He doesn’t understand…
Elsewhere on the Brownfield home page is a fascinating three-minute interview by Brownfield’s Ken Anderson with Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) President and CEO Wayne Pacelle. I want you to go listen to the interview and then come back and read my reaction to Pacelle’s “vehement” denial his organization is anti-animal agriculture.
Pacelle is obviously frustrated that his organization and its campaigns are portrayed and perceived as anti-meat, anti-animal ag. He goes so far as to say, “I don’t understand it all,” and lays the blame for this perception at the feet of the ag media.
The man is correct; he doesn’t understand it at all.
The greatest sin of HSUS is its arrogance. The organization and its leaders honestly believe because they deem a practice to be “wrong” or “unacceptable,” the world must stop and embrace that definition.
Inherent in that arrogance is blindness. I’ve never heard HSUS or any of leaders acknowledge the consequences – intended or unintended – of the group’s actions. While Pacelle proudly points to his victories in Florida, Arizona and California, he does not acknowledge the two producers in Florida who no longer operate, or the single producer in Arizona who spent I-don’t-know-how-much to stay in business. The vagueness of Prop 2 in California has led to even greater spending and uncertainty as the state government and industry struggle with how to comply with a program no one seems to be able to define.
The classic example of consequences for which HSUS takes no material responsibility is the fate of over 100,000 abandoned and neglected horses in the U.S. While unsuccessful in making horse slaughter in the U.S. illegal, HSUS’ support of state action in Illinois and Texas shut down the three legal, registered, inspected – both by USDA and the European Union – horse slaughter facilities. By removing a legal, humane system of euthanasia, the animal rights movement has now condemned these horses to abandonment and neglect. Where’s the national HSUS-operated chain of horse sanctuaries? Why isn’t the group putting its money where its mouth is?
The point here is that if you perform surgery and the patient dies, your motives may be well-intentioned, but the outcome still sucks. By forcing its emotion-driven definition of “humaneness” on farmers and ranchers, the inevitable result is whole lot of bankrupt farmers and ranchers who not only can’t afford to wholesale change the way they operate, if they don’t, they’re branded as criminals. What’s the option? Go out of business.
Animal production is a dynamic endeavor; the science, practice, understanding and relationship of man to animal today is not what it was 20, 30 or 50 years ago. What if, by dint of its money and mechanics, HSUS is successful in forcing the changes it publicly says it wants and we find in 10 years, we’ve actually done the animals more harm than good, as several scientists and veterinarians already warn? At that point, animal production will have consolidated to a precious few producers who could afford to farm the way the HSUS demands, but could they afford to switch back?
Bottom line: The demands of HSUS and the rest of the animal rights movement will make livestock and poultry production more expensive. It will take more land, housing, labor, energy, inputs and time to just keep even with our production success today. It will put smaller, independent producers out of business because they cannot afford to transition to whichever animal Nirvana HSUS perceives is needed. That leaves fewer but bigger operations just to maintain the status quo. U.S. consumers, rather than being thankful they spend today only about 10-12% of their disposable income on food, will be forced to spend what our European cousins spend, namely 20-25% of their take-home pay on food.
The World Health Organization (WHO) projects we must increase global food production 50% in the next 10 years to meet need, but the simple math demonstrates we can’t get there from here following the HSUS road map.
HSUS chooses not to talk about the consequences – intended or unintended – of its actions. To force the changes he champions works against not only the best interests of animal agriculture, but against the best interests of consumers. That’s anti-animal agriculture.
He’s honest when he says he just doesn’t understand it at all.