Dan Murphy: Cameras on Every Corner

Data and verbiage are no match for graphic video clips. ( Onsight247.com )

Should barns, feedlots and holding pens be equipped with video surveillance? A strong argument can be made that cameras should be standard equipment on farms and ranches.

Maybe I’m just revealing what an ancient, creaking fossil I’ve become.

However, I can’t help but smirk at articles that begin by shamelessly pandering to Millennials, Gen Zers and whatever demographic distinction characterizes even younger people born in this current decade.

Here’s a great example of what I’m referring to, this one from Glacier Farm Media in Canada:

“Sir Paul McCartney, of pop music fame, once famously observed, ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.’ ”

I get it that the point of that lead sentence was about the glass walls concept, but is it necessary to explain that Paul McCartney is this guy you might have heard of, a performer who’s enjoyed some success in the music industry? Seriously?

Now, I’ve spent years knocking Sir Paul for his over-the-top, holier-than-thou veganism, but give the man his due as a musical genius, a singer-songwriter of unparalleled prominence.

McCartney’s written or co-authored close to 200 songs while fronting The Beatles, Wings and as a solo artist or member of an ensemble.

That’s a phenomenal accomplishment, but more to the point, of the 10 pop songs that have been covered by more artists than any others in the last century, no less than four of the 10 are Lennon-McCartney creations:

  • “Yesterday” (re-recorded by other artists more than 2,200 times!)
  • “Eleanor Rigby” (hailed on its release by none other than Leonard Bernstein as a seminal piece of pop music creativity)
  • “And I Love Her” (a love song covered by the likes of Bob Marley, Smokey Robinson, Sarah Vaughn and Barry Manilow)
  • “Blackbird” (with credits to Julio Iglesias for the lyrics).

By the way? McCartney sang lead vocals on all of those tunes.

And he’s still alive! And still touring. Not to mention that he headlined the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXIX, which was witnessed by more than a billion people and which occurred in the lifetimes of most everybody currently alive on Earth.

C’mon, Millennials/post-Millennials/Gen Zs — whatever your preferred designation: learn a little bit of history!

Videos versus verbiage

Millennial bashing aside, the point of the reference to glass-walled slaughterhouses was to evoke a serious argument: that all livestock facilities should be equipped with cameras.

Of course, the article, which was posted to the Manitobacooperator.ca website, was based on the assumption that a significant percentage of consumers harbor concerns about how farm animals are treated, both in production and at packing plants.

Truth be told, most meat-eaters purchase and prepare animal foods as part of their daily diets without a whole lot of angst, but the reality is that many of those folks don’t want to know what goes on at a hog farm, in a dairy barn or at a feedlot.

As it was phrased in the article, “Most people prefer to only meet their meat at the butcher counter of the local grocery store, once it’s an inanimate object in a Styrofoam tray, encased in plastic wrap.”

While virtually all livestock producers have upgraded their management and handling procedures to enhance animal well-being, and many have invested in facilities to provide outdoor access or enriched housing, there are plenty of animal activists willing and able to obtain video footage — doctored or otherwise — that paints producers and production tactics in a very negative light.

How can the industry counter the impact of such imagery? Not by issuing a press release or promoting a bunch of statistics that document the low levels of mortality and morbidity on farms and ranches.

Data and verbiage are no match for graphic video clips.

But what if producers had surveillance footage in barns, pastures and holding pens, cameras that tracked how animals are treated 24/7?

That’s not to suggest that those cameras would provide a live feed accessible at all times to anyone who cared to log on. But there’s real power in showing security footage that isn’t staged, that isn’t monitored, that is clearly shows real-world situations without any editing.

Show any group of people a professionally done video of any aspect of livestock production, with proper lighting, creative camera angles and the production values of a TV commercial, and the typical reaction is something along the lines of, “Well, that’s all staged. That’s not what goes on when the cameras aren’t running.”

But video footage from stationary cameras, like the images captured at public facilities, commercial buildings or ATMs, is totally believable.

And affordable.

So I would encourage each and every producer, feeder or livestock operator to install surveillance cameras at their facilities, if they haven’t done so already.

Because not only do today’s younger generations lack an awareness of history — political, as well as pop music — but if something isn’t captured on video, it didn’t happen.

Which all the positive press in the world can’t overcome.

The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, an award-winning journalist and commentator.

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