Does 4-H desensitize kids to killing?
June 23rd, 2011
11:00 AM ET
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What do farmers have to say about agriculture issues? Hear it straight from them in Farmers With Issues.

4-H stands for "Head, heart, hands, health" and apparently a fifth - for "haters."

To many, 4-H Clubs are all about nurturing sweet little calves, adorable children winning ribbons, urban garden patches and proud future farmers grooming prized pigs for show. To others, it's a calculated system for turning the youth of America into cold, unfeeling animal killers.

When Eatocracy ran a 5@5 feature with chef Kelly Liken on the topic of Five Reasons to Buy from Your Local 4-H earlier this week, we quickly identified within the comments two distinct perceptions of the organization - which was originally set up by the United States Department of Agriculture to train the rural youth of America in hands-on skills like agriculture and raising animals. One was that 4-H promotes responsible animal husbandry and the cultivation of food resources in a responsible, ethical way and the other was that it serves to desensitize children to the suffering of animals.

Here's what commenters to that article had to say:

In cold blood

I don't and would never support the 4-H. This group helps desensitize youngsters into having no emotional attachment to animals raised for food. For those who say no one should have attachment to animals raised for food, I say "of course". This is how the meat industry stays in business. If children are raised to love all animals and not try to see them as products, they would not be interested in seeing them killed. "Listening to the auctioneer and seeing how excited the children get when their animal is purchased is an incredibly fulfilling experience."

Really? Incredibly fulfilling experience. You mean knowing the animal that trusted you from birth is off to be mistreated before being slaughtered! That's fulfilling? Maybe that's because the 4-H has successfully desensitized these children who may have once be appalled by this. It's simply horrific. Shame on you 4-H for what you do to animals and to children. - Heather King

Education, not desensitization

What 4-H does do is promote responsible animal husbandry and the cultivation of food resources in a responsible, ethical way. I accept your position that any killing of animals for food is, in your position, not ethical or moral, however most of us are omnivores and I for one would rather that those producing the meat I choose to eat do so in a humane and ethical way. I respect your position, but I would also hope that you would rather see people brought up to understand, and therefore demand, that there an ethical way to treat an animal even if that animal's eventual purpose is the nourishment of a human being.

Desensitization is the wrong word–education is the right word. These kids (I was one) are not at all desensitized to the process–rather, they are educated about proper raising and care of these animals. Not only was I a member, but growing up we also purchased meat and produce from 4H and FFA members–talk about locally sourced! We could be confident in the quality, origin, and raising of these products in a way we can rarely be in a supermarket. - Value rather than desensitization

A lasting impact

Have you ever been at a 4-H auction? Most of the younger kids end up crying after their animal gets bought and not donated back. As they grow older, they wrap their head around the idea, but when they're first starting out they have a hard time accepting it. It doesn't mean they're "desensitized" to it, it's the fact they they've matured and understand that animal's purpose more as time goes on. - Brianna

The circle of life

Someone asked earlier in the thread how many 4-H kids had actually seen an animal slaughtered. In my club back home (rural Sierra Nevadas), the answer was ALL OF US. We toured the packing houses where our animals would later be slaughtered (note packing HOUSES, as these buildings housed perhaps thirty head at an outside estimate, nowhere near large enough to call a "processing plant"), examined carcasses, viewed the taking of animals lives and the bloodletting afterwards, and were given briefings on the saws and tools used. This while spending hours a day bathing, training, feeding and cleaning up after our own still very alive animals. - 4-H fo'sho'

The value of life

It is really so unevolved. Why are people proud that the kids are crying as they lead their animals onto the trailer to be killed for food? You are teaching them that relationships are disposable. That animals are disposable. NOT A GOOD LESSON, and these poor animals raised as pets are off to the slaughterhouse where they will be tortured before they die. - Kathy

It keeps them off the streets

Small scale food-animal raisers aren't cold blooded killers, they're making money doing what they enjoy doing. If anyone is desensitized to animal life, go to Youngstown [ed: where the commenter grew up] and talk to all the thugs on the street that grew up around murders happening weekly. THEN you'll find someone who doesn't value human or animal life.

If I have kids, you bet they'll be in 4-H. I'd rather see them doing that than doing what most of the people I grew up with did. Kids deserve more of a chance than what drugs, crime and partying can offer them. - Brianna

It should be noted that animal husbandry and sales are only a portion of what 4-H Clubs do. Other former members spoke of "arts and crafts like pottery, painting; outdoor activities like camping, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, and...skills like woodworking and leather-working" as well as horse showing and "cooking, photography, jewelry making" and others. Still, with the issue of animal raising and slaughter on the table, we'd like to know what you think in the comments below.

Previously - A day two pigs would die: ethical slaughter

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Filed under: Animal Rights • Buzz • Farmers with Issues • Food Politics • From the Comments • Local Food • Vegan

soundoff (1,645 Responses)
  1. thepoint

    I'd like to address Kirby's posting: unfortunately, the industrial farming complex is quite cruel to animals. We're not talking about one slaughterhouse, not at all. In addition, yes, the animals are stunned before they're sliced open. Most of them are not conscious while being gutted. However, others are. This has nothing to do with 4-H; I'm not at ALL implying that 4-H condones this kind of treatment of animals. Additionally, these animals - factory farmed animals - live a life of misery, filth, and confinement before they're slaughtered. Wanting to treat animals with respect and kindness is a basic tenet of decent, moral behavior. I'm just talking about some of the postings here - when people start insulting vegans and vegetarians and joking about eating them ... or implying that it's a vegans versus meat-eaters scenario, well, that just shows their ignorance. If people want to eat animals, that's their choice. But don't immediately start insulting and pointing fingers at people who don't. That just shows that you're frightened to face the truth - when you eat animals from a factory farm setting, you're participating in animal abuse. Sorry, these are well-documented facts.

