One reward of ranch life in rural Montana is that after a hard-days' work, I get to fall asleep listening to the bawl of mama cows near the house. I imagine farmers and ranchers across the nation can relate to that calming sound. While there are many sounds that come from farms and ranches, one thing we don't expect to hear is the sound of our farm equipment exploding outside our windows. Unfortunately, for the men and women who make their home at or near the Harris Ranch feedyard in Fresno County (CA), that is no longer a foreign sound. Early in the morning of Jan. 8, 2012, they were awakened to the sound of 14 cattle trucks exploding and burning near the feedyard.
I thank God that no person and no animals were injured in this senseless act. But make no mistake - this was a horrific act of terrorism against a fellow agricultural producer. Whoever is responsible - be it an individual or a group of people - they must be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
America's farmers and ranchers are some of the most honorable men and women around. We work seven days a week, 365 days a year regardless of weather extremes caring for our animals and our crops. We take pride in our chosen way of life because, after all, we're feeding and clothing the world.
Opening Christmas presents or celebrating birthdays is often put on hold until after our animals are fed, watered and cared for - that's a fact for my family and for many others as well. That is why I was extremely alarmed to learn that animal rights extremists are taking credit for the Harris Ranch attack. How can anyone who claims to care about the health and safety of animals commit such an act that could very easily have harmed or killed many animals?
Harris Ranch is working with the local Fresno County Sheriff's department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine who committed this heinous crime. While there is no concrete evidence that an animal rights group is behind this arson, I sure hope everyone - including all animal-welfare organizations - will follow Harris Ranch's lead and cooperate during this investigation. It's the only right option.
While farm and ranch life can sometime leave us a days' drive from the city, we're all aware of the horrific, cowardly acts of terrorists to inflict economic, physical, psychological and emotional harm and pain on victims. No one, farmers and ranchers included, should have to fear attacks against them, their family, their animals or their property. While we can all step up surveillance and take precautions on our farms and ranches, we should not have to live in fear. Terrorist acts have no place - not in America and not on farms and ranches.
America's cattlemen and women stand with me and offer our support to Harris Ranch. We stand unified in our efforts to produce the safest, most wholesome and abundant food supply in the world. We owe it to ourselves, to our fellow agricultural producers and to the millions of people who purchase our products to feed their families to continue doing our jobs. We cannot stand by and allow crimes like these to stop us from caring for our animals.