At my last routine checkup, my doctor brought in a physician's assistant who was 'in training' and there to observe. He stood there, scribbling, as I chatted about my insomnia, my diet, my stomach issues. I had to trust that he really was there to learn, maybe even add new information about recommended prescriptions (being a new medical school graduate, he should have the latest information, right?) or help spot impending signs of illness or concern. I had to trust he was there to learn, not there because he might 'dish' about private information he learned about recognizable patients in this respected doctor's office.
If I sound hesitant, it's because I've had my medical privacy invaded many times when I was a TV news anchor in Des Moines, so have others I've worked with. I'm sure you'd agree it's absolutely justifiable to expect that everyone who helps care for their personal or family medical needs is well-trained and professional enough to let them know immediately if they saw something 'out of line', 'out of whack' or potentially dangerous.
Putting those same concerns in another setting, it also seems reasonable to expect that if a person comes to work on an Iowa livestock farm, they're well-trained and professional enough to let a farmer (or law enforcement agent) know immediately if they see something 'out of line,' 'out of whack' or potentially dangerous when it comes to animals that are raised for our food.
Consumers are justifiably concerned about how animals they eat are treated on farms in Iowa. I'm not saying the Ag Protection Bill just passed at the Statehouse is perfect, but at least it gets to the heart of the matter: trust. I want to trust that if an animal is being mistreated on a farm, the person who sees it says something, and the person who does it, is removed or punished immediately. It would also be nice if farmers could trust that people who work on their farms know what they're doing and stand up to correct or report bad behavior.
I understand we all are concerned about animals; we don't have to live and work with livestock animals every day to get that they deserve good food, timely medical attention and a compassionate, safe environment during their (somewhat short) lives. Maybe that's why the majority of farmers speak out against bad actors when they see it because it's not just the industry that gets smeared when some grainy, heavily-edited, undercover video emerges; it also smears the character of the 99.9% of farmers who also wonder why someone would just stand there and watch.
Laurie Johns is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau.