Losing this battle will be expensive


“It’s time to get political.”
That’s a headline message on the Web site of The Humane Society of the United States.
You’re darn tootin’ right it is.
Only it’s time for farmers to fight back and get political, to beat the animal rights activists at their own game.
No one is going to do it for you.
They’ve got Wolfgang Puck, Gloria Steinem, Martina Navratilova and actress Ally Sheedy.
they’ve got spotlight-grabbing headlines, $100/plate fundraising dinners and a well-oiled p.r. machine.
They’ve got money and connections and they’re not afraid to use them.
Bring it on. What are you going to do?
I’ll tell you what you can’t do: You can’t ignore them. They aren’t doing away, they’re getting stronger. The Animal Agriculture Alliance cites the December 2006 issue of Animal People, which reported the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) increased donations by 62 percent in 2005, with net assets increasing to more than $200 million.
“We need to take them on,” Aaron Putze, executive director of the Coalition to Support Iowa Farmers, told American Farm Bureau Federation members earlier this year.
“We have to have our rural communities standing with us,” he added. “It’s time for local communities to rally for livestock agriculture and recognize it as a true economic investment.
“We need to be cutting ribbons on the new operations being built, just like we do for barbershops and gas stations.”
Taking care of business. If farmers didn’t care about animal welfare, would there be cow mattresses in freestall barns?
If farmers didn’t care about animal welfare, would they have huge fans in their barns, or curtains on the sidewalls, or water misters in the holding pens?
If farmers didn’t care about animal welfare, why would they select bulls for “calving ease” traits? Why would they buy high quality alfalfa from out West when they have a hay field out back?
If farmers didn’t care about animal welfare, why would they rig up a video camera and monitor system to be able to watch ewe pens when they head into the house during lambing season?
Farmers know an unhealthy, uncared-for or mistreated animal will not make them any money.
The science of animal housing and care is constantly evolving. What was standard a generation ago has changed, and what is standard today will be different tomorrow. Farmers will have to accept that “how we’ve always done things” isn’t good enough anymore. But the key is accepting standards that are science-based, not activist-driven.
Ulterior motive. So, all right, HSUS or PETA or Farm Sanctuary, don’t tell me it’s all about the poor farm animals when it’s really about using any method you can to promote a vegetarian agenda.
And I don’t have a problem with an individual choice to eat a vegetarian diet, but I do have a problem with you shoving it down everyone else’s throats.
“Each one of us can help prevent animals from suffering in factory farms simply by choosing vegetarian options.” – HSUS Web site
Iowa’s Putze tells farmers to build alliances and fight.
“Success will not be cheap,” he told the Farm Bureau audience. “You have to decide: Is it worth it? If you think winning is expensive, try failure.”
Yep, I’d say it’s time to get political.
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at editor@farmanddairy.com.)

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