a hypocrite if I did not give my honest point of view on this. I will probably make some folks mad about this subject, and for that I am truly sorry. I have learned the hard way that when you say what you believe it can cause friends, or who you thought were friends, to get real upset.
It is interesting to explore the different ways people think we should care for and use animals. I like to visit with vegetarians and animal activists that will give me a chance to discuss my reasons for believing in and doing the things I do. If you can keep from being in a confrontation, but keep it in a discussion, it really helps them see things from my point of view. I think the better I get at this the closer I will be to getting to pet more cats, and as I said before that is real important to me.
~ Curt Pate