Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Well done...

The middle road is not untraveled, after all.
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed a bill into law Monday that, according to the Humane Society of the United States, will extend "modest yet meaningful" protections to farm animals. A result of negotiations between animal welfare and agricultural groups, the law requires that certain farm animals have enough room to stand up and turn around and extend their limbs. It phases out veal crates for calves within three years, and battery cages for laying hens and gestation crates for breeding sows within ten years. [More]

My hat's off to the Michigan Farm Bureau, especially, for this exemplary effort.

Meanwhile, partisans of confrontation continue to flood the Intertubes with incendiary rhetoric that does little to solve this issue.
At the heart of the matter is an attempt to fool Ohio voters into thinking that members of the appointed board will be "family farmers." Brenda Hastings, the "farm" lady who appears in pro-Issue 2 ads appearing on television, is the co-owner of a 600-head Holstein dairy operation. Both she and her husband moved their dairy operation from California shortly after Proposition 2 passed there. The Hastings aspire to own a 1000-head herd, not your sustainable organic dairy operation. Nor do the Hastings represent the average "family farm," consisting of a husband-wife-children operation. According to Ohio Against Constitutional Takeover (ACT) http://www.ohioact.org, one of the biggest sources of misrepresentation and dishonesty is section 3 of Issue 2, which reads:

"This proposed amendment [to Section 1 of Article XIV of the Constitution of the State of Ohio] would [P]rovide that the board shall be comprised of thirteen Ohio residents including representatives of Ohio family farms, farming organizations, food safety experts, veterinarians, consumers, the dean of the agriculture department of an Ohio college or university and a county humane society representative."  [Source: spam from here]

By conflating NAIS with animal welfare, along with several other far-right agenda items, some in the farm community seek to redress a whole range of issues, primary of which, I think,  is how small farmers are being out-muscled in the marketplace by industrial producers.

They are right about that trend and also right about their numbers being much larger than ours.  But they are apparently unconcerned about how powerful the basic economics of industrial ag are, and how it is actually based in sound farm practices.

One of which is avoiding conflict with customers whenever possible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I disagree that Michigan's approach is a positive step. It just sets up an endless cycle of conflict--First ban practices A, B and C because they are perceived as cruel--then what about practices D, E, and F? or G, H, I? etc. The activists who oppose animal agriculture will just keep pecking away at it. There are plenty of animal ag practices that are dirty, bloody and downright gross (I say this as a hog and cattle producer). I think most consumers can accept this if they believe that the farmers have compassion for the animals in their care. Although it's not ideal, I think Ohio's proposed animal care commission could work if it is really proactive in denouncing the rare but notorious animal abusers in agriculture and pushing for research on animal care.

It seems to me that letting vegetarian activists dictate animal care practices is a little like letting Madalyn Murray O'Hair serve on a Church Council.

As in all of agriculture, the decision-making for livestock producers is slipping away. It's sad that the people who take care of animals are no longer seen as experts on animal care.