|Gosling: Meme King & Animal Ag Expert?|
Initially, when I heard Ryan Gosling had teamed up with PETA to fight dehorning dairy cows, I rolled my eyes and thought “oh look, another airhead celebrity.” (By the way, please don’t get your agriculture news from E! News…) Gosling’s letter to the National Milk Producers Federation certainly paints a bleak picture of cruel farmers wanting to inflict pain on helpless animals, which confirmed my eye rolling. But I’ve decided to be more optimistic and assume he was just misinformed.
You can imagine the PETA representative sitting down with Gosling, telling him the horrors of dehorning, how painful it is, how cruel and unnecessary it is, and the terrible life those cows endure. As he’s eating this up, I’m sure the PETA kid was just ecstatic – Goslings’ celebrity will launch this issue (and PETA’s story) into the spotlight and put one more negative impression about animal agriculture on the minds of Americans.
I guess even that scenario means Gosling was duped, but at least he’d have a reason. (His girlfriend might be contributing to that reason too…)
But what the heck is dehorning? Why do farmers do it? Do we have to do it? Is Gosling right about the horrors? Why can’t we do this genetic breeding technique he’s talking about?
Dehorning dairy cattle means taking off the horns of the cow, usually when they’re a baby. It’s done because all dairy cattle have horns, even the ladies. Cows are big, and when they fight, those horns can cause a lot of damage. Not only will they hurt each other, they can also hurt the farmers taking care of them. Dehorning might not be pleasant, but I’m sure getting speared by one of those horns isn’t pleasant for cow or man alike.
As DairyCarrie explains, dehorning isn’t exactly a much loved pasttime for farmers either. She says,
“I can’t tell you that dehorning is a practice that is painless and doesn’t phase our calves. I have never met a dairy farmer who has enjoyed having to dehorn calves. It’s not a fun job. It is an important job to protect the people and the other cows from horn injuries and we do everything in our power to make dehorning as painless as possible. I wrote about it HERE, you should read that post.”
The problem is, right now, this is the only viable solution we have to keep not only our farmers safe, but also the other animals. Despite Gosling’s letter, farmers do try to make the process as painless as possible, using a variety of pain killers.
According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association there are ways to reduce the pain caused and keep the animal comfortable.
“The AVMA recognizes that castration and dehorning of cattle are important for human and animal safety when cattle are used for agricultural purposes. Because castration and dehorning cause pain and discomfort, the AVMA recommends the use of procedures and practices that reduce or eliminate these effects. These include genetic selection when appropriate, and use of approved or AMDUCA-permissible clinically effective medications whenever possible. Studies indicate that preoperative use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents and local anesthetics reduce pain and distress associated with castration and dehorning.”
Look, how many of us get our dogs or cats “fixed”? I’m sure that isn’t comfortable either, but we all know there are important reasons to do it. The point is, our farmers are doing whatever they can to make the process as painless as possible. Just as we’ve tried to reduce or eliminate the pain caused when our dogs or cats undergo surgery, farmers are doing the same thing.
I know that will never be good enough for PETA though. They would rather we all give up drinking milk. Let’s be honest, that’s their end goal.
But what about this genetic thing they’re referring to?
Polled stock refers to dairy cattle that do not have the gene for growing horns. They simply don’t have horns. Obviously, this means you don’t have to dehorn them. However, despite Gosling’s insinuation, this is not something that all dairy farmers can use yet.
As DairyCarrie explains:
“The gene that determines if an animal will be born without horns is dominant, which means that if you bred a polled animal to a horned animal, you will have a 50/50 shot at getting a polled animal. But here’s the problem, the polled gene has to come from somewhere. Right now the pool of animals we have to select from with the polled gene is small. While I may love using polled bulls, I am not cool with breeding a cow to her uncle or her half brother just to skip the dehorning process. I don’t think that inbreeding is the solution to this problem. Eventually the polled genetics pool will be large enough that all cows will be able to take a swim without bumping into their cousin but we are not there yet. I mean I don’t think you’re asking dairy farmers to have inbred cows, are you?”
So, we’re getting there. But not yet.
Although Gosling has been running around making his fun movies, farmers have been working on this problem for a while now. We aren’t still dehorning because we get a kick out of it or think its fun to torture animals. Instead, we’re doing what we can with the tools we have to make the farm safe for everyone involved in the most painless way possible.
Eventually, this won’t even be a problem. But unless PETA and Gosling want to start genetically engineering polled stock, perhaps they should stop attacking our farmers. In fact, I’d love to see Gosling actually visit a farm and find out that farmers care about they’re animals; they aren’t as heartless and cruel as PETA depicts.
In the meantime, I’m going to go have a glass of milk.