    June 24, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  2. jackpine

    why don't we start eating vegans? I'm sure they "taste like chicken".

    June 24, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  3. Jeff

    We should appreciate organizations like 4H and FFA that teach young people about food and fiber production and lead many to colleges and universities for additional training and preparation to go into the agricultural industry. Without them we would be a hungry and naked nation. My sons raised livestock projects in 4H and grew very attached to them but also knew where the animals would eventually end up. My sons understood the purpose of the animals and knew they were not some kind of "Disney" character. Today, both of my sons are majoring in an agriculture field at a university and plan to work in the animal agriculture industry. Thank you 4H for preparing my sons for the future!

    June 24, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  4. tony

    Here's another ridiculous article by some urbanite or vegetarian who doesn't understand the agricultural system. You grow animals so that people can eat them. We've been doing it for approximately 5000 years, and it's one of the reasons we've survived for this long. If these types of organizations were "desensitizing kids to killing" then we would have a number of rural sociopaths...and let me set it straight that there are no more sociopaths in the country then there are in the city. If anything, organizations show people the realisms of life, and where there food comes from; something that many 'urbanites' simply don't understand.

    June 24, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  5. 4-H Is Great

    I noticed that the person(s) who wrote this article are too CHICKEN (pun intended) to give his/their actual names. I am so pissed off about this, I am going to make sure my kid is in 4H this year.

    June 24, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  6. 4-H Is Great

    Good grief. "Does 4-H desensitize kids to killing?" What an idiotic premise! When is the last time you read about a serial killer "he must have been in 4-H" ??? 4-H is one of the greatest programs ever in the school systems, and you guys are worried about a few farm animals? What about those 6 cows that were slaughtered last year for McDonald's? You aren't bitching about those. It appears that you want all school kids to be mindless video game freaks who do nothing but sit on their asses all day waiting to be served by their Moms, and later, by welfare. 4-H teaches kids to actually DO SOMETHING with their lives. Whoever wrote this article is a Big Fat Jerk.

    June 24, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  7. sandy

    Join 4-H it's one of the best things out there. This article has NO idea what it is talking about. No idea.

    June 24, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  8. Dr Bill Toth

    oh darn! I thought it was video games, Nightly TV news, ScifI movies, bullying in the schools, and people dying in hospitals vs at home that "caused" kids to be "desensitized". Live With Intention,

    June 24, 2011 at 7:22 am |
  9. Gosh Darn Golly Gee Whiz

    I feel that is you are going to be a namby pamby veg, then you should man up and join the trend of removing your k9 teeth. I am a hunter, farmer and caretaker of the lands in my care. I not only kill animals for food, but also process them with my own hands. If you can't handle it.... then put a stop to it.... until you put a stop to it, it is legal and I am going to do it. Simple as that. Being a whiner is not productive in any circles.

    June 24, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  10. frank

    i think that this article is an extreme misrepresentation of the 4-H and FFA programs. just because we raise animals that in some cases are raised for slaughter doesn't mean we are insensitive to the deaths of the animals. I know for a fact that in the 30+ years that my grandparents have been 4-H leaders they have had kids that raised animals for slaughter that are now veterinarians and leaders in their respective AGRICULTURAL fields working to protect farms and everything that farms represent.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:54 am |
  11. Emmalee

    I would like people to understand that the kids who choose to raise livestock animals for fairs and auctions are doing so because they want to take on the responsibility of caring for and raising an animal that depends on them in order to survive. These livestock animals are not pets, they have a purpose and in order to successfully raise an animal of this caliber the child raising the animal needs to understand that. I am an ag teacher and when my students purchase a livestock project I tell them from the beginning, "these animals have a purpose and that purpose is to fill the nutritional needs of those that choose to eat meat. Your job is to provide them with the best life that you can before they are harvested" The kids that raise these animals understand that there is another living thing that depends on them and if they don't fulfill their duties that animal will suffer. These kids are not desensitized, they are responsible and well informed people that will become the sensible and productive members of society that our nation needs now more then ever.

    June 24, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  12. MomWithFaith

    I find the title of this article to be both utterly misleading, and inflammatory, as well as completely uninformed and biased. I participated in 4-H as a youth, and as much as this article would lead others to believe, it was not some kind of right-wing extremist, animal-slaughter training ground. First off, it is not a requirement for members to raise and sell animals, as a matter of fact, only a few in my group had the land to raise any cattle. Secondly, the purchasers of the animals bought them from the 4-H members to take to their own farms to add to their current livestock, while this article almost makes it sound as though the kids were forced to push them in the meat-grinder or something. Lastly, since when is it NOT a fact of life that some animals are raised to be food? It's not like hamburger meat, pork chops, or chicken breasts just drop out of the sky. There was never once any sort of cruelty towards the children or the animals while I participated in 4-H. Myself, and my fellow members took pride in showing our projects, and the hard work it took to complete them successfully. We learned to try our best in all we do, help others in our group and in our community, behave in a respectful and civil manner, and to be accountable to ourselves and others. Unless I was home sick the day they taught us to wantonly slaughter all the living creatures in our midst and become heartless cold-blooded killers, I'm pretty sure that isn't part of the 4-H curriculum. I am a better person for having been a part of such a wonderful group, and when my children are old enough, I hope that they decide to join as well. Oh, and CNN, I can only imagine some of the delightful titles you have planned for your future articles. How about "Is Girl Scouts training our daughters to be prostitutes?"........really, this is above ridiculous, and CNN should know better than to resort to National Enquirer-esque headlines that could be so easily misconstrued by someone who hasn't read the article completely. I'm just sad that a group that has touched the lives of so many young people throughout the years in such a positive way (at least in my case, and those in my group), is being trashed without any sort of informed opinion or investigation of the matter being written about. Clever to use comments from the Eatocracy article as a way to make a slanderous article without any accountability on CNN's part.

