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Discussing memes: 'If you’re cold, they’re cold too'

Hannah Thompson Published on 12 February 2015

In agriculture and livestock production, it is becoming increasingly more important to be beyond reproach. As undercover activists lurk in our barns and consumers become more and more attuned to animal care issues, we have enough on our plate with trying to explain humane, necessary and science-based practices that may not look pleasant on the surface (such as dehorning calves or moving a down cow) to tolerate any mistreatment or cruelty.

This winter, I’ve seen a meme going around on Facebook featuring the “If you’re cold, they’re cold too – bring them inside and warm them up” phrase, commonly used to remind people to take extra caution with outdoor pets during extreme temperatures. However, one version I’ve seen features an image with beef cattle in snow alongside an image of steak on a plate. Humorous? Sure. Posted by farmers who take every painstaking precaution to be certain their cattle are cared for long before they go inside and escape the frigid temperatures themselves? Absolutely. Might appear to a consumer as dismissive of animal needs? Unfortunately, yes.

"They're cold" meme

My first reaction when I saw the image was to chuckle, as I am well aware of the hard work that farmers and ranchers do to make sure their animals are well cared for throughout the year. But when I took a step back and viewed the joke through the lens of a concerned consumer, it became not quite so funny anymore. It started looking a little callous and a little too cavalier about the health and wellbeing of animals.

Remember Atlas, the winter storm that struck South Dakota last fall and killed an estimated 15,000 to 30,000 head of cattle? The loss was heartbreaking, and the national and international agricultural communities turned all of their efforts toward helping the impacted farmers and ranchers recover. When you recall this massive loss of animal life and the questions some consumers had following the storm about why so many cattle perished, the lighthearted meme takes on a bit of a different meaning and detracts from the great work being done by groups like NCBA to spread awareness of what steps farmers and ranchers take to care for animals during storms and extreme weather.

For better or for worse, farmers today are living and working under a microscope. Decisions about how we feed, raise and process livestock are being tightly scrutinized, both by animal rights activists when they produce undercover videos and casual consumers when they choose among the myriad of labels facing them at the meat counter in the grocery store. If we want to build and maintain credibility among consumers as individuals who deeply care about the welfare and safety of our animals, we must be constantly beyond reproach in our actions or words.

This applies to the 4-H member getting frustrated at their calf at the county fair when she just won’t cooperate as well as the cold farmer laughing at a meme on Facebook. While raising livestock can sometimes be trying, a cool head must always prevail over yelling at or striking an animal, or posting or saying something questionable online. My advice is to recognize and embrace the microscope as an opportunity to always put your best foot forward and represent your industry well. The easiest rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t say or do something if you knew you were being watched by a consumer, just don’t do it. Save the (admittedly amusing) potentially questionable jokes or memes for sharing at the dinner table – or go really old school and print them out.  end mark

Hannah Thompson

Hannah Thompson
Communications Director
Animal Agriculture Alliance


Photo provided by Hannah Thompson.