Vicious? Some think so, but farmers object

Most people have no idea of the environment of factory farms and the suffering it produces, not only for the animals but also for the workers.

And yet, 94 percent of Americans believe that farm animals should not suffer. Thanks to articles like that written by Bonnie Blodgett (“Vicious even when you look away,” Feb. 2), things could begin to change.

Something that I wish had been added to the article is the number of animals who go through factory farms. Do people know there are 40 percent more factory-farmed pigs in Minnesota than there are people? And that despite all the antibiotics the industry pumps into the animals, many do not make it to slaughter but literally suffer to death?

Also, it would have been great to mention some of the positive actions people can take if they don’t want to support these industries. For example, not eating meat one day a week would help not only the animals but also your health and the environment. Hey … before you know it, you might end up eating predominantly plant-based foods.

DAVID R. SMITH, Excelsior

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I am surprised the Star Tribune would give Blodgett the forum, much less a lead position, to espouse her PETA-like opinions. Obviously, she hasn’t been inside any of the modern, well-managed animal housing units operated by Minnesota’s dairy, hog and poultry farmers. Otherwise, she would understand that every farm owner knows exactly the space each animal needs for maximum comfort and production, because there is a direct correlation between animals that are content and a farmer’s profit.

Her descriptors — like “spectacularly cruel,” “horrific conditions,” “hell on Earth” and “humiliation and torture” — demonstrate her intent to reach uneducated readers through emotion rather than facts. Fact-checking would have shown, for instance, that “huge fans” are just a part of a climate-control system to monitor air quality, temperature and humidity for maximum animal comfort as well as for those working in the buildings.

Both Blodgett and the Star Tribune should offer an apology to the thousands of dedicated Minnesota farmers who take great pride in their animals while providing us with nutritious meat, milk and eggs.


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As consumers, we line up for the latest version of the iPhone and applaud car manufacturers for making our vehicles safer, yet when we farmers use technology to help raise wholesome, safe and affordable food, we are criticized.

Farms don’t look the same as they did 50 years ago. Neither do cars. Neither do phones. There is a reason. When temperatures reach 25 degrees below zero, my pigs are enjoying a comfortable, 65-degree barn.

I don’t condone animal abuse, and neither does the industry. The drama in Blodgett’s commentary was over the top.

KEVIN ESTREM, Nerstrand, Minn.

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Compared with 50 years ago, the carbon footprint to produce pork is 35 percent less per pound and water usage is down 41 percent. Manure is recycled as a fertilizer, creating a sustainable nutrient cycle.

Every packer in the Midwest demands onsite animal-welfare assessments and audits that determine whether or not they will buy pigs from that farmer.

Pig farmers have also made notable progress in food safety. Pork continues to have a lower incidence of foodborne pathogens than in previous decades.

The way we care for animals today is better than ever. Is it perfect? No. But we will continue to get better every day. My family and I are committed to producing the highest quality of food for you.


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It was interesting to read the commentary about the animal cruelty inherent in what are known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), then in another section of the paper (Business+Money) read about a piglet-killing virus that hit a 3,000-sow barn in Minnesota. Could this be the financial side of the issue?

I buy meat from a local farm, where I am welcome to visit and inspect how the pigs and cows live. Yes, I pay more and eat a bit less meat as a result, but I know the animals are content and healthy for the time they are alive.


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I was born and raised on a small crop and livestock farm in Minnesota and have been a farm-animal veterinarian for 28 years. There has been a significant change in the way farmers raise crops and animals during my career.

The debate over today’s farming techniques and how it differs from the past is nothing new. What is often overlooked are the forces behind the change. The desire to have inexpensive food so more of our consumer dollars can be spent on other consumables is not the fault of the farmer. Politicians hope to create policy that satisfies the voters who will re-elect them. Today’s family farmers are resourceful and adaptable and have responded to these pressures that we have put on them. We are the problem.

When American consumers are ready to increase the portion of their income spent on food dollars from less than 6 percent to almost 30 percent or more, as less-developed countries do, we may be able to go back to the way things used to be.

KEITH A. WILSON, Worthington, Minn.