A resolution to change the name of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association to better reflect the gender diversity of its members was defeated at the organization’s annual general meeting last week.
But it did raise the question of what’s in a name.
Ross Macdonald moved the resolution.
“I just think it’s appropriate, that we’ve got a pretty diverse organization and the term cattlemen definitely doesn’t fairly represent what goes on in our house and I’m pretty sure a lot of houses that are associated with this organization,” he said.
He didn’t suggest a new name. However, in both Alberta and Manitoba the organizations are known as Beef Producers.
SCA past-chair Rick Toney spoke strongly against the resolution, saying cattlemen doesn’t refer to men but is just a term that’s been used for a long time.
He said it would cost a lot to change the name of the 12-year-old organization and he questioned how a name could ever be inclusive.
“We’re all over this damn liberal shit. We’re being crazy here,” he said during the virtual meeting.
He also suggested no woman has been “put down” by the name and noted there are women on the SCA board.
“Monkeying around (and) all this expense for nothing is a bunch of garbage in my mind,” he said.
But District 2 director Leigh Rosengren said the conversation should at least be held.
“This organization was formed to represent all facets of the cattle industry from cow-calf through stock growing and backgrounding, feedlot, but I think to Ross’s point it is also meant to reflect all of the people that contribute to this industry so I think it should at least be something discussed at the board table, that it isn’t a term that is out of date,” she said.
Sherri Grant, on the other hand, said she felt “totally represented” by the current name and saw no value in changing it.
Coreen Langford said she was fine with the name for now, but also said the conversation should take place.
“I think it is something that needs to be addressed regularly to ensure that everybody does feel included and represented,” she said.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is having ongoing discussion about making sure that is the case at the national level. Executive vice-president Dennis Laycraft said there is no specific time frame for a decision on a name change and the organization previously changed its bylaws to refer to cattle producers rather than gender-specific terms.
He pointed to the CCA young leaders program as an example of where the industry is heading.
“Sixty percent of our graduates are young women so far through that program, so obviously there’s a real keen interest in the future of the cattle industry there,” he said. “We are engaging in that discussion and one of the things that we’re trying to make sure is we represent all cattle producers in the country and we definitely want to make sure everyone feels welcome and represented in our industry.”
Laycraft said this should be true for organizations regardless of their names. Many people use the term CCA as generic rather than as a male term, and it is a strong brand, he said. As the umbrella organization for the provincial associations CCA will take its direction from them.
“Times change and in my mind it’s important for organizations to contemporize and continue to evolve so we’ll have that discussion,” he said.
Melanee Thomas, a political scientist at the University of Calgary who grew up on an Alberta grain farm, said changing organization names is just the right thing to do.
She said names cue identity, and when people argue strongly in favour of the status quo, that suggests an overrepresentation of a certain type.
“Farm women have always been part of those operations, intensively, and I don’t see the threat in acknowledging that,” she said.
“For every woman that says, ‘I’m OK with that,’ I can find another one that would be, ‘change the name to acknowledge that I do this just like you do.’ ”