4-H, FFA seek to clean up image

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1993:

4-H and Future Farmers of America
chapters in Ohio, Oregon, and Washington are
developing a criteria and curriculum for medal
competition in the areas of animal well-being,
quality control, and show animal ethics, under-
written with $95,000 from the USDA.
“It’s important for the livestock indus-
try to show the public that we care about the
well-being of meat animals,” says Ohio 4-H
extension agent Sherry Nickles, who adds that
the new medal categories will “open up another
opportunity for members who aren’t going to be
the grand or reserve champion.”

Already underway, the project was
publicized shortly after the USDA found traces
of the antibiotic sulfa methazine in the carcasses
of four pigs who had been exhibited by 4-H and
FFA members at the Orange County Fair in
Costa Mesa, California. Although sulfa met-
hazine is often given to young pigs to increase
their resistance to infection, all traces of it must
be gone by slaughter because it can cause a
potentially fatal allergic reaction in people who
inadvertantly consume it. The USDA ordered
the slaughterhouse, the Farmer John plant in
Vernon, California, to quarantine another 151
pigs who had been at the fair until any remnants
of the drug had passed through their systems.
According to USDA veterinarian Arthur Endo,
sulfa methazine is most often found in pigs
raised for fair competition. Farmer John
spokesman Ron Smith said the only previous
drug contamination found at the plant was in a
group of pigs from a 1992 fair held in Texas.
The Oregon and Ohio model programs
are coming from somewhat different directions.
Oregon is the pilot state for a reorganization of
4-H, from emphasizing job training for aspiring
farmers to providing social education for chil-
dren who in one way or another need help.
Some Oregon 4-H programs have even aban-
doned raising and auctioning animals for slaugh-
ter. The Ohio program, on the other hand, is
closely geared to current agricultural practice.
Called I CARE, which was also the original
name of the wholly unrelated International
Wildlife Coalition, it “was developed in 1990 by
the Western Colorado CattleWomen’s Council,”
according to Ohio Farmer magazine, “because
the number of activists attending livestock shows
and auctions began to increase…The concept was
quickly adopted by the Minnesota Farm Bureau,”
and has since been copied in Illinois and
Wisconsin, as well as Ohio.
I CARE uses a discussion guide pro-
duced by the American Farm Bureau Federation,
which has aggressively opposed strengthened
animal protective legislation at both the federal
and state level for many years, even when the
object of the legislation had little or nothing to
do with agriculture.
“In addition to proper animal care
guidelines,” Ohio Farmer reported, “the book
includes preparation for visitors’ or reporters’
questions, suggested responses for uncomfort-
able questions, and ways to handle disruptive
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