    June 24, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  13. Alyssa

    This is the most absurd thing I have ever read. How dare someone say something so ridiculous about a group that is so innocent. 4-H groups are well loved by many. Clearly, the people posting comments disrespecting 4-H were never in or near the groups and their meetings. I was never in 4-H but have been around it and can honestly say 4-H kids are some of the most intelligent, responsible, caring people i have ever met. This article is an absolutely horribly researched article and seems to be made out of a lack of anything better to talk about, or out of haste. Please, research and think about things before you just go saying them. Rumors, like this, are ignorant. 4-H is a caring group and would never think to do anything in harms way of humans or animals.

    June 23, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  14. Ricky

    I tell you what. This crap is stupid. "These crazy people need to quit killing animals. If I want a steak, hotdog, deli ham and turkey, bologna, sausage, or any other kind of meat then I can go to the grocery store and get it." Well where in the world do you think the stores get it from! From killin animals. It wouldnt suprise me if this site got shut down from being invested with virius and trojans from people like me that love meat. These people are a bunch of dummies. If you vegitiarins want to quit killin living things then you are pretty much gonna starve. What do you think a brussel sprout or peas or oats and wheat, because all those are living plants until you pick them and eat them. Make you kid stop eating chicken nuggets even if that is all he eats and no more hot dogs or ham sandwiches, corndogs, pot pies, jello, jelly, jam, hamburgers, sausage, bacon, porkchops, steak, potted meats, pizza, shrimp, fish, lobster, soap, chicken noodle soup, and pretty much everything else. You guys are so stupid it doesnt suprise me why yall dont want the animals killed, cuz they are yalls only friends. Dummies

    June 23, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  15. M.A.N.

    Those who think 4_H desensitizes young people to the suffering of animals should see my two daughters.They have raised rabbits for 12 years now and each one is precious to them. We do not eat them, nor do we sell them to be eaten. They see them as individuals with different personalities. We learned all we could about the rabbits we raise so the kids and I could take care of them to the best of our ability. This included giving injections to sick rabbits etc. Most of our rabbits live 10 to 12 years which if you know anything about rabbits is a long time. The get to graze in pens in the backyard with supervision to keep them safe. They are kept inside and out of the cold in the winter. They are loved and well taken care of. They each have their own fan and are given ice water bottles to keep cool in the summer. the building that houses them is screened so they are not bothered by insects or other animals. These are 4-H kids with 4-H animals. They learned all of this from 4-H.
    Call me,
    A 4-H leader and proud of it

    June 23, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  16. Kirby

    Whoever thinks that 4H and FFA and other agriculturally related organizations are a bad influence can go suck on a carrot. You do realize that without farming and organizations like these you wouldn't even be able to eat your sad little vegan foods? Maybe you should do your research before you start spouting off about how "immoral" and "cruel" farm life is. You see things that the media (like CNN) completely blow out of proportion like ONE slaughterhouse they found that was mistreating animals, when 99% of the time companies will stun the animals before they kill them, costing a lot of money out of their budget to make sure it is humane. And yes, I know this because I've seen this stuff before; I was raised on a farm in rural Tennessee and used to own a Sale barn. Pay attention grass eaters. Research your cause before you bash it. This is why agriculture is gaining a bad name. Way to go, America.

    June 23, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  17. JC

    As a former member of 4-H this article offends me beyond words. I raised animals and had some slaughtered. I grew more attached to these animals the more time I spent with them. Just because they are raised for slaughter does not mean they are not some of our best friends. We (as 4-H members) become just as attached to these animals as people are to their dogs or cats. To say that 4-H desensitizes kids to killing animals sounds like something that would come from an animal welfre group. Agriculture is an imortant part of the US economy. 4-H is not creating cold blooded killer, it's an informitive agriculture program that reaches out to the non agriculture community and teaches agriculture kids the responsibility needed not only for the farm but for the career paths they will take as adults.

    June 23, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  18. Josh Kroeger

    4-H and FFA projects are not meant to desensitize these kids at all. It is meant to teach children values and work ethics. Being a former 4-H and FFA exibitor as well as an employer I can tell the difference between a kid that grew up working and a kid that was given everything they wanted. These children do not have to be told what to do in a work situation, they just work. I can tell you from experience that these animals are not mistreated from birth to the plate. I realize it is our (agriculture's) fault for the public perception of our industry and perhaps in the past animals have been mistreated. However, things have changed and we do not like to see them treated wrongly either. Everything is as humane as possible and the best thing we can do now is educate the public to our new ways. We are not bad people and I would give my life to keep 4-H and FFA animal projects goin.

