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What the animal rights activists don’t say: Research saves animals

Katie Pinke

The Forum recently published several stories on an animal rights activist group filing complaints about the deaths of several North Dakota State University research animals. The group is against animals, agriculture and all animal research. I don’t want to give an animal rights group anymore headlines but the role and value of NDSU research and animal agriculture needs to be highlighted.

Regardless of your connection to agriculture, you should care about this issue and value land-grant universities and their research. Why? Agriculture drives our economy. You might not live on a farm or know a farmer, but your community and its businesses are connected to American agriculture.

The research at land-grant universities such as NDSU saves livestock.

For example, in summer 2017 North Dakota experienced the worst drought since 2006. Forage and water availability for livestock drastically deteriorated. In these conditions, nitrate toxicity is a concern for livestock. Across 52 North Dakota counties, NDSU Extension staff offered testing that prevented 16,000 cattle from being exposed to toxic forage and 8,000 cattle from being exposed to toxic water.

NDSU is a resource for livestock producers across the region, especially in tough times. According to the 2017 Drought Response report and impact study, NDSU county Extension staff answered 3,000 calls, had more than 1,000 office visits and conducted more than 500 farm visits in connection to the drought. Their research, tools and expertise saved livestock. Your tax dollars help fund public land-grant university research and extension at NDSU. Conducting water and forage testing that saves livestock and answering the needs of farmers and ranchers during a drought disaster is a valuable use of North Dakota taxpayer dollars. No matter what an out-of-state animal right group trying to destroy animal research says, NDSU’s work is valuable to livestock, farmers and ranchers and North Dakota tax payers.

I was raised around livestock. Early on, I learned about the reality of death. Despite taking precautions and offering quality care, animals die. Farmers and ranchers never want an animal to die. The animals are their livelihoods. In fact, most farmers put the needs of their livestock ahead of their own, through all seasons and adverse conditions.

From what I have read, adverse conditions contributed to the deaths of the animals that died at NDSU. The caretakers and researchers didn’t want a lamb to suffocate from a hay bale toppling on it or a horse to try to jump a corral panel rather than walk through an open gate. But adverse and negative experiences happen to all of us, including those who care for animals. We learn from the experience and work to improve how we care for animals in the future.

I don’t own livestock. I’m not a NDSU graduate. I’m a graduate of the University of North Dakota—a rival of NDSU. Professionally, I’m the publisher and general manager of Agweek and AgweekTV. But personally, I’m a fifth-generation North Dakota farm girl who’s a passionate agriculture advocate.

No matter your connection to agriculture or where you live, stand up for agriculture. The industry needs your positive voice. Agriculture drives our economy but, most importantly, it’s the way of life for many of those around you and drives community vitality. Farmers and ranchers comprise less than 2 percent of the population. More voices need to stand up to the noise of an animal rights group attacking agriculture and say we support NDSU. We support animal agriculture research. We support NDSU Extension. We know their work improves animal care and saves livestock. Don’t fall prey to an animal rights group trying to attack the animal agriculture livelihood and the research a land-grant university does to improve agriculture.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.