Monday, November 23, 2015

An Open Letter to Outraged Wal-Mart Customers

Dear Customers outraged by Wal-Mart’s new toy,
After seeing heated debates from both agriculturalists and customers, I have decided to put rest to the arguments made in the letter. First let me begin by relaying what I understand are some major concerns coming from customers who wish to remove the toy "slaughter truck" from Wal-Mart shelves.
1. Customers do not want their children exposed to the bloody reality believed to be exhibited by the toy.
2. These trucks inevitably mean that cute, baby farm animals are traveling to their death.
Although I am sure there are more arguments to be made, I will stick with what I directly understand are present concerns. 

Sympathizing with parents, I understand that you all want the best for your children, and the longer you can keep them away from the terrors of life the better. Having what consumers are now calling a toy “slaughter truck” in your home seems like it would be a back-track in progress. What morals are we teaching our children with such an awful toy? Next thing you know, they will be murdering the gerbils and using the truck-trailer rig to transport them to small graves in your back yard. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where I must now explain that I was completely joking, and I do not believe that your children will be murdering small animals upon receipt of the toy truck. Getting back to the issue at hand, what I do believe we have here is a classic misunderstanding. It is so hard to sift through what is true these days, and anything said or written with apparent sincerity (especially when it comes to the welfare of animals and children) sparks an instant desire to be a part of the change. Those of you who will refuse to buy the toy from Wal-Mart do so, but I sincerely request that you finish reading what I have to say first.
According to the Washington Post, the average American is about three generations removed from the farm. No wonder words like GMO, hormones and pesticides spark such fear into the hearts and minds of the average customer. No wonder a toy livestock trailer could instill terror and call for a petition to be signed in order to remove the toy from Wal-Mart shelves. Although I have spent my whole life around agriculture, I understand that many people have not. So it is because I care and want concerned customers, parents and friends to understand that I write this.
Notice that I said “livestock trailer” earlier and not slaughter. Why is this? A livestock trailer is one that has several “windows” that allow an animal to breathe during transportation. Livestock trailers pulled with semis (like the Wal-Mart toy) have two or more compartments with a solid floor separating the top from the bottom. This transportation is not always to a terminal facility, nor are the animals in the trailer packed to the brim. It is as easy for me as it is for the next person to promise this is true, but let me take a step further and share with you my personal experiences.
I worked with a pig farm in the summer of 2014. Twice a week, every week, we would wean piglets and send them up north on one of these trailers. Before the piglets were put onto the trailer it was washed, sanitized and bedding was put down to reduce the stress of transport for the newly weaned piglets. Because this was done in the heat of the summer, ice bags were put under the bedding every few feet to keep the animals cool. Can you believe that? Ice bags!!! Call me crazy, but I think that farm really cared for their animals. Once the piglets were loaded, they began their journey to the next farm where they would spend their time growing and eating special feed to make sure they were at their healthiest. I’d like to go even further back to when I was a small child, and my father was an order buyer for large ranchers. What is that you ask? An order buyer is a person who is hired by ranchers to purchase and transport animals from auction barns to the ranch when the rancher cannot get away. We used a rig similar to the toy in Wal-Mart to transport the purchased cattle to the rancher’s land. These are some of my fondest memories as a young girl. I absolutely loved being part of an operation that added new cattle into the rancher’s bloodline. So wait, I was not emotionally scarred? And more importantly, I did not witness these animals going to their death? Of course not. Although it is important to realize that livestock animals such as chickens, cattle and pigs do have terminal lives, livestock trailers are not always being used to transport them to that end.
Being a consumer is hard these days. Every company is promising the next best thing, and ethical debates are running rampant on the internet. Let's take a moment to think about what we’ve learned today though. To recap, we learned that the "slaughter truck" toy in Wal-Mart is more correctly called a livestock trailer, and that it is used to transport livestock from farm to farm and auction to farm in addition to terminal transport. Farmers and ranchers are some of the most compassionate people on the planet, and you should be proud that your child wants to be like them. We also learned that it is okay to not understand the practices of agriculture, but we should not let our misunderstanding lead us down a path of fear. Become proactive and take a stand FOR agriculture and the families that feed yours. I urge you to still be a part of change, but to understand the process before you act to destroy someone’s livelihood.
Thank you for taking a proactive step to increase your knowledge of the agricultural world. We farmers and ranchers thank you from our families to yours.
Dallas Dooley