Why are so many farmers unlikely to stand up for themselves when animal rights activists and anti-technology groups take pot shots at them? Would you stand by and watch a guy in an expensive suit together with a celebrity TV talk show host lead an army of thugs onto your farm? Would you sit by as they cut your fences and released your farm animals? Would you get out of the tractor cab when they began slashing tires and burning your hay stocks and blowing up equipment?
The majority of the attacks against modern agriculture today are more subtle, but can be just as devastating to America’s family farms.
Hog farmers that use gestation stalls are among those under attack today. Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) president and CEO Wayne Pacelle calls them “torturous and archaic devices.”
Nebraska pork producer Mark McHargue, who has been in the hog business for more than 20 years, disagrees.
McHargue runs a family-owned, one-thousand sow farrow-to-finish operation near Central City, Nebraska. He’slooked at different sow housing options, including conventional stalls, modified “turnaround stalls” and open-pen gestation.
In a recent interview with Brownfield, McHargue said he remains convinced that conventional stalls cause the least amount of stress for the animals.
“On our farm—and I speak from my experience, not other farms, but on my farm—those animals are the ones that just perform best for us and seem to have the lowest stress level,” says McHargue.
“As an animal caretaker, that’s my opinion.”
Yet HSUS continues to make headway. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is the latest in restaurant chains to announce it will begin formulating plans to purchase pork from suppliers that do not use gestation stalls. Vance Fouraker, Cracker Barrel’s vice-president of strategic sourcing says, “We’re seeing an evolution in Americans’ awareness and attitudes regarding meat produced with higher animal welfare in mind.” He adds “We recognize that gestation crates may not be the best method to meet higher animal welfare goals and are committed to evolving to sustainable alternatives.”
By now, you’ve probably heard and read about the recent survey of larger pork operations, commissioned by the National Pork Producers Council, showing that only 17 percent of sows spend a portion of gestation in open pens.
Producers surveyed indicated that number will climb to 24 percent in the next couple of years.
NPPC says the findings confirm the group’s concerns about recent pronouncements by food companies that they will use only pork from operations that are gestation-stall free.
NPPC President R.C. Hunt said, “This survey shows that these food companies obviously haven’t thought through the complexities, logistics or implications of their requests. Simply making an announcement without understanding the entire supply chain’s ability to meet these requests or the challenges involved is utterly befuddling.”
What happens if American pork producers cannot meet those supply chain demands? How will these restaurants be able to supply pork to their customers? THEY WON’T! Animal Rights groups do not want you to eat meat. Their goal is to put you out of business.
One of my favorite greeting cards shows a cartoon picture of a couple of dinosaurs sitting atop a mound of dirt with only the top half of a palm tree sticking out of the water surrounding them. As the rain comes down, you can see an ark with pairs of elephants, bears, giraffes and other species on board. The message on the card is, “Oh, crap! Was that TODAY?” Open the card to read, “A bad day is all about perspective.”
I still believe it is within our power to turn a bad day into a good day. Make a call, write a letter, sign a petition, talk to fellow shoppers at the grocery store and tell your story. It’s YOUR story. It doesn’t belong to HSUS or PETA or any other anti-animal agriculture activist organization.