Animal welfare taken to the smallest level

I remember how strange it was the first time I saw a disclaimer at the end of a movie that said something to the effect of, “no animals were mistreated during the making of this film.”

Animal rights — or even animal welfare, for that matter — didn’t get a lot of attention when I was much younger than I am now.

However, it wasn’t too long before that began to change, and today we live in a world where the welfare of animals is of utmost importance to many people.

Those who make their livings in animal agriculture certainly know this to be true. The scrutiny that they are under as they handle their animals has never been greater.

It’s easy to dismiss the extremists who don’t believe that livestock should be farmed for any reason. However, there are also a large number of moderate consumers who want to eat meat and eggs and drink milk but believe they know exactly how the animals should be managed during the production of that food. Restaurant and grocery store companies are paying attention, and animal agriculture has never been under so much pressure to “do the right thing.”

As a result, decades of working for this paper have made me keenly aware of society’s interest in animal welfare.

However, I still received a bit of a shock recently while reading the production notes for an episode of one of my favourite television shows.

The episode begins and ends with an ice cream cone that has fallen on a sidewalk gradually being covered by hundreds of ants. It was symbolic of something, but I won’t get into that right now.

The surprising thing for me was how that shot was produced. According to what I read, the folks responsible for producing the episode used about 2,000 live, red harvester ants, which were collected from and then returned to the wild by an animal trainer. An ice cream-like substance was used that would attract the ants but not be toxic to them.

So there you have it — animal welfare is no longer the exclusive domain of cattle and horses and pigs and chickens and cats and dogs and even hamsters. It has been reduced (quite literally) to the smallest common denominator.

It shows how far we’ve come in our desire to protect the well-being of other creatures — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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