Thursday, October 28, 2004

Searching for a “cause”

Returning from the Animal Rights 2003 Conference in Washington DC, I now have a much better understanding of the people involved in this movement. The majority are good people who are “looking for a cause.” They love the idea of “nature” but they don’t understand it and they have no concept of the role that humans play in the balance of nature. The rest are business-minded leaders that are making big money and creating a tremendous following but, in my opinion, are hypocrites.

Karen Davis, founder of United Poultry Concerns was the most prevalent speaker on the program, addressing the group twelve times during the 5-day conference. Her mission is absolute animal liberation and she has a tremendous love for chickens. Her love for these birds is so intense that, in reference to the terrible loss of life in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Davis said, “the deaths of thousands of people” actually “reduced the amount of pain and suffering in the world since they wouldn’t be around to eat more chicken.”

Davis believes that science is just an “economic formula to shut her up” and not animal husbandry. She suggests that animals can’t speak so we have to speak for them. I disagree strongly on this issue. Animals will definitely let you know if they are stressed or uncomfortable. Their performance suffers and the quality of the food produced is compromised. Ultimately that is where the dialogue ends because those in “the movement” believe that animals are our friends and relatives, not our food. This movement is not about providing a better environment or implementing better animal husbandry techniques, it is about abolishing animal agriculture.

During her presentation emphasizing compassion and caring, someone’s cell phone rang and she snapped at the person to “turn that thing off.” Later in the day, a young lady was present with her disabled son in a wheel chair and he would occasionally make involuntary vocalizations. Davis rudely told the mother to remove that kid from the room. What level of hypocrisy allows you to preach about advocating for animals when you have zero compassion for human beings?

Davis has a history of violent outbursts. She assaulted a friend of mine for photographing one of her demonstrations. He filed charges against her but was forced to drop them when she recruited four animal rights activists to lie under oath and say that he swung at her first. What a tremendous role model Davis is. Fortunately, she represents the exception rather than the norm in this movement.

I don’t want to generalize every animal rights activist in the same manner that they pigeon-hole us as “factory farmers.” The leaders of the animal rights movement tend to take the mistakes made on one operation and lead people to believe that all farmers are guilty of these intentional cruelties and environmentally detrimental management practices. Unlike the radical leaders of this event, most of the “twenty-something” females in attendance just need to feel like they are doing something to make the world a better place.

I believe my presence and dialogue with many of them can open the door to future discussions and the opportunity to present some realities about food production. Attending an event like this causes both sides of the movement to associate a face with their perceived “nemesis” and realize that the “other side” is made up of people too. Since most of the people involved in the movement just want something to live for, they are acting based on what they hear and read about the most and our side of the “story” is NOT being made readily available to them. If they read about land stewardship awards and family farm success stories as often as they read about lagoon spills and overcrowding, they would at least be open to the suggestion that not all of the apples in the barrel are bad. If we don’t tell our own story, the only reading material they will have to base their decision on will come from those who want to abolish animal agriculture and that is not a chance we want to take.

Trent Loos is a 6th generation United States farmer, host of daily radio show Loos Tales and founder of Faces of Agriculture, non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com or email Trent at trent@loostales.com.


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