Educate public to gain support, understanding

Talking about the complexities of farming and livestock to non-farm people can be vexing, but some livestock industry leaders say it’s key to self-preservation, especially when regulations or consumer campaigns are developing.

“If we’re not helping them make decisions, they’ll still make decisions that affect us,” said Ryder Lee, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association Ottawa lobbyist about retailers and food processors, who are under pressure to ensure their products are humanely and sustainably raised.

“They’ve got lots of ‘help’ to make decisions from people who aren’t interested in whether it matters, whether it works for beef producers.”

That includes animal rights activists and other extremists who are fundamentally opposed to many elements of modern agriculture.

Ken Perlich, the retiring president of the Livestock Markets Association of Canada, said it is important for auction marts and other parts of the livestock industry to be involved with Agriculture Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials and regulators because many rules are being formed and tweaked right now.

Traceability has been an ongoing issue, with people like LMAC trying to ensure that requirements are actually feasible in the real world of livestock transportation, sale and movement.

The same goes for proposed changes to livestock transportation rules. Regulators and officials need to know if there is going to be a problem before a rule is implemented.

“We’ll continue to make sure we meet with them, make sure we tell those folks . . . that our issues are not yet being heard,” said Perlich.

Lee said being involved with broad-based efforts to develop humane handling and environmental rules is important to convince the public that farmers care, to ensure rules are reasonable, and to avoid the possibility that farmers could be cut out of the decision-making process.

“If we’re not engaged . . . we get regulated,” said Lee.“If things are seen to be not taken care of, government will take care of us.”

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