Two things happened in the past week that gave me plenty to think about during chores.
First, our farm was evaluated as part of the National Dairy FARM Program. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, FARM stands for Farmers Assuring Responsible Management. The program was created to "bolster consumer trust and confidence in the U.S. dairy industry and demonstrate the industry's commitment to the highest levels of animal care and quality assurance."
The evaluation involved an on-farm interview and walk-through. Each group of cattle on the farm was scored for cleanliness, locomotion, body condition and hock lesions. Access to basic necessities like food, water and shelter was also documented.
The evaluation went very well. It was nice to hear someone else say that we're doing a good job taking care of our animals. But, after it was all over, a couple of thoughts came to mind.
The first thought, which came while I was cleaning up the kitchen, was, "Boy, it's a good thing Tim [our evaluation specialist] wasn't evaluating our house!"
The second thought was, "Grandpa would roll over in his grave after hearing that we need a verification program to prove to consumers that we take good care of our cows."
Last week's second thought-provoking event was the release of an undercover video on YouTube showing a Texas teenager being beaten by her father.
I watched the video. And I got the same disgusted feeling in my gut that I got when I watched the undercover video of calves being abused this spring at the calf ranch in Texas.
The media is still debating the impact of the teenager's undercover video. But I'm guessing that, just like in animal agriculture, pretty soon this country is going to need a program to ensure the proper care of children.
It could be called PARM - Parents Assuring Responsible Management. But management doesn't sound very good, so maybe it will be called PARP, for Parents Assuring Responsible Parenting.
The same evaluation model that's being used in animal agriculture would only need a few tweaks to be adopted by PARP. Visit the home, observe the conditions and interview the owner's caregivers.
Do 90 percent or more of the children in the pen home score less than 3 on the Hygiene Scorecard? (A score of 3 would mean more than just the child's face and hands are dirty.) Do 90 percent or more of the children in the home have body condition scores between 2.0 and 4.0? Are children turned out of their home for exercise (weather permitting)? Are children without feed for more than four hours at one time? Are children observed daily? How often do you clean the house?
There are 77 questions in the FARM evaluation. But since caring for children involves much more than caring for animals, I imagine there would be closer to 770 questions in the PARP evaluation.
And since most children can talk, the evaluation would need to include an interview with the children, in which it could be almost guaranteed that one child in the home would state, "My parents are the worst parents ever." Such statement would automatically flag the home for third-party verification.
I can hear the protests already. Not because most parents are doing a bad job and they don't want their substandard care to be exposed, but because they are doing a good job and they think it's ridiculous that there needs to be a program devoted to assuring others that their children are receiving adequate care.
Unfortunately, though, as both of the Texas undercover videos show, there are homes and farms where care is substandard. But I'd be willing to bet that there are far more children than animals in our country who are underfed, abused and neglected.
Who's looking out for these children? Who's holding their parents accountable? I don't think the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) includes humans in it's mission to improve the lives of all animals. And I haven't heard of any groups called People for the Ethical Treatment of Children. If such groups exist, I'm guessing they're not nearly as well funded.
What happened to our nation's values?
There's something wrong with a society that places higher priority on assuring the care of animals than assuring the care of children.
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children - Dan, 4, and Monika, 2. Sadie also writes a blog for the Dairy Star at http://dairystar.blogspot.com. She can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.