    June 23, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  19. 4-H Member

    Being a member of 4-H and FFA, I can truthfully say that whoever wrote this article needs a reality check. I have seen more truth on the back of a cereal box. In fact, I have been taught plenty about how animals die and that they are humanely slaughtered. I agree with a friend of mine who called this article "bullcrap" (I would have not been as nice).

    June 23, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  20. DB

    4H & FFA are amazing organizations. I grew up in both (my dad was a butcher) & I am now a high school science instructor. Am I desensitized to the value of life – nope! Do I have a true grasp of the value of life – yep! I wish crack heads & their families valued life and respected others like my ag. friends and I do.

    June 23, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  21. Bailey

    In Regards to this article,

    As a life-long member of 4-H, this article is deeply offending. Why would you blame a simple fact of life on a youth organization? People need meat to survive. If you have a problem with meat, then simply become a vegetarian. There is no need to slander an organization that has created so many leaders. We are not “Haters”, and are continually trying to make the best better. It is sickening to think that this author is connecting animals dying to a youth organization. Know the facts before you write. Most children develop such a bond to their particular animal that it breaks their hearts when they have to go to the slaughterhouse. You can’t just assume that it desensitizes children to death. That is an assumption and NOT a fact. Ask Nancy Grace, another member of CNN, about 4-H and she can tell you just how great the program is. Agriculture is an important program in the world today. The fact that you are also only blaming this on 4-H is horrendous. Numerous other organizations have agriculture programs and are using them for the greater good. We are not creating cold-blooded killers. We are creating the leaders of tomorrow. Get your facts straight! Don’t make assumptions about a program that has done so much. Without these programs the world would be in a much darker place. A fact is animals do have to die. There is no getting around it. This is not an excuse however to slander an organization that is doing the greater good. This author needs to get her facts straight, stop making assumptions, and stop being a person who hurts programs credibility for no reason. I’m 4-Her and I’m Proud!

    One Sickened Individual

    June 23, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
  22. Virginia

    I have many things to say to those who think 4-H turns kids into people who torture and murder animals, but I know they'll be overlooked in the thousands of comments here. So I've summarized my argument on my blog:

    June 23, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  23. Brianna

    You guys who are saying that this article is bias, yada yada, are wrong. This article is in response to another article eatocracy posted yesterday. They took reader's comments and are trying to form an "argument" with our opinions. If you read carefully, you will see that I (BRIANNA) was standing up for 4-H. I've read a lot of responses here and it seems like my opinions are getting overlooked and everyone is getting pissy about all of the "idiot commenters".

    I'm not an idiot. I did grow up in Youngstown, OH. I was NOT a 4-Her, but I knew plenty of them, I went to my county's fair to support my friends who were in 4-H. I wasn't able to be a part of 4-H because my mother was a single mom, who didn't have the time, money, or means to allow me to join. But, had things been different, I absolutely would have been a part of it.

    I am going to college for an agricultural degree, I've taken a livestock judging class, have had a lot of hands on experience with cattle, swine, sheep, horses, rabbits, etc. I'm not one of "those" people who are bashing the organization. Please re-read the article and realize what I'm trying to say. The author only took snippits of my comments, so they seem a little awkward and misplaced in this article, but had you seen my original comments you'd see that I'm trying to say that 4-H DOES NOT desensitize kids to killing.

    Please reply to this if you read it, I feel terrible my words are getting misinterpreted :(

    June 23, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • I luv 'que

      Brianna I don't think people are misinterpreting your (altered) comments, based on their defenses of 4-H in the same breath that they are scolding CNN. I think what you've got here is an overwhelming agreement, actually almost a total agreement, that 4-H does NOT desensitize kids to killing. I'm guessing that many people didn't take the time to read the first article and I think the "getting pissy" comments are all targeted at the two anti 4-H comments in this article under "In Cold Blood" and "The Value of Life". I didn't find your original comments in the first articles posts to see what was altered, but even so, I think I got the basic gist of what you were trying to say and agree with you. I think CNN has their answer. As an avid back yard barbequer, and a member and Certified BBQ Judge of the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) I give my thanks to everyone involved in farming, 4-H and related industries! We love our local slaughterhouse...they've got the best meat around. : )

      June 24, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  24. Cali Rose

    I was a 4-H member and I know my history. The people who wrote this don't know a thing about it. Do they think that since they're vegetarians/vegans that their ancestors were that way. Heck no!! They lived off the land and raised their own animals to butcher. There is no way that they could have survived without it. The technology was different i.e. no air conditioners/heaters. They had fire places. They didn't keep warm by eating vegetables. They ate animals who supplied them with enough fat content to help them insulate themselves. And the clothes they wore? MADE FROM ANIMALS i.e. WOOL!! Yes, they had cotton but someone had to teach them to grow it. They don't just plant the seed without cultivating it and expect it to grow. And believe me, they didn't HUMANELY kill their animals. It was one swift hurl of the axe and it was down. We, 4-Hers are taught that life is sacred, even if we have to kill our own animals. My cattle, pigs and chickens were killed in a slaughter house HUMANELY!! I AM INSULTED to be categorized this way. I know GOD made these animals for us to eat. And if it's in The Book then it's true my friends.

    June 23, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Brianna

      Please read my response below yours. My comments are used in the article, and I was trying to say that 4-H doesn't desensitize people. They took snippits of my comments so my entire point was not able to be made.

      June 23, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • ZRS@Brianna

      Brianna, you totally came off like a 4-H supporter. I don't think anyone doubts that. They were showing both sides.

