A milkmaid’s dirty linen and why you shouldn’t see it

In the three years since I started Milk Maid Marian, I’ve written about everything we do here on the farm. I’ve got nothing to hide. Well, almost nothing.

You haven’t seen our kids running around starkers in the paddock because, goodness, there are some weirdos out there and, in any case, my little people deserve some privacy.

You haven’t seen much in the way of veterinary treatment, either. I’ve written about sick cows here and here, for example, but I’m not going to post a picture of a newly-lanced abscess; me in action using a tractor to lift a cow threatened with paralysis; or the face of a cow in recovery after eye cancer surgery.

Why not? Because it would be unfair. You might not want to see graphic images as you munch your muesli and, second, the images could be abused. In the name of a higher cause, it’s not unknown for activists to take images of cows being nursed back to health and portray them as abuse.

My family’s privacy and the potential for misleading the public are two reasons why I shudder to imagine activists creeping onto the farm or spying on us with drones. I’m naturally protective, so when an email came through from an animal welfare group on just this topic today, I read it with a sense of dread. Here’s part of what it had to say:

“Alarmingly, support for ag-gag legislation is slowly creeping into politics here in Australia.”

“Ag-gag targets undercover investigators, whistleblowers and journalists by criminalising the undercover surveillance of agricultural facilities or by requiring that any footage which is obtained must be turned over to enforcement agencies immediately rather than given to animal protection groups or the media.”

My farm – my home – is an “agricultural facility”, you see.

And, you know what? If cruelty on a farm was recorded, I’d want the information to get to the enforcement agencies immediately so the animals could be rescued straight away rather than whenever it fitted in with the media cycle, wouldn’t you?

8 thoughts on “A milkmaid’s dirty linen and why you shouldn’t see it

  1. “If cruelty on a farm was recorded, I’d want the information to get to the enforcement agencies immediately so the animals could be rescued straight away rather than whenever it fitted in with the media cycle, wouldn’t you?”
    So well said, Marian. It’s tragic that the animal welfare groups so often go against their own cause of helping animals. Sometimes it looks like it’s more about proving a point than about improving the well-being of man and beast.

    • I have considered blogging about sick or injured animals on our farm, because I think it is something that consumers need to know about. Animals get sick, they get hurt and it isn’t always pretty. It is not a regular or daily event, but it does happen. We do our best to care for the animals, keep them calm and nurse them back to health, but it seems this is commonly misinterpreted. What do you think is the best way to blog about these events without the risk of backlash or activist groups abusing your photos?

  2. We said Marion.
    I too have to think about what I write – there are a few sitting unpublished lol! I have not posted pictures of some of the not so nice ill healths’ that happen here not because I don’t want to offend but because of ARA’s. I don’t want to see a picture of mine turning up on some wacko’s “page of facts about farming”.
    And the idea that a stranger can fly a camera over my piece of paradise frightens the hell out of me. I have nothing to hide but where does it end!
    I’m not sure I believe in an ag-gag but the alternative has the potential to be much worse!
    Keep up the good work Marion.
    Alison

  3. Thanks for this post, Marian. I agree with you about not wanting any kind of activists sneaking onto our property to obtain illicit footage. But as I’ve written and spoken about repeatedly now, I don’t believe ag gag laws are any kind of solution to what is a) already illegal (trespassing), and b) a fringe problem directed almost exclusively at intensive animal farming.

    I also think that the kind of transparency you practice at your farm and we do at ours (and many others who are blogging & sharing their farm stories regularly online & elsewhere) is an excellent safeguard against misrepresentation by others about what we do, hence my call for radical transparency rather than more laws that will serve nobody’s real interest except those with something to hide.

    As I said on radio today, draconian legislation is often enacted in a kneejerk reaction to moral panics – look at the Homeland Security Act in the US for an example. Nobody’s rights nor privileges in a healthy democracy are actually improved when we take away the right to protest or report what we see. Instead it behoves us to listen to escalating concerns about intensive animal farming and seek to constantly improve our practices to ensure the highest standards for animal welfare in farming.

    I know you listen, share, learn and reflect on your farming practices from from reading this blog for the past few years. That is how we maintain the public’s trust and deal with those who would ‘expose’ us. What is there to expose if you’ve already shared it – including the realities of treating sick animals if that’s what we need to share.

  4. I agree with almost everything you’ve written here, Tammi, and on your own blog (highly recommended reading at http://www.tammijonas.com/2014/06/03/no-need-for-ag-gag-laws-when-theres-radical-transparency/ ).

    The problem comes when what we do is taken out of context. It happens routinely on some animal activist sites. Unfortunately, too many of the visitors to these sites don’t then go on to fact-check the “information”. It is swallowed whole.

    I believe we need to be sensitive to how the information (images especially) we share may be presented or misrepresented – both on our own forums and on others’.

    • I don’t believe us blogging is going to make the inroads you speak of when activists use images and videos (even our own at times) in such major campaigns backed up by corporations, media and celebrities.

      No amount of blogging could have stopped the overreaction caused during the live ex debate.
      The proof can be found in last weeks very quiet reporting of hundreds of pigs killed when activists allegedly broke into a piggery.

      Also, once they’ve closed ‘factory farms’ they’ll work on dairy and feedlots, which they also consider factory farming.

      We need to stop calling it an ag gag law. That’s a term coined by activists to give the illusion of a hidden agenda. And the tresspassing charges need to stick.

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