Yesterday, I noted how much I enjoyed this article in January’s SimTalk. I also recommend reading Marty Ropp’s article titled “Winning At Any Cost?” in the Register published this month. In this article, Marty mentioned the abuses that take place in the show livestock industry. Specifically, he stated that “the use of illegal drugs on livestock, inhumane practices such as cosmetic surgeries and the injection of air or other substances under the skin of livestock need to stop.” Of course Marty notes (and I agree), that the livestock people that participate in these types of unethical (and sometimes illegal) practices are few and far between. However, it would be naive to believe that there are not livestock showmen (and women) that use cosmetic surguries and illegal drugs on their animals.
I grew up around the show cattle industry. I admit that I have boxes and boxes of trophies, platters and ribbons from my family’s show success. Sure- it was fun to win but what is interesting is that my memories of showing cattle throughout my youth have very little to do with winning XYZ show. I remember getting up at 3:30am with my family so we could be the first people on the washrack at State Fair. I remember my mom teasing my heifer’s tail (that just aged me– yes, I was showing way back in the day when we still put the tails in teased balls) while my dad was doing touch-up clipping. My grandpa was there helping me change my heifer’s show halter while my grandma was taking a bunch of pictures of my brother and I in our Wrangler jeans and Justin boots. I remember having water fights at the county fairs, playing euchre and spades on the showbox, and meeting lifelong friends. These are my memories– not the fact that won a certain show on a particular day. I say this to you parents out there who want to give your children the best and want them to win at all cost, even if it means cosmetic surguries or using illegal drugs. No– give them your time and your energy. That is what they will remember.
And for you showman out there, I have always felt that the show industry should represent the commercial industry as a whole. I believe that behind every great show steer is a great cow. And behind that great cow is a great bull. And those superior genetics should be infused into the commercial industry to produce high quality, more efficient livestock for harvest. It does not help the agriculture industry gain anything postive when show livestock are manipulated surgically or given illegal drugs. Real success in this great livestock business is becoming savy with cards that you have in your hand. Hone in on the proper genetics. Seek advise from nutritional experts. Spend the time in labor that it takes to have a successful show animal. Don’t cross that ethical line that will not only hurt your family’s reputation, but will also hurt the industry as a whole.
Finally, over the last 9 months I have recieved a lot of questions about livestock animal welfare laws. I am shocked at the amount of authority that many states give non-police officers to search and seize livestock that are being abused. Duly incorpated animal societies in several states, including New York, can obtain warrants to come on livestock operations and investigate animal abuse. Everytime I turn around, I am reading another article talking about the negatives of modern agriculture. We need the agriculture industry to act in concert against this movement and these types of animal abuses that take place in the show industry cannot be tolerated. Not only is livestock abuse a crime in most states but the agriculture industry has to restore confidence again to the American consumer. Anybody who participates in these types of activies is extremely short-sighted.
I love the show industry. I believe that heaven will have the Denver stockyards, the beautiful green sawdust from Louisville, the smell of final bloom, and fuzzy black show steers. But let’s not get so caught up in winning the belt buckle that we forget to see the forest for the trees.
You make an awesome point. By and large, show people are some of the best people I have met, and I think livestock competitions are a great way to boost junior exhibitor’s confidence and life skills. However, just like in sports, there is an ethical line that should never be crossed. Drug use, surgeries, etc. are unethical and should never be supported by parents. The thought sickens me, seriously. I haven’t read the Register’s article, but I will now.
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Yesterday I attended a small county cattle show event in Florida.
What does a 14 yr. old girl learn about showmanship if an adult family member is doing all the clipping. OK, so the heifer goes into the ring and the little girl gets pinned the blue in the showmanship…while kids that did their OWN “fitting” are placed below her. I could go on but nobody gives a moo.
Another girl got a blue in a class in which she led a heifer she did not raise or work with…but the breeder wanted some free publicity for her stock. So what is fair about what’s going on at the fair? NOTHING. Look to US Pony Club rules. NO ADULTS allowed in the stables.