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Reading Your Adversary's Mind

"How long does it take to learn poker, Dad?"
"All your life, son."
- Michael Pertwee

It is nice to know what your opponent is thinking when you go head to head in a game of No Limit Texas Hold'em poker. When I've played, I've never cheated, but occasionally a sloppy player would flash his cards at me or tell me exactly what cards are in his hand by his actions which are called "tells." A smile or subtle movement of the hand or cough can be very revealing. Some "tells" are so reliable, they are as if the opponent writes down in black and white his past, present, and future strategies.

That is exactly what the dairy industry did in a recent issue of Hoard's Dairyman, the national farm magazine. The subject was animal rights, and the headline read: "Animal Welfare Challenges We're Facing"

Without additional comments, here are passages the dairy industry article:

* * * *

 "The public views the dairy industry very positively. With a proactive approach and a few changes to our practices, we can make sure it stays that way.

"What we need to look out for...The major welfare issues facing our industry include housing and cow comfort, castration, dehorning, branding, transport, and slaughter. Tail docking, early removal of calves from dams, and production-related diseases such as lameness and mastitis are also problematic.

"Early separation of calves from their dams is starting to receive attention and criticism from animal rights extremists. While we know that calves are immediately removed from their dams to facilitate hygiene, improve colostrum intake, and reduce death rates, the public could view early separation as a traumatic and inhumane practice that causes distress to both cow and calf. And research has shown there are behavioral changes in separated calves and dams that are signs of distress.

"Typically, people who promote animal welfare believe that animal use is acceptable but that we are obligated to care for the animals in ways that meet most, if not all, of their needs. In contrast, animal rights activists may find many uses of animals (for example, the right to not be killed). Having a clear understanding of these different perspectives is important because, while farm animal welfare is a growing societal concern, the motivation and reasons for the concerns are often misunderstood."

* * * *

In that same issue, editors included an ironic column called "Farm Flashes" which referred to a painful issue the dairy industry wishes milk consumers not to know. The headline:

"Dehorning Calves Should Include Anesthesia" This information is painful to read:

"If you've ever burned yourself, you know how painful it can be. Imagine if someone held an iron to you for 45 seconds! I'm sure you would appreciate some anesthesia..."

The advice given was to "first straddle the calf and feel the skull just behind the outside corner of each eye where you will detect a divot. This sunken area corresponds to our temples. The nerve that supplies the horn with sensation runs right through this soft spot. Take an 18-gauge 1 1/2-inch needle attached to a syringe loaded with 3-5 cc of lidocaine close to the bone, and deposit the rest as you slowly withdraw the needle. Repeat for the other horn bud, and allow 5 to 10 minutes for it to take affect."

At this point, dairy farmers had to have been rolling on the barn floor laughing. Zero out of 9.2 million calves will be treated this compassionate way in 2012. Lidocaine and syringes are unnecessary luxuries, and 5-10 minutes waiting time will turn a multi-hour chore into an event lasting for many days when dozens or hundreds of animals are scheduled for dehorning. Dehorning is an assembly-line operation, and a standard operating procedure for the dairy industry. Animal welfare and dehorning do not go together.

Sadly, the less the public knows about dairy procedures, the better it is for phony milk industry good will.

Robert Cohen

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