December 16, 2010

Nebraska Ag Classic confronts HSUS issues

The 6th Annual Nebraska Ag Classic was held in Kearney this week to help understand the growing challenges the agriculture industry is facing. The main discussion for Thursday’s general session was focused on animal rights groups, animal welfare in Nebraska and what lies ahead for the future of agriculture. David Martosko, from, was the opening speaker, specifically addressing why the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) hates agriculture and what agriculture needs to be doing. Additionally, Martosko moderated a panel discussion with experts in the animal welfare activism arena: Jack Fisher from Ohio Farm Bureau, Chad Gregory from United Egg Producers and Craig Head from Nebraska Farm Bureau.

Martosko explained a harsh reality check to the ag producers in the audience. Animal rights activists are not like us and they will follow through on what they say, usually because they have the funds to do so. The philosophy, or as some consider it their religion, animal rights activists believe:
1. The purpose of human life is to reduce suffering
2. Animals and people have the same moral value
3. Using animals (every cow, pig, sheep, chicken, etc, ) always leads to suffering

Therefore, they view themselves as more virtuous than you, that humans were meant to save animals, and that the best outcome for food animals is just to use fewer and fewer of them. Josh Balk, outreach director of the “factory farming” campaign at HSUS said, “We just have to reduce the number of animals that are raised for food.” Or as Martosko put it, “HSUS is trying to eliminate suffering by eliminating the sufferer.” Doesn’t that say, destroy animal agriculture?

HSUS’s framework is basically a “communications campaign”. They make themselves sound good with their big crusades about saving animals. Their game is to be on the offense because they certainly are making agriculture play the defense. With their offense, they set an agenda, move the ball, score most all of the points, and determine the pace of the action, which results in an endless game that can only be defeated by its own errors and ineptitude. Like HSUS wants, those in animal agriculture have just gotten used to playing defense. Martosko made it blatantly clear that this needs to be a priority – ag needs to be on the offense!

Martosko also explained why HSUS is such a lobbying powerhouse. In 2008, they outspent Exxon Mobile, and this yearwill have a bigger payroll than the White House as well as more office space. Also, they outright lie about having 11 million members and constituents. Their documentation clearly shows that all people who sign-up to support HSUS receives the magazine subscription are technically allowed to vote – which makes them members. In 2009, they sent out no more than 450,000 magazines.

It all came to a summary when Martosko finished with this important immutable rule:
  • “Public opinion is everything.”- Abraham Lincoln
    • 82% of Americans whose overall impression of the HSUS is “favorable” 
    • 71% of Americans believe HSUS is a pet shelter
    • 59% of Americans believe HSUS contributes most of its money to pet shelters
The public simply thinks that HSUS is their local animal shelter, or that HSUS is giving money to their local shelter (which they give less than 1/2 of 1% to). It is a “common knowledge” fact that people don’t know when or where they heard it from – similar to the fact that most people know it is safer to travel in airplanes than in cars.

We need to step off of always being on the defense and be pro-active – play offense. Yet, Nebraska is trying. A coalition of agriculture supporters, the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN), is currently conducting a consumer education campaign that shows the true face of agriculture through commercials of Nebraska’s farmers – leading them to the website where they can learn more and see more videos. Even the state Governor has taken a stand at a recent meeting when he said, “The Humane Society of the United States is anti-agriculture and they’re out to destroy animal agriculture—and if they want to come to Nebraska, we’re going to fight them and we’re going to beat them."

It’s important for the corn and grain industry to be proactive against animal rights groups like HSUS because we support our livestock producers. Now, let’s all take our turn and tell someone the truth about HSUS.

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