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View from Washington: Armies of Animal Agriculture

By Steve Kopperud
Policy Directions, Inc.

June 2009, Render magazine

There is no doubt the animal rights movement is perhaps the biggest threat to animal agriculture. The unending attacks on the safe and effective technologies used on a daily basis to feed this country and a good chunk of the world are the stuff of daily newsletters and the six o’clock news. The animal agriculture industry holds meeting after meeting, seminar after seminar, and chats incessantly on the Internet, engaging in collective handwringing over the “threat.” Well, the threat is now reality. Animal agriculture is under attack; it’s beginning to lose battles and is at risk of losing the war.

The lead player in the axis of animal rights idiocy is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), ably commanded by the savvy, telegenic Wayne Pacelle. The largest animal rights group in the world - despite its claims to be “animal protection” - has declared war on U. S. animal agriculture and has the war chest, the foot soldiers, and the media machine to achieve its goals if ineffectively challenged.

First there was the HSUS-Ied Florida referendum in 2002, and two pork producers are out of business. Industry didn’t step up. Then came Arizona in 2004, and we rallied too late and used business-as-usual tactics to try and stop HSUS’ well-funded, emotion-driven campaign that made it illegal to house swine in gestation crates and laying hens in cages. The Oregon legislature, swayed by the emotion of the animal rights movement’s pleas and an absence of convincing industry opposition, ignored the desires of the Oregon voters in a previously failed statewide referendum and banned these same swine and poultry production systems. Colorado producers surrendered without a fight. And then there is California.

California’s Proposition 2 was the equivalent of a political mugging. While industry tried to appeal to the minds of California voters, HSUS went straight for their hearts. Industry talked lost jobs and imported eggs; HSUS showed pictures of abused animals. And nearly $3.5 million in industry spending later, we are picking up the pieces. Ground zero in the 2010 election is Ohio. HSUS has already told the Buckeye aggies they have three options: get on the bus and change how they operate; get out of the way of the bus and let HSUS work its magic in the state legislature; or get run over by the bus when HSUS launches another state referendum. So far, Ohio is hanging tough. So far.

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