When a Farmer is Charged With Animal Neglect, Who Will Stand With Him?

I didn’t think this kind of thing happened anymore. I got the first phone call two weeks ago from a local reader of my blog.  She told me there was a pasture-based farmer like me in the next county over who was being brought up on misdemeanor charges for animal abuse. I thought it was a hoax. Then I got another email, and then a text message, a few FaceBook messages, and then a few more emails and phone calls. That’s when I became more acquainted with Joshua Rockwood’s family farm, West Wind Acres. I began investigating and researching further, and learned that Mr. Rockwood was being brought up on scads of charges that just about any small family farmer could have faced in any given winter, including: Water buckets that had frozen over between chore times -he was accused of not providing them water, even though his animals passed hydration tests Pigs that were out in the open air -He was accused of not having them confined in housing in winter, because the free-ranging pastured pigs had chosen to be outside their shelters on the day the authorities visited, and one of them had a touch of frost bite on one ear The dogs and sheep were confined together in an unheated barn  – Ummm…seriously?  They were merimma GUARD dogs, bred for that job.  They have thick coats, and they are typically raised with sheep.  And

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4 thoughts on “When a Farmer is Charged With Animal Neglect, Who Will Stand With Him?

  1. Recently in the local police blotter I noticed that Animal Control was called in to check out my bull because he was malnourished and without shelter and water. Animal control checked it out and everything was fine, I was never notified by the way. But it still goes in the blotter. I did a Freedom of Access Act request for information regarding the complaint. I was given the call information from dispatch that included the Name, Address and Phone Number of the person who made the complaint.

  2. Thank you for this article. It is important for farmers to be preemptive in dealing with the issues you describe-it can happen to anyone. I have strongly urged my neighbors to look into legitimate third party verifications to deal with nuisance accusations, whether the cited abuse is related to livestock or the environment. Here in Michigan we have a program, “Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program” under which a farm is inspected and helped to come into compliance with state approved agricultural practices-all under our Right to Farm Act.

    Animal husbandry is another matter. I highly recommend that pasture based farms look into verification from Animal Welfare Approved (AWA). AWA has highly respected standards for animal care, on-site inspection, and is dedicated to the welfare of production livestock. AWA is very helpful and worked with us to earn their verification. The organization has provided advice, guidance and an introduction to many responsible producers throughout the US.

    Having third party verification under respected standards-which we as stewards have incorporated-not only protects responsible farmers, but helps in elevating the standards of care we as stewards seek for our land and livestock. All of which is very consistent with what I believe are the core values of the On Pasture community. The Standards of Care and description of the AWA program can be found on their website. http://www.animalwelfareapproved.org/

    The community support is inspirational, and the situation you have described calls for us to anticipate problems and how to deal with them before they paralyze good people.

    Thank you,
    Windshadow Farm & Dairy
    SW Michigan

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