      I just want to say that I didn't grow up with 4-H but I always had a generally good impression about it. The passion of people like you and your fellow commenters makes me think that it's something I need to consider if I ever have kids of my own.

      June 24, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  25. dawn

    I think that 4 H is a learning opportunity, I too toured a slaughter house, however we did not watch the actual killing. I do find pride in producing my own food for my family, you can trust the quality of the meat, bc you know the history. I was only in FFA growing up, and I will say that I am who I am bc of the agriculture aspect of this! I am now a junior in college for ag. Business and would love to work for usda or extensions (which does 4H. We are not haters at all I love all my livestock and want to see them grow and develope, to me there is nothing better then to walk out my front door to my pasture and pet my livestock. All I have to say is you are suppose to walk a mile in someone else's shoes before you judge them! Why don't you actually go and work and experience real farm life, I bet you will have a different Outlook on the matter and the people!

    June 23, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  26. JohnDoe

    This is why I hate the media, some random guy that has an opinion and no experience to back it up talking about something he knows nothing about, Idiot. 4-H is investing in a kids future and the future of agriculture, look at your shoes and belts before you start throwing stones. Livestock production is a huge market, which i doubt even CNN could deter from making money. This is a business, not unicef, so CNN hire someone with an agricultural background to write something like this, rather than somebody who is in love with ingrid newkirk, bias much?

    June 23, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  27. Boots

    I am 19 years old and i will be showing a steer and a pig for my last year of 4h. I have shown and sold a pig for two years and shown steers for 11 years. In all my time I have learned way better leadership and responsibility than I would of if I was not in 4h, a vegetarian or cried about killing animals. 4her's arent killers, and whoever wrote this must love getting torn down and wasting days on end writing a stupid article. Your worse than oprah trying to tell people not to eat hamburgers.

    June 23, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  28. Former 4-Her, forever family farmer

    As a former member of both 4-H and FFA, and a current FFA advisor, I am shocked at the author's statement that 4-H desensitizes youth towards killing animals. During all of my combined 11 years of membership in those youth organizations (through which I exhibited lambs and hogs) and in my lifetime experiences of living on beef cattle farms, I certainly did not become "desensitized" to the killing of animals. I was also one of those youth who bawled after the sale the first few years, but I was always aware that my animals were not being raised as pets, but instead were raised to provide food.
    As a current beef cattle producer, I certainly know that my cattle are not pets but instead are destined to provide meat for a market where they are in demand. Notwithstanding, I certainly treat my animals with the respect and care that they deserve. They receive treatment when they are sick or injured, available vaccinations to prevent sickness, and the nutrition they need to maintain healthy growth. I grew up as, and still am, a very proud family farmer – one who is proud not only to be a farmer in America, but also a leader in the preparation of the next generation of youth who will become the caring and responsible animal producers that we need.

    June 23, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  29. Emmy

    I am a member of not only 4-H, but FFA as well. I show horses, pigs and steers. Nothing has taught me to be a leader and a better person like the 4-H and FFA program and the people involved in it. I love all of my animals and i live on a farm. You tell me how many kids eat a hamburger or any meat product and really understand the concept of raising an animal and the time and emothion behind all of the time spent with the animal. I for one am very insulted with hearing all of this. You obviously havent ever been in the program yourself and had to go through the hard work and money involved in giving your animal the best life you can before it is slaughtered. With out 4-H imagine how the animals would be treated! At least the kids spend time, love, and care for their animals and give them the best life possible. Yeah, it hurts to see an animal you cared for and loved go on to that meat truck, but think we are feeding families! Not only that but every 4-H and FFA club participates in their community trying to make a difference and learning responsibility. Before you go and criticize the 4-H program and make assumptions about it, go walk in the shoes of the members, you obviously don't know what you are talking about unless you have.

    June 23, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  30. 4-HforLife

    As a 5 year 4-H adviser, past 4-H member for 10 years, farmer and future Agricultural Educator this article points out some serious issues with people's understanding of food from farm to table, 4-H, and folk's inability to think for themselves.
    I agree with a comment I read earlier on this article: to be economically viable animals must be healthy, well cared for, and in my opinion LOVED. I have raised numerous animals from birth to finished weight. I sent them to harvest, because that was their purpose for life. That was my family's livelihood, food supply, and passion. I don't know how many times while loading the trailer I would hug the animals, and cry. I am 22 years old, and to this day sending animals from our farm to feed the world has not got gotten any easier. If anything, 4-H taught me the value of life, responsibility, and a strong work ethic.
    I respect those of who have chosen not to eat meat, but would ask you to do exploring past what the media would have you know about food production. Farmers, 4-H and FFA members are some of the MOST compassionate, caring, hard working, and dedicated people you could ever be associated with. Educate yourself about your food. Find out where it comes from, and how it is processed. Ask a local facility for a tour. You won't find an industry that is more dedicated to quality, and customer satisfaction.
    As for 4-H, it is the nation's largest youth development organization. It reaches children in over 200+ project areas that range from sewing, nutrition, environmental sciences, robots, engineering, public speaking money management, sports nutrition, leadership, etc. It costs the average taxpayer pennies per day to assist in the funding, and has had a significant decrease in the amount of youth going to jail for crimes. The average inmate costs taxpayers approximately $35,000/year. 4-Hers cost less $100/year and increases the likelihood for youth to attend college, and avoid illegal situations. Dsensentize kids to death...well that's not in the mission statement either. 4-H is a community of youth across America learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. I know I can only speak for myself, but 4-H provided me with opportunities to travel this nation to conferences about leadership development, career exploration, and community service. 4-H provided me with the opportunity for scholarship money, and got me to participate in my first public speaking opportunity. 4-H is the reason that I am in college, and helped me through the hardest times in my life by providing me with activities to make my life significantly better for myself. I am a small town girl from Ohio, first generation college student now chasing Graduate School because of what 4-H has given me. I owe much of who I am to 4-H. I assure you many of you could use some serious research into 4-H. Here is a link to their website:
    Articles like this remind me that agriculture and our organizations need to reach out those who are not involved in our industry, let you know what we are about. Without speaking up we open ourselves up for this sort of accusations that are ridiculous. I hope that you will choose to educate yourself before believing "manure piles" like this article. I am disappointed in you CNN.

