Monday, June 07, 2004

June 4, 2004

PETA Launches Attacks on FFA

Last month, FFA and local agricultural education programs were
publicly denounced by a representative of People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA) in connection with several instances of alleged animal
abuse reported recently in the media. By attempting to associate
responsibility for the abuse with FFA, PETA has called for eliminating
the use of animals in schools and in school-sponsored programs.

The attacks were made in an op-ed letter from PETA's education
manager, Jacqueline Domac, printed in the May 23, 2004, edition of The Sun News
of Myrtle Beach, S.C., and posted on the newspaper's website, (A copy of the article is attached.) It was
also posted for a time on PETA's website as an "action alert," but that
appears to have been withdrawn. Excerpts from the article may begin to
appear in other publications.

Ms. Domac also sent correspondence on behalf of PETA to National FFA
Advisor Larry Case, calling for a halt to the use of animals in
agricultural education programs in local schools. Dr. Case has
responded to Ms. Domac, taking issue with PETA's contentions and

PETA's article demonstrates significant misunderstanding of FFA and
agricultural education. Recognizing that these allegations and
misrepresentations may cause concern for state and local programs, we
are providing this alert along with some points to consider in

We suggest this information be forwarded to teachers, state FFA
officers, members, alumni, sponsors and others as appropriate. The
most effective voices to respond in print and online will be drawn from the
local community. We hope this information will help inform those

Please forward any print articles or electronic postings regarding
this issue to Bill Stagg, National FFA Organization, P.O. Box 68960,
Indianapolis, IN 46268-0960, fax: 317-802-6061, e-mail:

I. Points in Response to the PETA Article

1. PETA and the FFA have a fundamental
disagreement about the role of animals as a source of food, fiber and nutrition.
PETA opposes this role outright, and that bias is reflected in its
distorted view of agricultural education programs and the experiences FFA
members receive studying animal science in local schools. While FFA respects
the right of PETA to express its opinions, it should do so without
demeaning or misrepresenting the outstanding work done by 11,000 agricultural
education teachers and FFA advisors in providing leadership, personal
growth and career development opportunities to nearly a million
students in 8,000 schools throughout the nation.

2. The National FFA Organization's position on the mistreatment of animals is clear-it does not condone or tolerate abuse or mistreatment of animals in any form in our activities, programs or competitions. The organization actively supports the training and education of FFA members and advisors in the proper ethical behavior
for livestock competitions and in the application of sound and humane
principles of animal husbandry.

3. Contrary to PETA's assertions, FFA believes that providing students with hands-on opportunities to study and work with livestock animals creates greater sensitivity to their health and well-being, not less. PETA offers no evidence to suggest the millions
of students who have participated in agricultural education are more inclined to harm animals. Quite the opposite, we believe our students are less likely to mistreat animals because they have first-hand knowledge and have acquired skills regarding their care.

4. The use of livestock in local schools is neither dictated nor mandated by national FFA programs. School farms and livestock facilities are managed by local agricultural education teachers responsible to the local school system and administration.

5. Ms. Domac's attempts to associate responsibility for instances of animal abuse with the FFA organization and its student members, and to suggest that these events are somehow a direct result of school-based agricultural education programs, are erroneous and dismaying. Her comments portraying FFA as "inherently discriminatory" and her references to "violent FFA programs" are inaccurate, misleading and inflammatory. The attacks on FFA reveal she has little understanding of how local, state and national FFA entities are funded, or how agricultural education teachers and FFA programs are directly accountable to local school systems.

6. The youths involved in the Yakima, Wash., incident of animal abuse were not FFA members or agricultural education students, and no involvement by FFA or agriculture students has been demonstrated or suggested by authorities. Nor are FFA members
responsible for the events in Florida. PETA's article seeks to create
an impression that FFA and agriculture students were involved in attacks
on the animals.

7. PETA's characterization of FFA as "inherently discriminatory since its inception" is inaccurate. FFA was formed in 1928 to meet the needs of what was, at that time, a male, rural farming student population. African-Americans were not barred from membership by the national organization; however, reflecting the discrimination
present in public education at the time, 17 states, primarily in the south, excluded African-Americans from FFA membership. The New Farmers of America (NFA) organization was created to provide agricultural education opportunities to these students. FFA and NFA were merged in 1965, incorporating two outstanding legacies of quality and
contribution to education.

As agricultural education and FFA programs were broadened to address more careers in agriculture, women were formally admitted to national membership in 1969. Despite PETA's suggestions of sinister overtones, FFA is proud of its heritage and the way it has evolved to address the educational needs of all students interested in careers in agriculture, regardless of gender, race, creed or geographic location.

8. Funding for FFA on local, state and national levels comes primarily from members' dues, sales of supplies and merchandise to members, and program fees paid by students and chapters.

FFA and agricultural education are fortunate to receive donations from individuals and from companies, both large and small, through the National FFA Foundation, state FFA foundations and local community sponsors. Funding support comes from companies engaged in a host of industries-automotive, farm equipment, crop protection, food processing,
apparel, banking, retail, recreational, association, educational, philanthropic, pet care, grocery, landscaping, horticultural and advertising, to name a few. These collective funds make available important educational opportunities and award programs-at no cost to taxpayers-that provide incentives for FFA members to further their education and career development. Not surprisingly, FFA receives no funding or support from PETA.

9. As an integral part of agricultural education, FFA programs and activities are administered by teachers hired by, and accountable to, local school boards and administrators. They are not accountable to state FFA associations or the National FFA
Organization. In addition, FFA is not limited to rural education. Some of the
largest FFA chapters and memberships are in suburban and urban schools.

10. PETA's assertions that FFA members who work with animals in schools are "desensitized" and more prone to commit acts of violence against animals are unsupported and contradicted by experience.FFA members and agriculture students are taught to care properly for animals by understanding their biology, health and nutritional needs. There is every reason to believe that familiarizing students with the care and feeding of animals, whether livestock or pets, develops
skills and promotes greater sensitivity to an animal's well-being.

11. FFA agrees that agriculture programs in local schools must provide adequately for the security and health of animals in their care. These responsibilities rest with teachers and administrators in those schools, and if health threats or acts of
violence against animals increase, so, too, must the security and oversight of the facilities.

12. For 75 years, agricultural education and FFA have helped millions of young people become sound stewards of the land and our natural resources. Providing a safe and abundant food supply is one of our highest national priorities, and teaching FFA members how to lead and manage the industry of agriculture has been a vital and
proper role for public education. Having hands-on access to plants and animals in the school setting has proven highly effective in the education of students.