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I Know It When I See It
Dr. Victor L. Martin
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First, let’s list the questions readers were asked to think about last week regarding animal care.
· What is the definition of animal abuse? Be specific.
· What are appropriate uses of animals in society, if any?
· What are inappropriate uses of animals in society, if any?
· What is the role, if any, of local, state, and federal governments in regulating the use/abuse of animals? If government should play no role, explain.
· What penalties, if any, should be imposed for animal abuse? Be specific.
· What should be the goal of agricultural producers in animal production in terms of animal care and use?  
As you think about these questions, most think the answers are pretty cut and dry until they actually try to be specific. Most of us can agree that certain acts and conditions qualify as abuse. Then it becomes harder with gray areas. It’s is like the definition of pornography provided by a Supreme Court Justice many years ago. He knew it when he saw it but couldn’t define it. Here we are not speaking to the extremists on either side of issues like animal confinement but people genuinely concerned about proper animal care. The key on these hot button issues often isn’t so much what is done but how it is done. Numerous studies have shown sow breeding to work equally well and humanely with or without gestation crates. The key was the level of management and the level of expertise of the employees. The same holds for many areas certain groups hold as abuse, the practice isn’t the problem but how it is implemented.
Appropriate and inappropriate uses are the same as abuse in terms of definition. The area of government involvement in terms regulating animals and penalties brought the broadest range of answers by students in class. They wanted the government out but at the same time they all thought there had to be some level of regulation and enforcement. However, they couldn’t reach a consensus as to where that point was.
As to the last question, there was agreement that proper care of animals only made sense since any stress, physical or otherwise, is bad for business and costs money. And they agreed that the overwhelming number of producers in the animal industry genuinely care for the well-being of their animals.
This is an area of concern that won’t disappear anytime soon and one where the impact of extremists is potentially huge in terms of the ability of producers to stay in business. And that impacts not only the cost of meat and animal products but the overall ability to supply them to an ever-growing world population.