Saturday, February 9, 2013

Whales, Hogs and Rice

Recently Cathy and I witnessed an incredible fight for control in Banderos Bay off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  We were on a whale watching vessel and witnessed three male humpback whales beat the crap out of each other.  It felt like we were watching the whale equivalent of an ultimate UFC match.

This fight was over mating rights with an available female.  Male whales spend the majority of their time completely alone.  Once a year they get together to sort out their differences.  After a 24-48 hour battle the strongest and baddest male will win and send the other males off packing.  It is natural evolutionary process where the strongest get to procreate and improve the genetics of the species.

This lead me to think about the way farmers, more specifically hog farmers, work with and control the natural instincts of animals.  Why hog farmers?  I do not raise hogs, but I do know a few farmers that do.  Hog farmers are under constant attack by activists who pretend to have the best interest of the pigs at heart.  Farrowing and gestation crates are bad.  Group housing is good.  The sows will automatically be happier if they get to play and run around together.  My limited knowledge of hog group dynamics tells me that the only sows that would be truly happy in the group are the strongest and baddest sows.  It is natural.  They will dominate the feed trough and keep the weaker sows weak.  That way they get to mate with the strongest and baddest males.  Hog farmers interfere with this process by providing separate living quarters for individual sows.  Every sow gets enough to eat, individual medical care and does not have to put up with an ornery grandmother.  However, if the activists were honest they would admit it really has nothing to do with pigs.  It has everything to do with control. They are attempting to prove they are the strongest and best at what they do.  Their agenda is to be in opposition to all forms of agriculture which use livestock and crops for economic gain.                

If you have doubts consider this.  My old friend Peter Johnson was taken to the woodshed by a reader in the Ontario Farmer a year ago for supporting golden rice.  Peter had heard a presentation by Patrick Moore, one of the original founders of Greenpeace at last year's Southwest Ag Conference.  Patrick, who quit Greenpeace, made a strong argument for golden rice.  Golden rice is normal rice that has been genetically modified to contain an elevated level of vitamin A. Standard white rice does not contain vitamin A. Grandma always told us that eating carrots was good for our eyesight and she was partially right because carrots are rich in vitamin A.  People in south east Asia, who eat a lot of standard white rice have a higher incidence of blindness due to vitamin A deficiency.  Eating some golden rice containing a higher level of vitamin A would improve the quality of life for these folks.  However, golden rice is one of those nasty GMO's and environmental activist groups have fought tooth and nail to stop the cultivation of this crop by people that may benefit.  The activist position is based on the premise that western industry would be the only benefactors from golden rice.  No matter if this crop actually helped improve the lot of undernourished children.  It was all about control.  I do believe that the activists never asked any of the blind children for their opinion.
The activists are gradually losing this battle.  The Philippines will allow the cultivation of golden rice some 30 years after its discovery.  You can read more detail about this situation at the link below.

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