    June 23, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  31. 4-H Alum

    It is Stuff like this that exemplifies why CNN is basically irrelevant and tanking in the ratings. I couldn't get through this article without wondering why there are no opinions/ Quotes from current 4-H members. I am also wondering what gives the author of this article the merit to say how 4-H psychologically affects its young members. This Article/ "news" report is sad And I question the Professionalism of all associated with it especially CNN.

    June 23, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Brianna

      You do realize that I, Brianna, who has TWO comments in the article is sticking up for 4-H, right? I wasn't a 4-Her, but I know many people who were, and I attend county fairs to support those who were in it, visit the auctions and shows, am dating a 4-H alumni, am going to college for an agriculture degree, have taken a livestock judging class, have had much hands on experience with cattle, swine, sheep, horses, rabbits, etc.

      Like I said in the article, I grew up right outside of Youngstown, OH. My mom was a single mom and didn't have the money or time or means to allow me to participate in 4-H. However, I see the value in it and was standing up against Heather King's stupid comments about 4-H desensitizing kids to killing. Please re-read and realize that there is someone (actually two different people) standing up for what you believe.

      June 23, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • I luv 'que

      I'm guessing that there aren't many comments in the article from 'current' 4-H members because CNN generally has an older target audience. Aren't most 4-H members under the age of 19 (per my Google search)?

      June 24, 2011 at 12:04 am |
      • I luv 'que

        I meant to add to my comment the fact that the question is being asked about kids, therefore I don't think the author was expecting kids to respond.

        June 24, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  32. Robyn

    I grew up with 4H, 10 year member, 4 years as a member of the 4H Federation, and now I am an active 4H leader. While in 4H I took part in all the experiences 4H offered. I also raised and showed livestock. While I was young, I never knew how hard it was caring for another living creature. I was proud to raise my own stock, show them, and yes sometimes send them to slaughter. I was the taught reasons why we did what we did, I was taught to treat animals humanely, I was taught leadership, responsiblity, and caring for others. 4H made me the person I am today, and I am proud to have a child in their first year of 4H. 4H builds strong, caring, responsible youth. I am able to walk into a interview beacuse of 4H; I can cook my families meals because of 4H; I am able to teach leadership and responsiblity because of 4H. I know the first admendment, and I too believe people can speak their mind. However, I hope all facts are sought before making assumptions on others way of life. Please support 4H, our youth are our future.

    June 23, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  33. John Praw Kruse

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Anyone who thinks this has zero experience with 4-H.

    June 23, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  34. Current 16 Year Old 4-H Member

    I really couldn't help but laugh when I read this. "Haters"....really? I shovel less crap that comes out of the backside of a cow than I read in this article. I DARE you to find a more compassionate group of kids than 4-Hers. We take care of animals in sick and in health. This article is just more Peeta agenda bull. I thought you hippies were about choice? At least we KNOW where our food is coming from and we aren't as ignorant as you, you freakin' birkenstock-wearing, granola crunching a-hole. And you must know this article is a load of bull or you would have put your name on it. How about you do something useful and write about fast slaughter houses owned by fast food restaurants as opposed to 4-Hers who sell their livestock to local, organic, markets and butchers dumbass? Because I KNOW that's where my animals are going, and I'd much rather people eat that than the "meat" sold at places like McDonalds, Burger King, etc. But thanks for the laugh anyways pal.

    June 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  35. Wendy

    The commenter is flawed, in that 4-H is an excellent program that teaches its members responsibility, hard work, accountability, team work, respect for others (and animals,if that is the project of choice), compassion, care and leadership. 4-H proivdes opportuniities for children to understand where their food comes from and how to respect the source of that meat, milk, and eggs. Perhaps the commenter should plan a visit to a farm to see how an American farm family cares compassionaltely for their animals, their environment and their communitiy. Ignorance is no excuse for stupidity.

    June 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  36. 4-H/FFA man

    Ok, I participate in FFA and its the exact same thing as 4-H. These two programs DO NOT desensitize children. They are meant to bring up the next generation of farmers and teach them the many paths they can to take in these programs. The people that say they would " never support these programs" dont realize how idiotic and ignorant that is because these programs are what help you survive in your day-to-day life. So everyone who doesnt want to support these programs are basically saying to get rid of all the grocery stores, farms, crop ground, dairy farms, ect. So before posting comments that make no sense at all do a little something called "research" and maybe you will view it differently because as an FFA member it makes me feel unappreciated for what we all do for the United States of America.

