The Glass Barn.

Often, Agriculture has rocks thrown at, what many perceive, as a solid structure. But in reality, the rocks being thrown are through a glass… barn.

The Good, the Bad, and {even} the Emotional. 

Agriculture is one of the most emotionally based industry that is constantly cut down by groups, such as PETA. PETA is able to grab consumers by the heart strings, and begin to pluck out cords. They pluck cords of sorrow and sympathy for the plants and animals that agriculturalists deal with, but then, they begin to pluck out cords of anger, bitterness, and even hatred towards agriculture producers and anyone closely related to agriculture.

Consumers want to know the “story” behind their food, but when agriculture begins to tell their story, PETA (or groups like them) jump in and play their little heart string songs, and end up swaying those consumers.

So here we go, to all the consumers out there, sitting on the fence, trying to decide who to believe. To the consumers who believe everything that PETA says or posts on social media. To the producers who are tired of fighting against these groups, so you continue to farm, ranch, provide food and clothing to the population but take the negative hits in stride. Well, here you all go, the glass barn, the good, the bad, and the emotional side of agriculture. The facts, the figures, the human side.

The question is now, should agriculture begin telling their story with the emotional side, to grab your heart strings and begin playing a tune, or should they begin with the facts and figures?

How about we do both, side-by-side.

Let’s begin by calling PETA’s bluff on two posts that have been floating around the internet the past few months. 1. That you must kill sheep in order to obtain wool. 2. That Artificial Insemination or A.I. is actually rape.

  1. If you walked up to any 8 year old, 4-Her, who has a sheep project, you will be educated more, in 30 seconds, about sheep projects and sheep production than PETA will give you in 15 years.

The good: Sheep are not killed for wool. Wool is grown, just like hair on our head, constantly. Sheep are then sheared… as in shaved, like a buzz cut for men, and that wool comes off, they go on living their life. Death does not come for sheep EVERY TIME THEY NEED TO BE SHEARED. It is, essentially, a hair cut.

The bad: Sheep are used for food production. Often, referring back to the 4-Her, the lambs are sheared before stock show. After the stock show, they are put on a truck and sent to the processing plants, in order to provide meat for people to eat.

The emotional: I have seen 8 year olds to 50 year old moms cry at stock shows as they are loading their animal. They cry because of the fact that the show is over, or that they didn’t do as well as they were hoping, but some cry because they will, in fact miss that animal a great deal! They also know, that is their job. As an agriculturalists, no matter how attached you get to those animals, those animals serve a greater purpose, and that is feeding the human race. Tears are shed, and then dried and then they prepare next year for the choosing, raising, and showing of these animals in order to be a provider. This is what every producer will go through, every year.

2. Artificial Insemination or A.I. is this: the injection of semen into the vagina or uterus other than by sexual intercourse. There is a “straw”, that contains semen, that is slipped into the vagina or uterus and then the semen is injected. Any woman who has every been to the gynecologists has experienced something of the sort, especially if that woman is pregnant or has been pregnant. Cattle are not A.I. unless they are in heat (or during their time of the month) because the semen will not take. Just like any human woman. There are ideal times, locations, and even temperatures that effect how that animal will take to being bred, even if it isn’t naturally.

The good: Breeding through A.I. is usually safer for the females than natural breeding. Often, in horses and cattle, the studs (or stallions) and the bulls can become extremely aggressive and often hurt the females. With in place, the producer will still be able to utilize the prized bull or stud on their property without hurting the females in the process. Producers can also get outstanding genetic lines but using A.I. because they can buy semen from around the world, have it shipped to them and then use it on their females in their herd.

The bad: is not cheap. It has some expensive costs associated with it, not only for equipment but having the proper man power to provide the service. Producers are not going to put money into a management practice if it isn’t going to positively effect their production and their animals production.

The emotional: Sometimes the mares or cows or sows, do not take. They simply, for some reason, the semen does not take when they try, that time, to A.I. Which means, those producers are out that money, time and effort and have to go back to square one. It can also mean that that particular animal isn’t feeling right or performing to her best abilities. That can cause red flags. Along with that, if they do take, babies will be born! Everyone likes babies. To the rancher wives, they are cute little things that they can take pictures of and “ooh” and “ahh” over. Even the ranchers can’t help but show emotion. It means new life, and new opportunities.

Next, let’s move on to the dreaded GMO, Hormone, and Antibiotic in food talk. Oh my!

