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'Humane' order falls on growers

Published on March 18, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on April 15, 2011 7:19AM


Imagine you are sitting at your desk at work when a gentleman enters. He sits down across from you and announces that he doesn't like how you do business and demands that you change.

"I follow all of the laws," you protest. "In fact, I follow the industry's best practices, which were developed by top university researchers."

"That's not good enough," he informs you.

Then he drops the bomb.

"I will run an initiative campaign aimed at changing how you do business," he says. "We'll let the public decide how you should run your business."

"But what does the public know about my business?" you ask.

"It doesn't matter," he laughs at you and leaves.

Welcome to the egg business. And the dairy business. And the livestock business. And any business that produces meat.

Farm Sanctuary and the Humane Society of the United States not only claim to be experts on animal agriculture, they are out to end it, to take meat off the national menu.

These two organizations never saw a poultry, dairy, egg or livestock business that they liked, and they are out to end them. All of them.

They will protest that they only want animals to be treated fairly. In their opinion, that means no animals should be raised for human consumption.

Farm Sanctuary in its position statement says it opposes eating meat and supports only a vegan diet.

"The HSUS promotes eating with conscience and embracing the Three Rs -- reducing the consumption of meat and other animal-based foods; refining the diet by avoiding products from the worst production systems (e.g., switching to cage-free eggs); and replacing meat and other animal-based foods in the diet with plant-based foods," according to the organization's website.

What they are doing in Washington state, and what they have done in California and other states, is strong-arm egg businesses. They are using those states' seriously flawed initiative processes to impose impossible-to-meet standards on the industry. In California, the "standards" are so nebulous that the industry can't figure out how to meet them.

A judge will ultimately determine how best to handle chickens in California. One wonders if that subject was covered in law school.

In Oregon last week, the Legislature considered the creation of a panel that would advise dairies on how best to treat their cows. As proposed, the panel would consist of experts in animal livestock and dairy.

That's not good enough, a HSUS representative told legislators. The legislation, House Bill 3006, "essentially appoints the fox to be guarding the hen house," Scott Beckstead, the Oregon director of HSUS, said.

It's obvious what the HSUS has in mind. That organization, and others like it, including Farm Sanctuary, want to be in charge.

Some in agriculture see these instances as isolated. They think that because they raise chickens cage-free, or their dairy is organic, or their hogs are on pasture, they will be left alone.

We wish we could be that optimistic, but it's not just about "the other guy." It's about everyone in animal agriculture.

It's time for all farmers and ranchers to pull together to preserve their livelihoods and their way of life. It's time to acknowledge the truth about what lies ahead if these strong-arm groups aren't stopped.


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