    June 23, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  37. Fallon

    4-H is an extremely valuable experience for most children and their parents. It isn't about the killing, it is about nurturing. I speak from experience, as I have raised 11 market steers, a handful of replacement heifers, feeder hogs, sheep, goats and trained a few horses. It teaches you how to humanely take care of your animals, because if you don't then you won't do well. It doesn't desensitize children to death and killing, it teaches about the circle of life and the purpose of livestock (as opposed to pets like dogs and cats). Leaders and parents teach the kids how to properly care for their animals, and believe me, we all get attached. Spending months feeding, grooming, bathing, and practicing with the livestock, it is impossible not to care for each animal. I invite the naysayers to come spend some time at their local fair or 4-H function and talk to the children, parents, leaders. You might find out that 4-H does a lot more good for those kids than just sports and school. One last thing, 4-H is also about respect, for each person involved in 4-H, competitors, leaders, animals, and even opposing opinions. If we expect children to open their minds the the world of cultures, responsibilities, and opposing viewpoints, shouldn't we as adults be able to do the same?

    June 23, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  38. Bill

    I have never been in 4H, live alot of my childhood living in the city, but to call our kids who are involved in these 4H clubs desensitized or killers comes from those who eat only bean sprouts and green things. But wait, those are living things also. Our kids are being taught how to respect living things as well. My wife and I have a son who spent the better part of his 19 yrs, in 4H, training 3 wonderful pygmy goats for show. Not all animals are auctioned, and not all animals are slaughtered. 4H does not "desensitize" the kids. For one, it would be part of the responsibility of the parents, to teach the children which animals are "food" animals, and which ones would be pets. Second, unless someone is willing to become a vegetarian, they have no room to talk about desensitizing kids to selling an animal for food. This is just another way to take something good and turn it into something reprehensible. Shame on you, CNN, don't you have anything better to report on??

    June 23, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  39. Randoe

    Hmmm... It sounds to me that somebody Has nothing better to do than obstruct in anyway they can the livelihoods of those that do have something worthwhile. My underprivileged friends used funds raised from auctioning their stock at fair on clothes and supplies for school. And when school started they ended each day by sacrificing one student... That was for laughs, actually most served their country and are now working and not living off of the system. This is just a fuss created by someone that is unable to provide the opportunity for their own, and seeks to ruin the reputation of an establishment that keeps kids active during the summer. And I'm not talking about x-box live.

    June 23, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  40. Jon

    I'm eating a hamburger reading this and thinking, "This is delicious" MMmmmmm eating animals is so fulfilling.

    June 23, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  41. JDR

    I come from the most rural of rural backgrounds and we raised cattle, horses, and chickens (which my entire family still does). And I had countless friends in both 4-H and FFA. It is a false assumption that every vegetarian on here is sheltered, naïve, and livin’ in the big city, because I’m none of those.

    My background raising animals played a big part in me becoming a vegetarian, which I have been for nigh on 30 years. I, along with all the other healthy people who avoid meat, are evidence that you won’t keel over if you reduce your fat consumption. (You can most definitely get adequate protein from numerous other sources.) Animals were no more “invented” for the sole purpose of being eaten than humans were “invented” to work in offices.

    One main argument presented here for meat-eating is that “we’ve been doing it for thousands of years.” And that right there is why progress moves at the speed of frozen syrup. It's also more proof that wherever you are and whenever you are, it’s all about what you’re acclimated to. I can assure you that one day people will look back on this time and be appalled by the primitive and barbaric way that we get our food (and be surprised that we were still doing it in the 21st century) just like we're appalled at the practicies of centuries past. Every generation has its tiny pocket of people who try with all their might to drag the rest of us kicking and screaming into a new and better world.

    I do think it’s great that the kids in these programs are more in touch with the realities of what is behind their food, especially if it causes them to raise their own meat or forego meat because their conscience won’t allow it. (I guess I’m just surprised that a higher percentage of them aren't horrified and don't realize that all they have to do to avoid the slaughter of their animal is lead it in the other direction and then skip the baloney on their sandwich. Are they really taught that humans will die without regular steaks? And do kids not come out of a biology class understanding that we’re as much animals as animals – and not all that high-level animals at that?)

    Whatever you end up doing, think first. Many people here have done that by deciding to eat meat but do it with the understanding of its source and the assurance that it was humanely treated and killed. Yes, I’d go for a 4-H steak any day before one at the supermarket that came from a factory farm. In this world of meat-eaters, I guess it’s good that programs like 4H and FFA exist.

    Two great articles were recently published on synthetic meat – in the New Yorker and Scientific American. Maybe one day in the advanced future you can have that juicy hot dog and be happy (and healtheir)…and I can be happy that it happened without the slaughter of a sentient being….and the planet can be happy that it happened without environmental impact.

    June 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  42. R

    I went from being borderline vegetarian in California to a Hunter/Wild Game Processor in Montana. Thanks to my 2nd husband, people can be educated and change for the better. I'm healthier and happier than ever. Thank God for my second chance. I fully support our 4-H program. :)

    June 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  43. Hayley

    4h is an Amazing organization and there are 2 reasons the person who wrote this article put anonymous 1 they know they are wrong and 2 because they know that so many other people knows they are wrong and they couldn't face the truth of them being wrong

    June 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  44. Drew

    All this talk about cows makes me wanna go cow tipping tonight. Maybe after dinner. Oh yea, I got four thick porterhouse's on the grill for the family and I.

