Wildeman is president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association
How times flies! During the past two years, I have had the opportunity to write about several issues of critical importance to the cattle industry. Most of the issues required swift and short-term solutions. Unfortunately, we continue to wait for many of these solutions to be activated in spite of the hard work of many producers and industry associations. We must continue to advocate for change that will make our business climate more competitive and profitable. Doing nothing is not an option.
As my term as president of the CCA nears completion, I want to address some of the other important issues that require our attention in order to remain a viable industry in the future.
There is the environmental debate on production agriculture. While there are suggestions that new environmental regulations could provide a benefit to the cattle industry due to our ability to capture carbon, there is an even greater threat that we will be penalized for our methane emissions. It is critical that we focus our efforts to gather and articulate reasonable scientific assessments that will support the cattlemen’s position in this debate.
The public-lands debate continues to pose a threat to our ability to lease and control activity on public lands that have been grazed for decades and form a good portion of the grass base for many producers in Canada. Environmental groups, conservation organizations and others want to enter this debate, and while they may be well intentioned, some lack the understanding of the impact of an unbalanced ecosystem. Cattlemen have proven their ability to be good stewards of this land but, again, we must be willing to advocate our position in this debate or risk losing these important lands to other uses.
The animal welfare, humane transportation, food safety and production practices employed in our industry are also under scrutiny, often by groups and individuals with a predisposed bias to eliminating animal agriculture. They use supposition and innuendo in the place of sound science to justify regulatory reform that will make it very difficult for our industry to be sustainable. Our position must be clearly articulated and backed by sound scientific assessments that will prove both our concern and actions to protect the welfare of animals while providing a viable business model that will be competitive in the global marketplace.
Most importantly, I believe the cattle industry is in a publicity fight for the hearts and minds of consumers. Cattle organizations have traditionally believed that simply having sound scientific
by Brad Wildeman
findings to defend our production practices and marketing strategies would be good enough for consumers and policy makers. The playing field has changed, however. Our urban consumers are being bombarded with misinformation designed by organizations whose clandestine purpose is to run us out of business. Such organizations are funded by well-intentioned but misinformed contributors who, believing they are supporting animal welfare — which everyone can support — send money to groups that use the funds to support vegan agendas.
As an industry we must counteract this agenda by investing in promoting all the great benefits our industry provides to our economy and our citizens. Promoting our actions toward environmental sustainability and our protection of natural and wildlife habitat, as well as our concern for providing a safe and wholesome product to consumers in a way that protects rural families and communities, can change public perceptions about our industry.
Having that story told by young, vibrant farm and ranch families that embody this vision of agriculture can be a real game-changer. But it will not happen without a conscious and committed effort and financial investment by cattle producers to get this story out to consumers everywhere.
For this reason, we are working with our counterparts within the Five Nations Beef Alliance to co-ordinate our messages on these important issues. We work with them on the areas of animal welfare, humane transportation, food safety, trade rules, and industry advocacy. These issues are important to every beef-producing nation and should not be used indiscriminately for short-term advantage.
The alliance, comprised of the CCA and cattle organizations from the United States, Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia, and most recently Uruguay, has produced a great deal of information exchange, common advocacy and research sharing to strengthen our lobbying position both at home and internationally.
It has been a tremendous honour to represent this industry over the past several years, but particularly the past two years as your president. I have said many times that I represent one of the greatest industries in the world, populated by people with the greatest character one could wish for. I know, as I have met so many of them! I am also very confident about the future leadership within the CCA by those that will assume these positions at our annual meeting this month. I ask you to support them, and our industry, in the coming years.