Friday, June 24, 2011

4-H is Good for Society

Recently an article was written questioning if 4-H livestock projects desensitize youth to violence since the animals they raise are eventually harvested for meat. I can answer this question on all levels because I am a 4-H alumni, 4-H parent and an Extension Agent . The short answer to the question is no, 4-H livestock projects do not desensitize youth to violence. It does provide many other benefits.

As an alumni of the 4-H livestock projects I can tell you without a doubt that I believe in the sanctity of life. I take the dignity of all living beings into account in all that I do. All of the animals that I have had the privilege of caring for over all my years of livestock production (including my 4-H years) were treated with the utmost care. I also understood from the very beginning why we raise animals for food. Each 4-Her begins the project understanding that the animal they are caring for will eventually become food.

This does not lead to cruelty or insensitivity but rather an understanding of the circle of life. I would even argue that 4-Hers in the animal projects have a better understanding of sensitivity than those who have not had that experience. They understand taking care of a living being, making sure it has all its needs met and that it is comfortable. However, they understand that there is a basic and inherent difference between animals and humans.

Our world was designed to give humans dominion over all other living things. They were put on earth for our use, i.e. food and fiber. They are also dependent on our care and that is where the life lessons of 4-H animal projects are.

As a 4-H parent I have seen my kids learn to care for their animals. From the very beginning they knew the purpose of the animals they were raising. They realized that the healthy meat on our dinner table was one of those animals that we raised with care and sensitivity. They are learning the importance of hard work by getting up each morning early and taking care of those animals first thing every morning be it summer break, a holiday or a weekend.

As an Extension Agent in charge of 4-H animal projects for the past 18 years, I can tell you without a doubt that every youth who has come through that same program have went on to be very productive, successful members of society with a great sensitivity for those around them. In all my years, I have never heard, read or seen any evidence that 4-H livestock projects desensitize youth, period.

So the answer to the question of whether 4-H livestock projects desensitize youth is an unequivocal no. I wish more youth had the opportunity to care for livestock. Then society would better understand the amount of time, effort and care livestock producers put into the meat on your dinner plate. I also believe that they would have a greater appreciation for all living things around them and the purpose of those animals. What the world needs is more involvement in 4-H, not less.

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