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Do you know what to do if you saw abuse?

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 30 April 2013

I’m a proud Eagle Scout and current leader in the Boy Scouts of America, a card-carrying member, if you will. I’ve seen firsthand over the past several years how this national youth group, with more than 3.5 million members and leaders, has reacted to legal proceedings and allegations of molestation and child abuse among its ranks.

In my view, the dairy industry isn’t that unlike the Boy Scouts of America and could learn from its previous experiences dealing with abuse accusations which have attempted to damage its credibility with the public.

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Here’s how:

In the last month, I’ve had two conversations with individuals who both independently said about animal well-being: “Our industry is just one more video away from losing all credibility.”

When the Boy Scouts were on the ropes, and in my opinion they could have taken steps earlier to avoid being so exposed, their solution was to provide more training and require more verification of it.

The dairy industry will soon see more of this too. A revised version of NMPF’s National Dairy FARM Program will be published by this summer. It will be the required animal care education and training manual for dairy producers participating in the program, which is now those producing more than 70 percent of the U.S. milk supply.

In it, the definition of mistreatment, or abuse, will be revised to be “acts that maliciously cause pain, injury or suffering” to animals. In addition to this type of abuse, farmers must continue to guard against neglect and mishandling.

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In an interview in this issue, Betsy Flores, NMPF’s administrator for the National Dairy FARM Program, discusses a new complimentary animal care initiative to assist dairy producers in training their employees that it is their responsibility to report abuse, neglect or mishandling when they see it. ( Click here to view article)

That initiative is not unlike the Boy Scout’s adult leader training I have received. In it, I learned that if I see any activities that I believe are abuse, I am to stop them and report them to my local Boy Scout executive and the police. The executive must also report the incident to the police and take any internal action within the organization that may be necessary.

Dairymen, you are your operation’s executive. Although you likely already know in your gut what abuse looks like, application of an industrywide animal care program will give the public assurance you do and that your employees do too.

Employees and managers, like scoutmasters, will bring situations to you for review. Any abuse should be reported immediately and to the appropriate local authority.

And you must oversee appropriate internal changes – reprimands, retraining or employment termination. I trust that you will do that, and thankfully, I believe most of the general public still does too.

To whom you publicly report an incident, and when you do based on the severity of the abuse, may vary based on state legislation.

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I believe NMPF and its local program administrators still have some training to do so that all dairymen who are participating in the National Dairy FARM Program have a clear understanding about who they call after they receive a call or they have personally “seen it and stopped it.”

The Boy Scouts learned the hard way about using excuses to explain why abuse happens: “These are isolated incidents; they don’t happen everywhere.” “The actions of a few disturbed individuals do not represent our values or standard operating procedures.”

Sounding familiar to the responses you’ve heard after an animal rights group releases an undercover video?

The dairy industry is just as expansive as the Boy Scouts (nationwide) and yet just as locally unique (different co-ops and regional differences in production practices).

For years, the Boy Scouts internally said these two things made it difficult for the whole to guard against abuse in its individual parts. But the public expected more of the whole. So they toughened up their oversight.

The public will always expect more of our industry too. And similar to the Boy Scouts, we know we are not who our detractors portray us as. Let’s prove them wrong; toughen up and verify it. PD

00_walt_cooley

Walt Cooley
Editor
Progressive Dairyman
(208) 324-7513

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