  1. Every thing you consume that was once living (plants and animals) contain hormones. 2. GMO’s are not chemicals 3. Antibiotics are not in the food you eat.
  1. Everything you consume that was once living (plants and animals) contain hormones. Hormones in plants are not the hormones that people often associate that world with. When we think hormones, we think Testosterone and Estrogen. Two main hormones in the human body. Plants do not carry those particular hormones. They have their own, that help in their growing abilities, as well as utilizing the process of photosynthesis. In animals, they have hormones that we have.

The good: Hormones help to grow the bodies or stems of the beings that we, as people need. Without hormones, corn wouldn’t grow, fish wouldn’t swim correctly, and cattle wouldn’t reach sexual maturity at the rate that they currently do. Hormones are vital for all living beings to grow and mature properly. There are growth hormones put into cattle to help promote faster growth and performance will be better. Those hormones can be closely related to steroids in humans, and for many athletes, injecting themselves with unnatural steroids and people think it is okay! But for plants/animals who NATURALLY produce these in order to, live, it is absurd.

The bad: The word hormone has a very negative connotation that effects things drastically. We know that, as agriculturalists. We continue to try to educate and explain that hormones are vital for all living beings, but sometimes, people do not want to hear it.

The emotional: Go sit in on any Geneticist lecture and listen to them. They love this stuff. This is where the science side of agriculture comes in. You can hear there passion in how those hormones are present in order to provide the growth and even the feeding that they need. They nerd out! That is the emotion, they have a passion for what they have learned, what they teach, and what they work with every single day.

2. GMO’s are not chemicals. GMO’s are not chemicals. GMO’s are not chemicals. Hopefully that has been burned into your mind. Definition of GMO or Genetically Modified Organisms: the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. From that definition, how is that considered a chemical. The basics of GMO’s are this: taking a characteristic of, like a cactus, a plant that can survive on little water, and then put that characteristic, or gene, into a plant that needs a lot of water, like alfalfa. The goal is that you can produce that particular crop with less water. So it is production efficiency.

The good: GMO’s have revolutionized the agricultural production industry. Farmers are able to produce more food on less land and with less resources. That means, that the less water that is used on crops, can go into your homes for faucet water, toilet water, and to shower with. This also means that farmers are able to produce crops and use less pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers because the crops have been modified against bugs or grow in soil that has less nutrients than what they actually need to survive.

The bad: Let’s real talk for a minute. We do not know the long run effects of GMO’s, but at this moment, the technology is revolutionized enough that there is no proof of any long standing effects from GMO’s. The problem is, we aren’t sure how many times genetically modifying plants will soon effect them to a point of no return. But again, there is science backing it.

The emotional: Why would producers produce food that they know is harmful to people, when they will be feeding that same food to their family…? I have seen a cotton farmer, in Lubbock, Texas, crying, screaming, stomping and staring at the sky, begging for rain, because he is a dry-land farmer (meaning he depends solely on natural rainfall), and none was coming. He needed the rain, for the cotton to grow, to get an income, to feed his family.

3. Antibiotics are not in the food you eat. This is a hot topic for many right now, because even parents are questioning vaccinating their own children, so why would livestock be anything different to them. Antibiotics, all antibiotics, have a withdrawal date. This means that if the animal will be going into food production, you MUST go by those withdrawal dates. If the date on an antibiotic is 30 days out from processing (or slaughter), then the producer is not supposed to give that medication to the animal any less than 30 days.

The good: The withdrawal dates are set in place, in order, to provide safe food for ALL. With the withdrawal period, that gives the animal enough time to completely flush out the antibiotic in order for the meat to be safe for consumption.

The bad: There is always “a few bad apples” that ruin it for the rest. Antibiotics are often used after the withdrawal date, for reasons that they should not be used, or just after the date causing residue left over in the meat. Not good.

All of this information has been said to say, do your research. Correct research. Research that is backed by professionals. Contact Agriculture Universities, call the industry professionals, get the facts!

Agriculture is complex, there are no black and white answers. It is a culture, along with a science.

Remember, PETA is good at tugging at the heart strings initially, but then skew the facts. Agriculture gives the facts, but sometimes forgets to give the emotional side.

So here it is, a viewing into the Glass Barn, and this barely scratches the surface of agriculture. Agriculture isn’t shady or private or closed-up in dark barns. It is everywhere, all around you, and if you truly want to learn more, open your ears and eyes and let the producers do the talking before you jump to conclusions.


An Agriculturalist