A television film crew from New York, Two Cats Productions, called last week to see if I would take part in a documentary about the "ethical treatment" of animals. They said that they had already interviewed Ingrid Newkirk with PETA. They wondered if I would represent agriculture. How could I turn down an opportunity like that? Of course I said, "Just tell me when."
I flew to Pennsylvania and spent three straight hours leaning on a feed bunk answering questions about how we treat animals. There will be plenty of time to discuss the issues that come from that, but today I want to talk about the voice of the vocal minority. The afternoon before the interview was to take place, I received an e-mail from PETA's legal counsel threatening me with legal action. There is no doubt that the letter was intended to intimidate me before my interview.
When you receive a phone call, e-mail or letter from someone who disagrees with your stance on an issue and you don't get any acknowledgment of people in support of what you are doing, you might begin to wonder if you are right or wrong. While I don't question the validity of what I am doing, it does make it easy to understand why so many celebrities work against us. They thrive on fan mail and they want to get the kind of letters that tell them people love what they are doing.
Has anyone sent a letter to Shandi Finnessey, Miss USA 2004 from Missouri, for wearing leather in her TV appearances and admitting to be a meat pizza connoisseur? The way PETA operates is to send letters to celebrities about their food and clothing choices. If these recipients don't get information to the contrary, they think that PETA is right and they submit to their control. PETA erected a billboard and sent Beyonce Knowles a letter indicating that the fur she wears is the direct result of "cruel treatment of animals." I think it is time we take the initiative to write our own letters.
Beyonce Knowles was the recent winner of five Grammy Awards. You can get more information about her at her website www.Beyonce-Knowles.com. Here is the letter I sent her:
Dear Beyonce Knowles,
As a 6th generation United States farmer, I am writing to let you know how much I appreciate your commitment to protecting the environment by wearing renewable resources grown by United States resource providers. By choosing to wear leather and fur, you are supporting farm families and the industries that process their products. Furbearing animals are documented to be more plentiful in this country today than at any time in history.
It has come to my attention that a certain activist group has attempted to make you feel guilty because you do not make the same lifestyle choices that they promote. In their attempt to sway your view, they have seriously misrepresented the facts. My mission is simply to remind you that as citizens of the United States of America, we still maintain the right to make our own decisions.
Activists tried to convince you that cruel traps provide the fur for consumers clothing. The fact is that 85 percent of the world's furskins are derived from animals raised by farmers. These farmers have the well being of their animals first and foremost on their mind. In fact, nearly every farm in the United States follows a Merit Care program that has established guidelines for the proper treatment of animals.
While the U.S. has only 150,000 licensed trappers, most states support the efforts of these highly trained individuals for responsible management of wildlife resources. When you combine the number of trappers with the two million farmers in the country and the 20 million others who are employed in getting resources from the farm to consumers, many people are affected by your choices. Thus I will let you know that your choice to wear leather and fur is appreciated by many.
In closing, according to the latest survey taken by the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF) the global value of retail sales of fur garments, trim and accessories increased by some four percent in the year 2002 to 2003 to a figure of $11.3 billion. This certainly is very good news that conscious consumers such as you have recognized that the choices we make can indeed ensure the hope of future generations of resource providers.
6th generation U.S. farmer
It seems sad that we have to defend our right to make use of our natural resources in a practical and sustainable manner but that is what this world has come to. We have to tell our story each and every day to everyone who will listen. Our future depends on it!
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation farmer who wants to bridge the gap from agriculture producers and consumers. In addition to this column, he can be heard daily on his radio program by the same name. Trent can be reached via his website at www.loostales.com or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.