The concept of good animal care must come from somewhere, be derived from some basic theory and philosophy. This may seem overly academic for the farmer, but that is only because of the way I am presenting it. The ideas are there regardless of the language used to describe them. Anyone who cares for animals: farmer, hobbyist, pet enthusiast, zoo keeper, does so with some preconceived plan in mind.
For some people, there is only a single notion of care. The animal care activist may see any animal as something to be saved from the mistreatment of man, and nothing else. The factory farm owner may view the animal as merely a raw resource, no different from timber. These are two extremes and do nothing to address the issue of animal care. Both of these people bring no useful information to the conversation of animal care. Let me be clear, if you are concerned with animal care, do not seek the opinion of these people!
Here’s a thought sure to invoke the ire of some: good animal care, in concept, is much like good health care for people. I use this example not to provoke, but because it is so pertinent to what is going on in America today. When we speak of good health care here in America, we are really talking about having good health insurance; we are really talking about having the resources to partake of the best care practices available.
When we speak of good animal care, we are really talking about providing for all of the animal’s needs, including health care. The difference between good health care for people and good animal care is the perceived relative worth of each. It is not correct to assign a value to the well being and comfort of a person, but in general, we accept that animal care practices are tailored to the perceived value of the animal. It is not practical for the farmer to spend large sums of money on the care of an animal that has a limited value. However, we (including me) do spend large sums of money on the care of a favored dog or cat.
Now, let’s deal with the hypocrisy! In reality, (the place where I live) people are in fact assigned a predetermined value and that ranking is used to dole out health care. The hypocrisy does not so much arise from the idea that we do provide varying levels of health care to people based on their socioeconomic status, but that we pretend that it does not work that way. There doesn’t seem to be an equivalent to PETA for people that suffer from poor care. There are groups that are willing to kill to protect unborn children, but that fanaticism wanes when it come to caring for children already born into the world.
So then, with no real structure in place to compassionately and uniformly care for each other, how would we be able to properly conceive of what is good animal care? I assert that you can’t. That is why we allow factory farms to exist on the edge of animal abuse while some people preach the total liberation of all animals, whatever that means. We are so fortunate that most people are not thrilled at the thought of hurting animals and that sometimes those who do hurt animals are stopped.