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A wolf in a bonnet

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By Holly Martin

In my line of work, you grow to become skeptical. So when my email Inbox contained a press release from the Humane Society of the United Sates, my radar went up.

The release announced the formation of an agricultural council “to unite farmers and animal welfare advocates” in Iowa. The council is made up of family farmers in Iowa who “will pursue market opportunities for farmers and ranchers whose agricultural practices adhere to animal welfare standards, as well as facilitate a dialogue with individual farmers, ranchers and the organizations that represent them,” according to the release.

“We are honored to have many family farmers as our allies and to work with advisors who are directly involved in agriculture,” said Eric Swafford, HSUS director of rural development and outreach.

That sounds reasonable, you might think—but I know HSUS and I know their methods. These are the people that run advertisements showing sad-looking abused pets, hoping to pull on heart strings—and the pocket book strings. If you’ll only look into the eyes of the sad puppy and send me your money, HSUS will help. What they don’t say is that less than 1 percent of the money they raise actually goes to animal shelters.

But as agricultural producers, you’ve heard that all before. You know one of the main missions of the organization is to eliminate animal agriculture as we know it.

I wonder, do those farmers understand they are aligning themselves with an organization whose leaders talk out of both sides of their mouths? Do they know that in the same news release that announced their appointment to the new council, HSUS also recommends consumers not eat the product those same farmers are producing? They want consumers to consider “compassionate eating.” HSUS describes compassionate eating as “reducing or replacing consumption of animal products or refining our diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards.”

That’s a lot of words to say they’d really just like consumers to quit eating meat altogether, but if they can’t they want their meat to come from “happy cows.”

So these farmers are working with a group promoting and not using the product they are selling? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I’m all for working with people of differing opinions—trying to understand where another person is coming from; trying to get them to understand my perspective. But this isn’t it.

Those farmers are being used. The producers named to the new HSUS council are on record—several times, in fact—of being against corporate agriculture. They have fought against confinement hog facilities. And they believe passionately in small family farms. HSUS claims those same things, although the record would show they only say those things to soften their radical goals. Those farmers are so passionate about their goal, they have jumped in bed with the enemy.

And consequently, they are being used as a publicity pawn. I suspect they mean well, but I’m afraid they’ve been taken. Note this HSUS release came to a farm and ranch publication, with the hopes I would run it. They want to convince the agriculture community they don’t really mean us harm. “See, these farmers like us. We’re not all that bad.” It reminds me a little bit of the wolf wearing Granny’s clothes. No matter how sweet the bonnet, HSUS is still a big ugly, hairy monster.

Do not be fooled.

Holly Martin can be reached by phone at 1-800-452-7171, ext. 1806, or by email at hmartin@hpj.com.

Date: 11/18/2013



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