Experts on manipulation, not animal handling

May 18, 2012

Denny’s, the Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) next gestation stall ban victim, has been added to my places of “not going there,” along with Chipotle, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Safeway. Despite the fact that not one of HSUS’ 15 board of directors has any background in agriculture or animal husbandry, Denny’s announced last week that it would support HSUS by eliminating suppliers using gestation stalls.


Just prior to Denny’s cave to HSUS, Domino’s Pizza also took a strong stand, but this time it was based on common sense, not HSUS’ manipulation.

“We rely on animal experts to determine what is the best way to raise an animal that’s being used for food,” Domino’s spokesman Tim McIntyre said after the company’s shareholders unanimously rejected a request from HSUS for the company to stop using pork from suppliers who confine breeding pigs in gestation crates.

Our industry is great at putting out sound arguments based on science, but we are up against nonag-based perceptions that are easily manipulated by a simple play on words and human emotion, which can take over common sense science arguments.

At the root of the debate is the idea of animal rights versus animal welfare, and the differences can be confusing for those with little or no ag background, like the everyday pet owner. Even in my house, I have to remind myself occasionally that the dog that appears to rule the ranch, really does not have any rights—at least not until she starts speaking English!

Along with a constant play on words, animal rights advocates play on the emotional side, a side we are hard pressed to win with the Babes and Bambis of the world living “happily ever after.”

The actions of the animal rights groups are calculated, with each move laid out, and HSUS has made some incredibly strategic moves recently through the swine and poultry industry.

According to the Animals and Society Institute, which calls itself a think tank for the animal rights movement, there are five stages to a social movement. Stage 1-Public education; Stage 2-Public Policy Development; Stage 3-Legislation; Stage 4-Litigation; Stage 5-Acceptance.

Peter Singer, author of “Animal Liberation,” and an animal rights advocate, believes the ability of animals to feel pain and pleasure puts them on a plane of moral equivalence with humans. And because they are equal, he believes they should not be treated as property or used as a resource. Animal rights activists believe that the use of animals for food, research and entertainment should be illegal, not just regulated. So technically, having a family pet, whether it is a dog, cat, bird, etc., is a violation of the animal rights movement.

HSUS recently monopolized media attention with another undercover video, filmed over a month ago and pieced together bit by bit. While there are no scientific explanations for the behaviors of the employees at the pig farm where the video was taken—they were clearly abusive, there are also no explanations coming forth from HSUS.

It would seem like HSUS, and their undercover employee, have a few questions to answer. Like, why did it take a month for the undercover person to report the abuse? I assume HSUS needed that month to plan their press release and film debut. And why was the last thing on the press conference agenda the health and well-being of the animals? Why is it not against the law for this “worker” to wait days, even weeks, to tell authorities about the abuse?

“We raise cattle on our farm. We do the best job we can, and have to deal with elements that aren’t always ideal. The weather, the animals, the landscape… it’s all subject to change and cannot be rationalized with our reactions guaranteed. And yet, if someone were to abuse our animals, I would not wait a month or more to take care of the situation,” rancher Val Wagner of Wagner Farms in North Dakota writes in her blog.

But these questions don’t seem to cross the minds of those not raised in the ag industry.

I’m with Val on this, and I just can’t help but wonder…. “What is wrong with these people?” — TRACI EATHERTON