Animal-rights organizations seek conflict, disunity to target agriculture
Agriculture is learning the hard way that we have to overcome silo mentality and turf battles and present a united front in opposition. When groups like the Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates join the political battle, the animal-rights groups can and will outspend agriculture 25 to 1.
Conservation, hunting and fishing groups need to be forewarned as well. Animal-rights groups like HSUS have their sights set on eliminating hunting and fishing.
For those unfamiliar with HSUS, remember that it has little to nothing to do with your local humane society. The national group raises tens of millions of dollars while contributing less than 1 percent of the take to local shelters. HSUS is advancing the cause of animal rights while deceptively preying on the public’s attachment to pets.
Anyone involved with agriculture or outdoor activities in general must coalesce to battle animal rights extremists.
The groups’ television ads are as slick and heart-rending as they are deceptive. The ads bring in millions of dollars. That money finances campaigns that include guest appearances by sympathetic celebrities on national talk shows, national print campaigns, and favorable mention in movies and popular culture.
All of us in agriculture have to put our money where our mouths are. Of course, we don’t have as much, so we must employ dollars effectively. Animal-rights groups enjoy an almost unlimited supply of money and editorial and legislative support from folks who are generations removed from the farm.
At MFA, we represent farmers from Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. We’re headquartered in Missouri and began here. But our interests, trade territory and affiliations are much larger, as is our scope. I use Missouri as an example for other states. The animal-rights battle is national. I strongly encourage commodity groups and related businesses in all states to unite.
MFA Incorporated is a founding member of a group called Missouri Farmers Care. You can find a complete list of current members at www.mofarmerscare.com. MFA joined in creating the group in 2009 in response to efforts by HSUS and affiliated animal-rights entities to destroy Missouri’s pet industry.
For a short recap of activities, remember that after a year-long political battle, Missouri voters passed HSUS’s dog-breeder initiative by a very narrow margin: 51.7 percent in 2010. That majority came almost exclusively from the state’s urban areas. In the process of winning the urban vote, HSUS managed to unite agriculture and nearly all the rural counties in the state.
Insightful legislators took note of the fact their constituencies were united in opposition and began revising key portions of the bill to remove content that would have bankrupted blue-ribbon kennels and put quality breeders out of business. It helped agriculture’s cause that the legislation defined domesticated animals as any animal maintained in or near the home. That gave immediate credence to agriculture’s claims. How close to the house are your horses or calves?
In an unprecedented move, legislation that revised the new law passed the state general assembly and was signed by the governor the very same day.
Outraged its legislation was neutered, HSUS and its allies crafted a new petition. Called Your Vote Counts, the petition is a constitutional amendment requiring an almost impossible to obtain three-fourths majority of the state legislature to alter any law passed by voters. Keep a close eye on it. It still could make it to next fall’s election.
Confronted at every step by agriculture’s cohesion and determination, in late March HSUS spokespeople said HSUS would end its petition drive for Your Vote Counts and spend its money more profitably elsewhere. A large part of that decision was driven by a series of town-hall meetings held by Missouri Farmers Care around the state to expose HSUS’s true intention.
Of the money raised in support of the petition, 77 percent came from HSUS and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In fact, only 1 percent of funding came from Missouri residents or businesses. As you would expect, money poured in from California, New York City and Washington, D.C.
Alarmingly, HSUS spokespeople spoke publicly of their intentions to move into other states where agriculture was less organized and more fractured. And that, folks, should be a wake-up call.
Bill Streeter is President and CEO of MFA Incorporated.