A response to Ann Britton

by hailtothenihilist

This is a response to a point that beef farmer, Ann Britton made on Twitter regarding who should draft any guidelines and rules for the animal agriculture industry.

She wrote: “unless u have worked in our In u wld have no idea what regulations we have imposed on us with no consultation”. This was in response to my view that guidelines and rules should be written by many relevant stakeholders, not just those with a financial interest–as that can result in all sorts of counter-productive outcomes. My response was somewhat smart aleck: “Well, that isn’t entirely true. For if you or somebody else that did know were to tell me then I would know”. This response was to Ann’s logical error more than anything. I interpret her above argument to read: “Those in the industry know more about certain things than those not in the industry”. In which case, it would logically follow, that if that knowledge were imparted on somebody outside the industry then they too would know.

Ann’s response seemed embittered. “honest 2goodness Y is that my responsibility?” Obviously she didn’t see my motive. Though, she raises a further issue. She claims ownership of knowledge yet isn’t willing to share it. She claims it isn’t her responsibility to inform those outside of the industry about the special knowledge those on the inside have. As another commenter pointed out, there is a disconnection between regional and urban. I carried on: “I’m following your lead. You implied that that can only be known by some. I don’t agree with that”. And then the conversation fell apart. I was twisting her words and telling her she implied things that she didn’t. I did no such thing.

My logic above holds, I am afraid Ann. And the claim that you made is rather typical. But, I think in this instance, there was a mere breakdown in communication. All I was saying was that if you defend the argument that “Those in the industry know more about certain things than those not in the industry” then by imparting knowledge on those outside of the industry, which you must if they are to know–whether that be through discussion or scientific publications,–they will know too. Really, this is a storm in a teacup and a big misunderstanding. I’m sure you agree that we ought to bring regional and urban together?

Having said all that, and I am sure Ann doesn’t defend this position, many in the industry do believe that because they are part of something they know best and surely those that haven’t hands on experience wouldn’t have anything relavent to bring to the table. Take an ethicist. This is somebody who most likely sits in an office in an urban area somewhere. They are unlikely to be on the ground–other than the odd field trip–being exposed to the brutal workings of an industry. But that’s not to say that they have no knowledge of that industry, or their knowledge is not relevant, or not as relevant as somebody that does work on the ground. They have knowledge in a different area–though relevant. They are likely to think differently than the farmer and that’s not a bad thing. We can operate in abstract. In fact, it’s more impartial to do so. By being emotionally and financially invested in a situation, these factors are going to weigh in tremendously and have the potential to taint any critical, self-evaluation. And that’s why I think it is fundamentally important for any animal welfare guidelines or rules to be written by people from a practical and abstract perspective.

The irony of this debate: it started with me responding to a post, retweeted by Ann, on bad practices within the animal agriculture industry.

Edit: Struck out the word “brutal” as it suffered in context.