In every walk of life, there is a full spectrum of abilities. Every responsible dairy breeder knows that there are some whose farm practices make headlines to the detriment of others. Not every cow achieves what Smurf has. Recent comments in the Ottawa Citizen by a PETA writer about Smurf’s Guinness World Record achievement, just goes to highlight their lack of understanding of the relationship many dairy producers have with their cattle.
Smurf, or fully named Gillette Emperor Smurf EX-91, received international attention earlier this week. It was specifically noted that, “after the 216,891 kg. she has so far produced in her lifetime — enough for an eight-ounce glass for every man, woman and child in Ottawa — (she) earned her recognition by Guinness as the most prolific milk producer in the history of dairy cows.” This well-deserved recognition for exceptional achievement also brought criticism that it was built on greed and exploitation. Ferme Gillette was urged to make the compassionate decision and put Smurf out to pasture.
Compassionate decision making comes easily to Eric Patenaude, as anyone who sits down with this dairy farmer would know. His goal was not the fortune and fame of “getting into the Guinness Book of World Records” or being quoted in “The Ottawa Citizen”.
The solution that was offered to Eric was for him to make sure that SMURF enjoys a “happy retirement with her youngster”. While I do not question the lovely images of the PETA writer, not many of us envision retirement and youngsters side-by-side and I say that while enjoying every one of my eight grandchildren who visit the farm and call it, “Granny Camp”. Likewise, multi-generational living is the cherished “norm” for the large Patenaude family who celebrate both the highs and lows that living and working on a dairy farm entails – and they do it together!!
I’m sure the Patenaude’s from senior Gilles to the youngest toddler happily standing in the barn today is filled with many thoughts about cows and not one of them is based upon “exploitation or profit”. Those words don’t come naturally to the Patenaude’s or to their way of working with the cows they love.
As is often the case with great animal caretakers, Eric cares about people too. His response to the verbal PETA attack was as gracious and caring as you could possibly imagine, “They’re a good organization,” he said. “They do good things for some animals. As far as Smurf is concerned, we’re going to discuss the possibilities.” Togetherness is a wonderful way to work things out, regardless of your human or animal origins.
Of course, it is all too easy when you’re looking to support harsh arguments in any field, that you can seek until you do find a picture, or a person to support the extreme positions. That happens in every family, organization or activist group. If you look only for the negative you will find what you’re looking for.
At Ferme Gillette negativity isn’t the motivating force as Eric explains, “We want what’s best for Smurf,” He adds. “I think she’s reached 16 years because she’s in the right place. We’re the people who know what’s best for Smurf. They want to put her in an animal sanctuary, but I think at this point she is in an animal sanctuary.” Thousands of visitors to this farm would heartily agree. Many see the Patenaude’s as mentors, not only of dairy farming, but of a wonderful way of life.
The PETA writer, whom I have never met and then would never presume to criticize, recognizes part of SMURF’s “luck”, the other part, that is overlooked, is that the majority of Canadian dairy breeders raise their cow families the same way they raise their own families. Families don’t put each other “out to pasture, so to speak”. In families success isn’t built on luck, it’s built on love.