I wasn’t going to write about it. I truly wasn’t.
I was going to let last week’s news story by reporter Kristy Seachrist stand on its own, and let readers read between the lines for themselves about how the Humane Society of the United States was creating a new agriculture advisory council in Ohio “to advance humane and sustainable agricultural practices.”
I even let a week go by, muttering under my breath for seven days, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”
Then I caved.
That’s because I re-read a comment in HSUS’ media release from John Dinon, HSUS’ Ohio director of outreach and engagement: “We are excited to connect Ohio’s conscientious consumers to the kind of traditional family farmers they want to support.”
And this one from the activist group’s state director, Karen Minton: “With animal agriculture being dominated by industrial agribusiness interests, it is important to support and work with Ohio’s sustainable farmers who strive to be good stewards of the animals and the land.”
How dare they? How dare HSUS wrap itself in the cloak of “traditional family farmers” as if any farmer who doesn’t carry the HSUS torch is somehow Big Ag or a “factory farmer.”
How dare they infer that the bulk of Ohio’s farmers don’t care about the welfare of their livestock? Or don’t practice sustainable agricultural methods?
HSUS is not an organization for agriculture or farmers. It is an animal rights organization.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the seemingly mainstream embrace of animal welfare and humane treatment goals. The beliefs of the HSUS leaders remain black and white: reducing the consumption of meat and other animal-based foods; and replacing meat and other animal-based foods in the diet with plant-based foods.
It’s just that they’ve gotten very smart about developing the means to that end. They still hold up the vegan ideal, but support anything that moves away from “industrial factory farming.” An interim strategy, if you will.
(Incidentally, someone didn’t do his homework, and HSUS got some deserved criticism of the original name — the Ohio Agriculture Council — which is very similar to the long-standing Ohio Agricultural Council that sponsors the Ohio ag hall of fame. HSUS quietly changed the council’s name to the HSUS Agriculture Advisory Council for Ohio.)
HSUS enlisted the support of five Ohio farmers as “founding members” of its council. I have met two of them, have heard others speak, and I know they have the best interest of Ohio agriculture at heart.
Council member Mardy Townsend, an Ashtabula County cattleman, told Farm and Dairy’s Kristy Seachrist she’s not a spokesperson for the group, but you can bet the HSUS will trot out these council members to illustrate their connection — their credibility on the street — to real farmers.
This is the new, more moderate face of animal rights.
Even the Ohio Farm Bureau, which helped broker the 2010 compromise between HSUS and Ohio’s major farm groups regarding animal welfare issues that helped stave off an HSUS ballot initiative, blasted the new HSUS effort.
An OFBF statement said HSUS “has chosen to ignore Ohio’s leadership in protecting the well-being of farm animals,” referring to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board that was created by voters in 2009 and has work openly to create the livestock care standards now on the books.
“HSUS is positioning its judgment as being superior to that of Ohio citizens,” the OFBF statement continued.
No surprise there.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance made this observation after the 2011 “Conference to End Factory Farming”: “While vegetarians and vegans represent just a tiny fraction of society — about 97 percent of Americans include meat, milk and eggs in their diet — they are beginning to have a disproportionately loud voice.”
Farmers, we need to think very carefully about that loud voice. Does it speak for you?