    June 23, 2011 at 7:51 pm |

    BTW, it's also economical to NOT eat meat (for starters read Maneka Gandhi's Heads and Tails). The amount of grain fed to animals, and the amount of water wasted on cleaning them can actually solve a lot of hunger and water issues. AND NO, I am not talking about Africa or something. I am talking about kids and families starving in our very own US of A! Watch rare documentaries like Motel Kids in Orange County, or visit any number of homeless shelters and you'll learn about the money facts as well! I know it is in our nature to be egocentric and just think of our own selves, but there are times that call for the ability to think beyond I, Me, Myself. There is something really ironic about money that's made out of the meat and tobacco industries while people starve in the world's wealthiest nation! btw, you can also do a comparative analysis of health risks and costs directly tied to meat consumption.

    June 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Mel

      Not sure what USA you're referring to, but we definitely don't have a shortage of food to feed our population. Also, when we feed livestock, we are turning a grain (which doesn't really have many nutrients for humans) into a protein, iron, zinc, and B12 -enriched product. If you are referring to the poor and homeless, they much prefer a protein-enriched meal over a garden salad and some fruit because that's what fills them up. And if you have been keeping up on the recent revelations in nutrition, you will see that lean beef, chicken, and pork are key elements in a healthy, well-balanced meal for EVERYONE. And how could you say that ranchers and farmers are egocentric??? They raise animals on their own dime to feed the rest of the world...sounds like one of the most selfless jobs/lifestyles you can possibly have!

      June 23, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
      • LOVE_FACTS

        @Mel, exactly my point! Most folks don't know the hungry and starving right here in the US! Tell you what, watch the documentary that I have listed. It will begin the process of education. Also travel a bit around town! If you choose to look the other way, it's one thing, but if you have a receptive mind and ability to introspect, you'll see the reality. Ciao!

        June 24, 2011 at 1:04 am |
      • LOVE_FACTS

        @Mel, PS: To correct your misinfo on nutrition etc, read Heads and Tails by Maneka Gandhi. Good luck!

        June 24, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  46. Mel

    I was a devoted 4-H (and FFA) member for 9 years, and there were many reasons i came back year after year – I loved raising livestock, learning about the animals i was raising, having fun with my friends, and the fair week that came every July. 4-H taught me more about responsibilty and other lessons in life than school, sports, or even my parents could have ever taught me. It especially taught me that animal husbandry is extremely important, and that while we are raising livestock for meat, they need to be treated with respect while they are alive, up until they are humanely slaughtered. The first time I saw a pig slaughtered, i do admit, it was not pleasant for me. But with my Dad's and 4-H leaders' guidance, I learned the value and techniques of humane slaughter. I do not think i was desensitized to the "killing of innocent animals"...4-H gave me a front seat to understanding the circle of life and taught me that we raise animals with the intention of processing them for meat to feed the masses in a HUMANE and RESPECTABLE fashion. Those of you that are anti-4-H and anti-agriculture in general have most likely never experienced more than your city lifestyles or what PETA posts on their website. The one thing that you have to understand is that ALL livestock species are the same in the sense that they will yield a larger quantity and better quality of meat when they are happy throughout their lives, and yes, that inculdes even the last seconds of their lives. Meat quality is GREATLY affected by the treatment of the animal long-term and short-term (right before they are slaughtered), so it is actually not financially (as well as morally of course) smart to abuse your livestock. This is one of the lessons that our 4-H leaders stressed to us, so we fed them the highest quality feed and provided them with nice facilities to live in. I would not replace any of the experiences (good and bad) that I had growing up in 4-H. It opened up the world of agriculture to me, and I have not left it since. I now work for JBS, the largest protein producer in the world, and when they asked me in my interview what got me started in agriculture, my answer was of course 4-H. It was the one organization that I can say shaped who I am today, an agriculture advocate AND animal lover. I can't wait till I have my own kids to raise in 4-H as well :) Please support your local 4-H groups!

    June 23, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  47. Shaq

    4-H has given so much to the community, country, and world! I’ve been in 4-H for 6 years and I’ve been able to explore the world, interact with livestock, and commune with various races and personalities. Understanding that 4-H was founded on the principles of agriculture; over generations 4-H has broad into various fields such as education, healthy living, the arts, etc. 4-H has viewed and has tackled struggles that young adults and children has, will, or haven’t faced and they have instructed workshops, classes, and activities that would help many 4-H’ers and others self-esteem, shyness, public speaking, and performing in front of peers, family, and friends. Those classes have helped many people and some of those same people are superstars, because they took the time to adhere to what was given and didn’t second guess the offer of a life time. The organization has expanded across the world to instruct many young people into their rightful destiny and better their potential in life. I am a 4-H’er that stands for heart, hands, health that represents me as a individual that betters myself in any and everything I do. As a 4-H’er I believe that WE ARE THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE to our success in this life.

    June 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  48. Steph

    My head started hurting after the first 50 or so posts. I am a former 4-Her and am married to a former 4-Her. We have been leaders and our son has grown up showing cattle, pigs and sheep. He has a real respect for where his food came from and how to treat his animals with respect. He is growing into the kind of man we hoped he would. He values life, respects others, even if he doesn't agree with their point of view. He got that from 4-H and FFA. Go Green, Go Blue/Gold. Thank you for helping us instill values in these young people.

    June 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  49. holly c

    As a 4-H member since in diapers, this is the STUPIDEST article I have ever read in my life. I am sure you never attended anything that involves 4-H. Not all 4-H clubs are about agriculture.
    So if you think 4-H is bad, what about FFA? FUTURE FARMERS OF AMERICA?

    June 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
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