Monday, March 28, 2005

See the trees through the smoke

I was recently asked if I had read Robert F. Kennedy’s Crimes Against Nature because I was included in Kennedy’s ramblings. While I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of another sale, I did check it out from the library. Chapter 5 is called Science Fiction and that would have been an appropriate title for the entire diatribe.

I first heard Kennedy speak in December 2001 at St. Olaf College in MN. I could not believe anyone could spread such outlandish lies about my industry and not be held accountable. The statement that sticks with me from that day will always be my rationale for associating faces with the production of food. Kennedy told 600 people that those working on livestock farms today were “losing humanity”.

Following his presentation, I informed him that if continued to lie about my industry, I would be there to hold him accountable. In Clear Lake, IA on April 5 2002, I recorded him saying that what was happening on farms was a greater threat to democracy than Osama Bin Laden. For the next eights weeks, every time he spoke I was in the front row.

By the third week he started introducing me as his shadow. He would add, “Trent wears a black hat because he represents the evils of modern agriculture”. The one thing that troubled him most about my efforts was that he could not determine who had hired me. He could not believe that a single person would go to such lengths just because of their passion for an industry. Unlike him, I was not paid one dime. I simply took it upon myself to make a difference.

Ironically, during this same time period, I was in a legal battle for having hauled one cow from the state of South Dakota to Nebraska without proper brand inspection two years earlier. During the second week of the shadowing, an AP writer with ties to the Kennedy crusade released a story that suggested I was a cattle rustler. That has been Kennedy’s only argument in his attempt to smear my reputation, despite the fact that it was a paperwork violation regarding one cow.

Crimes against nature is Kennedy’s attempt to prove that George W. Bush is the worst environmental president in history. I have not finished reading this collection of lies yet but there is no doubt that what troubles Bobby most about Bush is his determined effort to rid our country of frivolous lawsuits, of which Bobby could be the king. One of Bobby’s worst days may have been Feb 18, 2005 when President Bush signed the House bill curtailing class-action lawsuits. Businesses and livestock producers finally saw a glimmer of hope against being inundated by frivolous lawsuits.

A Florida judge threw one of Kennedy’s lawsuits out of court in 2002 calling it frivolous and ordering him to pay legal fees for the defendant. Inspired by big tobacco settlements, Bobby thought he could make derogatory statements about pig farmers and pocket a similar windfall. He makes statements like the following, “hog barons build football-sized warehouses and cram genetically engineered hogs into tiny cages where they endure short, miserable lives deprived of sunlight, exercise, straw bedding, and interaction from other animals. Concentrated waste from these facilities is saturated with dozens of toxic chemicals and antibiotics, which are fed to pigs to stimulate growth and keep them from dying from stress”.

Kennedy used the same tactics on fishermen before he decided to fight hog farmers. He promoted filing lawsuits to “benefit the small fishermen” of Hudson Bay. While in New York, I spent one afternoon visiting with fishermen. It became dangerous to mention Kennedy’s name because the typical response was “ that --- of a ----- put more fisherman out of business than prices ever did”.

Kennedy’s book implies that power plants are contaminating the environment with excess mercury. Imagine my surprise when an EPA official reported only 3% of mercury comes from power plants. The two primary sources of mercury in the environment are volcanoes and forest fires - the very forest fires fueled by the environmental policies of people like Kennedy.

In the book, page 71, Kennedy wrote, “The National Pork Producers Council and an industry goon named Trent Loos launched a smear campaign against me.” My dictionary says a goon is “a simpleton hired to eliminate opponents.” All livestock producers should understand from this statement that Bobby is afraid to deal with anyone who really knows the industry. I have experienced every level of pork production giving birthing assistance to the two sows in my 4-H project to marketing 2 million market hogs a year for producers in an alliance. I guess you can call me a simpleton too because I believe you should either tell the truth about American Agriculture or be held you accountable, even if you are President of the “Lucky Sperm Club”.

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 or email Trent at