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In Elections & in Life, We Need the Cowboy Code of Ethics

Warning — this blog post may “trigger” some folks, and if it does, I’m probably not going to be the blogger you’ll want to read regularly, and that’s okay.

In 13 years of writing for BEEF, I’ve made countless friends across the country, but opining on the beef industry has also earned me a long list of haters. I guess that’s what happens when you spend your entire adult career asking hard questions and pushing back against the popular narrative being pushed in today’s culture.

In case you’re new around here, my name is Amanda Radke. I’m a beef producer from South Dakota, raising the sixth generation on our Limousin seedstock operation. BEEF Daily was a concept I pitched to the BEEF team back in 2008. Blogs were brand new at the time, and I urged the editor and publisher to give me the opportunity to create a community of ranchers on the website through a blog, in addition to its regular offering of articles and news releases. 

Thankfully, they liked the idea, and BEEF Daily officially launched in September 2008. I was just a 21-year old college kid writing to a much more mature and seasoned audience. That didn’t bother me one bit though, and I hit the ground running with youthful enthusiasm.

So, what did I write about?

For starters, my life — graduating from college, moving back home to the ranch, buying land and cattle, getting married, having kids, becoming foster parents, celebrating milestones and learning the cattle business through the school of hard knocks.

Additionally, I focus on external threats that could derail myself and my fellow beef producers. Animal rights activists, environmental extremists, burdensome regulations, the errant Dietary Guidelines for Americans, ballot initiatives, government overreach and politics.

Yes, politics. I covered the tail end of George W. Bush’s term, the entirety of the Barack Obama years and the last four years of Donald Trump. I’ve dished on the good, the bad and the ugly of each administration from my vantage point of the ranch, and I don’t plan to stop in 2021 and beyond. Even if it means losing friends and earning hate mail.

It’s funny how you remember the mean and nasty comments people say about you when you write honestly and from the heart.

Like when I led a walkout from a Carrie Underwood concert at the National FFA Convention as a high school freshman because she is a strong supporter of the Humane Society of the United States. Even though more than 1,000 kids walked out with me that evening in solidarity with America’s livestock producers, there’s one comment I received on YouTube that sticks with me all these years later.

In a nutshell, the poster suggested I was a fat cow that should have my throat slit in a packing plant and be served to FFA families instead of beef cattle. Illogical and mean, but hey, I still remember it.

I also remember when announcing the birth of our first daughter, how a troll, in some very ugly words I won’t repeat, suggested my baby should be taken away from me just like we take away calves at weaning. 

Then, of course, there was that time I pushed back against Ellen DeGeneres when she suggested we “be neat and eat less meat.” My open letter to the talk show host went viral, and with that “15 minutes of fame” arrived a caravan of trolls, threatening my life, my family and my cattle with graphic images, vicious words and mob attacks.

And there have been so many cases of assault on my character, my livelihood and my safety in between these cases, so why do it? Because there are a few things that guide me to write and to write honestly from the heart.

For starters, I’m shaped by the 10 commandments and the Bible. I’ve been told by readers over the years that I should keep my faith off the blog. Frankly, that would be impossible because it’s my faith that directs my decision-making in life, on the ranch, as a parent and wife and in my role in this cattle business. 

I’ve also been told I shouldn’t write about fake meat companies because they are a practical option for feeding the world. Fair enough if you want to eat the imitation products, but you better believe I’m going to call them out when they use questionable and manipulative marketing tactics that disparage beef in order to sell their products.

It’s also been suggested by a few readers that I lay off politics because I could lose readers. Yes, I realize Trump’s four years in the White House has created a deep division in our country. Political discourse has nearly disappeared in the madness of society clearly split in two. Frankly, I’ve been split on what I should be writing about and where I should be focusing my blogging efforts on.

I could write about Biden’s new picks for his Administration. I hear he has slated Tom Vilsack for USDA Secretary, and certainly that would make a great blog topic. I could also deep dive into some of Biden’s proposed policies, like Climate 21, which would be ran by the USDA and focuses on green energy and rebuilding agency morale.

Yes, I could have spent the last month taking a close look at Biden’s potential administration. However, I could spend equally as much time covering the evidence of fraud in this election and walking us through the various pieces of litigation that are being presented in the courts. Trump’s team says the President still has a few pathways to securing a win in his favor.

And while there may be a great deal of “fake news” to sift through, it is a fact that we have a sitting president claiming widespread voting fraud, and there are 74 million Americans who feel like there are things that just don’t add up here.

So, here’s my two cents on all of this, and I realize this is where I may lose some of you. You need to know that growing up on the cattle ranch, I have been shaped by the Cowboy Code of Ethics. This code provides country folks with guiding principles to live by. I think the politicians in Washington, D.C. could learn a few things by this code, which includes:

Do what is right.

Live each day with courage.

Take pride in your work.

Finish what you start.

Do what has to be done.

Be tough but fair.

When you make a promise, keep it.

Ride for the brand.

Talk less and say more.

Remember that some things aren’t for sale.

Know where to draw the line.

I have no idea if the evidence of fraud will overturn the election, and frankly, that shouldn’t even be our focus. As Americans, what we should focus on as is never being in this position of doubt ever again. We had this conversation in 2016, and here we are again four years later.  What’s to stop us from questioning the results of a presidential election again in 2024, 2028 and beyond?

Honest, fair, transparent, and verifiable elections should be the standard, and we should demand it now and always.

Doing what is right isn’t always the easy route, but I believe ensuring the integrity of our votes, now and in the future, should be a priority of every single citizen. In rural America, our voices are few, but thanks to the Electoral College and the amazing Constitution, we still have representation and a protection of our liberties in this country.

I know I’ll get negative feedback for writing this post. Simply mentioning Trump’s name inspires the vilest of comments. But I figured I better make it abundantly clear what you can expect from this blog. Without question, the results of this election will impact our rural community and the beef producers who read BEEF Daily!

So, my promise to you is I will keep asking the tough questions as it relates to agriculture, even if it earns me hate mail. In return, I ask you to join me in standing up for what's right.

Are you asking the hard questions? Have you called your elected officials to hold them accountable and ensure they are still working for you, the American public? Are you demanding that media reports fairly all sides of every story? Are you brave enough to stand up for what you believe in? Are you willing to lose friends to do what is right? Are you following the Cowboy Code of Ethics and teaching your kids to do what is right even when it’s difficult?

For the many readers who have sent me emails of concern asking me to write on this topic, please know I am doing my best to be fair, factual and reflective of everything that is going on in this country today. There seems to be two very distinct camps on this topic, so I will tread carefully while also attempting to shine light on the truth. 

Where we stand as a nation today is an uncertain place, but I promise that on Inauguration Day 2021, I will do what I have always done — I will cover how each Administration’s regulations, policies and leadership will shape and impact our agricultural community, for better or for worse.

Charge on, my friends, and thanks for reading!

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