Yesterday, I posted a picture of a Baby Einstein Touch and Feel Discovery Card that we had bought a couple of years ago with a MAJOR agriculture fact error on it. I had forgotten that I had bought these cards, but after searching through baby toys, I re-discovered them. The cards themselves are not bad. In fact, my boys really like looking at them and playing with them. On one side, there is a photograph of an animal with a small area to “feel” it’s fur/hair/skin. On the other side of the card are some animal facts.
What I don’t like is that the “cow” card has several factual errors on it. As a mom, who prides herself for giving her children learning experiences, the errors made me really reconsider the Baby Einstein brand. As a dairy mom, I was frustrated that the facts were not correct and teaching misinformation about farm animals. As a consumer, I was even more frustrated when Baby Einstein’s customer service did not respond to my inquiries. I had both called and emailed them two years ago, when I bought the cards and discovered the errors.
So what is the error on the card? There are several, but I will focus on the major one. The first line reads: “Male cows have horns and are called bulls.” FACT: Both sexes of bovine can grow horns. Those that don’t grow horns have what is a called a polled gene. Having the polled gene has no bearing whether the animal is male or female. FACT: whether the animal is male or female, most farmers will remove cattle’s horns when they are young to prevent injury to themselves, herd mates and farmers.
Why does this matter so much? Does it really matter if children learn that both cows and bulls have horns? YES! Besides the fact that Baby Einstein should be only printing factual information, knowing facts gives us a realistic understanding of the animal and how they are raised or behave naturally. We humans hate surprises. If we learn one set of “facts” that turn out to be untrue we have a tendency to feel duped. I remember the first time I saw a killer whale attack a group of seals. It is not pretty sight and far from what I grew up learning about killer whales from the movie Free Willy. I felt betrayed by what I thought was the truth and had a slight disdain for the animals. When in fact what I was seeing was real life and sometimes real life is not pretty.
Same is true with farm animals. Animal rights groups like to feed off these misconceptions. Making us think that animals are gentler than they really are, or have needs like humans, or for some reason are immune from the “circle of life.” Just like when I saw a killer whale attack baby seals off the shore of South America, people often feel betrayed when they see images of farmers dehorning cattle. They don’t realizing that this procedure will keep the animal safe and healthy, they only think “this isn’t what I have learned about cows.”
The other misleading facts on the card include:
- Cows graze on grass. Yes, cows can graze on grass, but in most parts of the world that doesn’t happen 365 days of the year. Grass doesn’t grow year round, nor is it a complete diet for some species of cattle. Cattle are fed a mixture of grasses, legumes, grains and minerals to have a complete and balanced diet.
- This is a cow. Well, it certainly doesn’t look like one to me. Cows have udders.
One good thing has come out of this misinformation discovery. I no longer trust children’s books, movies or flash cards when it comes to animal information. I have learned to do my own research from credible sources when my boys ask about an animal. Also, our blog readers are very savvy and picked up on all the misinformation in the card. You can read their comments here.
Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitterand YouTube.