I had finished feeding calves Monday morning and was heading to the house when my phone rang. It was Rick Barrett from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. After the usual pleasantries, he asked me if I watched the Oscars. I laughed, and said that I was in the barn during the award program. He asked if I had seen any media posts or heard about what Joaquin Phoenix said during his acceptance speech Sunday night. Once again, I answered no.
    Rick read what was said by this famous actor when he accepted his first Oscar for best actor for his performance in “Joker.” Joaquin Phoenix said, “We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”
    Using this platform, he clearly was intending to give a message to the viewers that dairy farmers are part of the view that one species has the right to dominate and control another with impunity. We are disconnected from the natural world, he continued. Joaquin Phoenix was using this opportunity to lash out towards farmers because he is an activist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. And like so many activists, he is not educated on what and why farmers do what we do.
    I made my comments to Rick. He took a portion of my comments and also included some of Carrie Mess’ statements from her blog, Dairy Carrie. Mr. Barrett wrote up a nice article, and I saw it later on Facebook and other social media. Dairy farmers liked it and many made comments, too. This is one of the hurtful things that will bring dairy farmers together.
    The next day, I was contacted by a reporter from CBS in Milwaukee. He also asked what I thought about Joaquin’s comments, but then he asked me to explain to him why a cow is artificially inseminated? What happens when a calf is born?
    I went into the details of why the word bully means aggressive and hurtful; it comes from the word bull. I explained that bulls are not only dangerous for farmers, but that a 2,000 pound bull can be aggressive to a cow. I explained that artificial insemination allows for the use of the most desirable genetics for each cow, so that the calves are the best in type and quality.
    I went on and on, talking how a cow wants to get bred. Explaining a standing heat in a cow, comparing it to dogs and cats, and even myself. I wanted to have a baby, and the cows do, too. We are all mammals.
    Cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago from water buffalo. Farmers have always used the most effective means to provide food for families by raising animals and crops. Dairy cattle have been helping nourish people with the wholesome, nutritious milk and meat. With the help from science and technology, we have made these incredible animals into a great source of protein and calcium and helped fight hunger around the world.
    In both interviews, I invited Joaquin Phoenix to my farm, knowing full well he would never visit a farm. Joaquin’s voice will carry with others who visit our farm. I have seen it before. Just like Aaron Rodgers did when he said he was dairy free, or when Oprah Winfrey said she does not eat beef. These celebrities use their platform to convince others that they know best. We must educate those who will listen to us, give them the facts, show them our cows and calves, and help them make their own opinion.
    There will always be people, many of them famous, who choose not to eat meat or drink milk. That is their choice, and we can agree to disagree with those choices. Obviously, they are not so hungry and impoverished that they need to consider the choices that were made over 10,000 years ago when most people were starving.
    We all have different farms, and our practices may not all be the same. We must stand firm or the activists will force change in our agricultural practices. As farmers, we must use our voices at every opportunity to share how much we love our cows and take time to explain why it is important that we take the calves to feed and house in a safe place away from the possibility of them getting hurt or sick in a pen with cows.
    We will forever hear accusing tones from those who have been influenced by others. They are without the comprehension we have grown up with that has been passed down from generations. As farmers, we have all learned, witnessed and seen what happens when the calf is stepped on or dies from the illness that comes from dirty bedding.
    The passion we feel about our livelihoods will not always be understood. I try to not feel ashamed or angry because I know they have not been told by someone with our knowledge. But for the sake of what we do, the questions need to be answered. Our stories must be told. If not by us, then by who?
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.