“Fish are friends, not food!” This was uttered by an animated shark in Disney and Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” but for some people this quote hits close to home. Today you often hear about people straying away from animal products in favor of plant-based foods. While I recognize and respect freedom of speech, I wish people were not so quick to judge and talk down to an entire industry.

“Food animals” such as swine, cattle and chickens, have been bred for the purpose of providing food for a long time. In fact, animals began to be domesticated (starting with dogs, sheep and goats) anywhere from 9,000 to12,000 years ago.

However, like with everything else, the media has given those against this practice a voice. Videos, posts, articles and the like with “evidence” portraying an industry full of people who mistreat their animals provide fodder for the opposition and are shared like wildfire.

The problem with this is that people are basing their opinions off footage of one person’s farm instead of researching and seeing how the majority of those involved in this industry manage their operations.

Attending an agriculture-heavy school has given me the opportunity to work with these animals and see how they are cared for from birth to harvest. I have learned about the rigorous rules and health regulations those in the meat and dairy industries must follow, and have seen them put to use. Not only are they there to ensure that the consumers are safe, but also so the animals are safe and cared for humanely.

Animal welfare is often the biggest selling point for those who choose to distance themselves from animal products. I believe that if they just researched and looked at how the technology used for animal comfort has changed over the years, they would be blown away.

Through a dairy internship I took part in this summer, I had the chance to see this first-hand. The amenities provided, like fans, soakers and shade, were geared for cow comfort. Things like the flushing system (which cleans out the waste from the stalls) and the sand in the free stalls (which is an area where the cows are able to lay down) ensured that they remained as clean as possible.

The sand actually prevents the spread of the bacteria responsible for mastitis, which translates to disease of the udder. Even the vet that I had the chance to work with commented on the progressions that were made in this type of technology.

Humanity is also called into question when discussing the animal product industry. “They’re poor, defenseless animals. Why would anyone manipulate them?” These people annoy me the most. I am an animal lover. That is the main reason I chose animal science as my major. I hope to one day help other people’s animals, pets and livestock alike to live the best lives possible.

I will admit that when my meat science class was starting I did have some reservations. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to see a slaughter. But learning about the rules and regulations for this procedure and seeing it firsthand helped me realize that, while sad, this is these animals’ purpose. There are measures in place, like the one mandating that 24 hours prior to slaughter animals must have easy access to plenty of food, clean water and ample space to lie down, to help people rest assured that they live the last part of their lives in just as much comfort as they had in the past.

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the cute cow videos on Facebook just like everyone else, but swine, cows, chickens and the like are food animals. We do this out of necessity. Animal products provide us with necessary nutrients for our body to function.

This practice would be less acceptable if it were something we did out of sport and if the animals were treated poorly and just viewed as property.

This is never going to be a topic on which people are going to be in universal agreement.

Each side is going to have its pros and cons. However, both sides should always be respectful when articulating their beliefs. Just because you don’t agree with someone’s way of thinking doesn’t mean you should try to convert them.

Also, be respectful to the industry as well. It not only provides a living for those who raise these animals, but it also puts food on the table.

Bobbi Solano is a 2015 Orestimba High graduate who recently completed her sophomore year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She is spending part of her summer as an intern at Mattos Newspapers.