The undercover video released by the Humane Society of the United States in early April—the one it claimed was shot in Iowa egg barns—did not generate the kind of public outcry that the animal rights group was undoubtedly hoping for. At the Animal Agriculture Alliance summit, we discussed the aftermath of the egg video with Gene Gregory, president and CEO of United Egg Producers. He talks about a recently-completed third-party audit of one of the companies targeted in the video and discusses HSUS’ push for cage-free egg production.
There has been a lot of publicity about how farmers and ranchers can use social networking to help educate consumers about what they do and why they do it. But Andrea Hutchison of Chain Ranches, Canton, Oklahoma is taking a different approach. She is using a blog, Facebook (ExposeHSUS) and Twitter to communicate with her own peers, keeping them informed about the activities of the animal rights activists. Hutchison believes her fellow farmers and ranchers need to be more aware of the threats to their livelihoods posed by HSUS and other anti-livestock groups.
Randy Gordon is vice president of communications and government relations with the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA). He says NGFA is currently focused on two pieces of legislation in Congress—one bill that would change the nation’s food/feed safety laws, and the other dealing with financial regulatory reform. We talked to Gordon during the Animal Agriculture Alliance summit in Arlington, Virginia.
Since 1987, the Ontario Farm Animal Council (OFAC) has been the voice of animal agriculture in the Canadian province of Ontario on issues such as animal care, food safety and the environment. When it comes to animal care, OFAC has been lauded for its proactive efforts in identifying and correcting situations that have the potential to result in negative publicity for Ontario’s livestock industry. In fact, some states in the U.S. are considering emulating OFAC “farmers helping farmers” approach. At the Animal Agriculture Alliance summit, we talked to OFAC executive director Crystal Mackay about OFAC and how it works.
There’s a big difference between those advocating for improvements in animal welfare and those pushing for animal rights. Acclaimed author Wesley Smith spelled out the difference for summit attendees on Wednesday. Smith, a senior fellow in human rights and bioethics with The Discovery Institute, discussed his latest book, A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement, described as “a searing critique of the ideology and tactics of the animal liberation movement and a rousing defense of the unique importance of human exceptionalism.” One of Smith’s messages—it’s useless to think that you can compromise with animal rights activists.
Summit attendees were saddened to hear of the death of Dr. Stanley Curtis. The retired University of Illinois swine researcher, who earned international acclaim for his research, teaching and outreach programs in farm-animal environmental physiology, behavior and care, died Sunday in Urbana, Illinois. He was 68.
Here is what National Hog Farmer has to say about Curtis’ career:
“Curtis focused on research to address practical problems in livestock, but focused mainly on pigs, his first love. His behavior-based approaches produced improved animal equipment and facility designs.
In all, he generated more than 135 peer-reviewed journal articles, 150 scientific meeting papers and 45 book chapters.
His knowledge led to features in The Wall Street Journal, The (London) Times, LIFE, Scientific American and National Geographic. He also appeared on CBC, ABC, Animal Planet, BBC, Children’s Television Workshop and CNN.
Curtis authored the first comprehensive textbook on animal-environmental management. For more than 40 years, he formulated science-based responses to organized criticism of farm animal well-being, writing and addressing audiences around the world on the topic, while also serving on countless university, state, national and international committees.
A legacy in the classroom, his teachings left a lasting impact on students in courses focusing on animal environmental needs, management, growth and energetics. He advised more than 120 undergraduate students, 35 master’s students and 16 PhD students, many of whom are recognized globally as leaders in the field of animal environmental management.”
Aaron Putze is the executive director of the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF). He also serves on the board of directors of the Animal Agriculture Alliance. Putze says as CSIF’s work on expansion of the state’s livestock industry slowed over the past few months due to reduced profitability in the industry, the group was able to focus more on assisting farmers with environmental matters, including a project called the Green Farmstead Program. And he says they are also making sure farmers understand what is expected of them as far as EPA regulations are concerned.
Mike Zumwinkle is the director of government relations and corporate affairs with Cargill, Inc. His areas of focus include agricultural policy, food safety and animal welfare issues. Zumwinkle has been studying the moves being made by HSUS on a state-by-state basis and shared some of that information with attendees at the Animal Agriculture Alliance Summit. He says Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska and Oklahoma appear to be next on HSUS’ hit list and talks about how that group’s state victories could be setting the stage for increased efforts in Congress.
David Martosko is not one to mince words. Martosko is the director of research for the Center for Consumer Freedom and the editor of Humanewatch.org, the new web site that is taking on the Humane Society of the United States and other animal activist organizations. Martosko spoke to the Animal Ag Alliance about his efforts to expose what he calls the “activists’ true agenda” and whether it will ultimately have an effect on consumer attitudes about groups such as HSUS. And, yes, he thinks the animal ag industry has a lot of work to do to get back in the game.
Congressman David Scott represents an urban district based in Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives. So it was somewhat surprising to learn that he also chairs the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee. However, in remarks to the Animal Agriculture Alliance Summit attendees, Scott showed he has a very good grasp of the issues facing animal agriculture. We talked to Scott about two of those issues—mandatory animal identification (which he favors) and livestock antibiotics. On the animal ID issue, Scott sees it as a matter of national security.