Does ‘cattlemen’ need to be dropped?

At the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association annual general meeting, a resolution was made to change the name. The producer felt we should have a name that better represents the people/genders of the industry. It was defeated, and unfortunately some abrupt comments were made.

So I went to the Webster’s dictionary and found this: Cattlemen (noun), people who tend or rear cattle; synonyms — ranchers, stockmen, horsemen, horsewomen, herders, cowgirls.

It appears the word “cattlemen” is a generic term that spans all genders. Perhaps that is why it was chosen in the first place.

I am a fourth generation cattleman, our children are the fifth and with a couple of grandchildren on the way, God willing there will be a sixth. I am very proud of this — each generation worked as a team regardless of gender or skill set to get where we are today.

The contribution of the women through the years has been greater than that of the men’s. If it had been just men, there would have only been one generation. My grandmothers, mother, wife and now daughters have made immeasurable contributions to the businesses and created that family atmosphere that has inspired the next generation to make this industry their vocation.

Some feel this is a male-dominated industry and that women’s roles are marginalized. This is a common theme across many industries, and I certainly don’t minimize this. Women have been integral in this industry forever, whether they had crap on their boots or not.

My wife, Paula, is retired after nursing for 30 years, so now she just has one full-time job. I can’t begin to measure her contribution to the ranch, yet she often commented that she was not really part of the ranching operation. I assure you, and her, that we would not be anywhere near where we are without her contributions to the ranch and family.

On the other hand, our daughter, Holly, loves to be out hands-on with the cattle, and I have always told her she could do anything I can and many things better. She and another young woman were the cattle crew this spring and summer, and a better crew couldn’t be found.

The producers in the cattle industry represent less than one percent of the population. Issues that divide us are not new — cow-calf versus feeders or packers. I would argue that there is not another industry where wives and husbands, sisters and brothers, or daughters and fathers work together more commonly than this one.

We have serious challenges in front of us with a declining cow herd and special interest groups trying to convince the population that animal agriculture and eating meat are bad in every way and destroying the environment. They are organized, well funded and will deny the natural circle of life and environmental benefits that we know this industry provides.

So how do we address this? Is a name change the answer? My mother used to say, “it’s not what you say but how you say it.” Does that apply here? Would an expensive name change correct some people’s attitude or make women feel more included and acknowledged?

I have spent my career working for the industry. I will never be accused of being overly politically correct, and this world of people desperately looking for something to protest drives me crazy. I am reaching out to get your thoughts so that when this discussion comes up around the board table, I will have your thoughts to help me take a position.

Duane Thompson raises cattle at Kelliher, Sask., and is Saskatchewan director of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. He can be reached at teetwo@xplornet.com.

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