The hardest thing about writing this blog is the opening paragraph. That is nowhere as hard as what I did last night. HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) had a town hall meeting in Lincoln NE last night, and I attended. With all the buzz we hear about them wanting to end animal agriculture you can not possibly imagine how hard it was for me to go. I am very passionate about what I do and think no one has the right to tell me I can’t do it. If you are a new reader I am a stocker and back grounding operator.
I was nervous about going and might have not went except I told a couple friends I might go and they told some other people I was going so they all started texting me the day before the meeting. I kinda felt like I had to go at that point. So I quit working early, put on my clean boots, belt with a rodeo buckle I won, and a long sleeve shirt with my brand embroidered on the right shirt sleeve. As my wife and I pulled up to the hotel I felt nerves like I haven’t felt in years.
We got there early, the meeting started late. I felt like I got an interesting “sizing up” from two of the security guards. Whatever that was about. One of them needs to find a different tailor, I’ll leave it at that.
I invited several other livestock producers to go with me. All of them turned me down. My wife and I took our seats, and felt very uncomfortable. Everyone else in the room knew each other and kinda kept eyeing us.
HSUS Nebraska introduced the people that make up their state Agriculture Council. One of the cats on the council talked about a Farm to Fitness program they have been working on. Its where some of their producers deliver meat to local gym for their customers. Here’s a link to the website http://farmtofitness.com/
John Hansen president of Nebraska Farmers Union, gave a good speech. I’m not sure how I feel about it even yet this morning. Thing is John always makes good points when he talks. He talked about how other farm groups have tried to fight HSUS in other states and lost. He had stories and data that suggested animal ag should have an open discussion with HSUS. He made the comment that none of the other livestock groups were there, stating that “they are refusing to put on their big boy pants, and have a discussion”. I’ll come back to that in a bit
Wayne Pacelle was an excellent speaker, as you might imagine. He is very good at addressing his critics. For example, HSUS doesn’t use much money to actually rescue animals. He had all kinds of footage of the organization rescuing animals. He never stated how much money they spend annually, or what percentage of their budget they spend on animal rescue. He mentioned that he gets asked all the time about doing a ballot initiative. He continued on that he doesn’t think they have to. He says the market place is changing with dozens of food chains and grocery stores saying they are only going to sell pork that was produced without the use of gestation crates. He did make another statement at a differ part of his speech. “ Just because some practices aren’t illegal doesn’t make them right”. So does that mean HSUS might try seek legislation to ban tail docking for example? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Here’s what I didn’t expect. He used a quote from Temple Grandin, and made some of the same points ag groups do. He spoke about connecting the farm to the consumer, and about transparency.
After his speech I got a chance to speak with Wayne one on one. As a parent I have great concern about the “one generation and out” quote. If you are not familiar with that one, it meant one more generation in animal ag then no more. So that would mean that I will be the last generation to raise cattle and my daughter will not be able to. His response was simple. He claims it is a lie that someone made up. My second question for him was why did HSUS get involved in the lawsuit against the Beef Checkoff. He stated that NCBA may be misusing checkoff monies to lobby, and that is not what the checkoff is set up to do. Now gang I’m gonna throw in my two cents in here for a second. He expressed a little bit frustration with NCBA for blocking the egg bill (the one banning battery cages). So to me it would only make sense to cut off NCBA’s income stream, checkoff money, if you are HSUS. What I’m saying is since the cattlemen got involved in eggs, HSUS is gonna get involved with the cattlemen.
Last point on Wayne. He did tell me he has no problem with cattle production, citing that in all aspects of production, pasture to feedlot, cattle have room to move around and express themselves. During this time his staff got a few pics of us chatting. Ok whatever. Wayne and I shook hands. I thanked him for his time, and reassured him that I am still looking at him with a crooked eyebrow.
I am not a supporter of HSUS, nor a fan of theirs. I do not think we need them. I do think we as livestock raisers do need to continue to improve our stockmanship skills. I am so sick of hearing ag groups and HSUS argue over methods and practices and science. Who the f&*^ cares about that? That stuff has nothing to do with being able to work with animals
Now about our ag groups here in Nebraska. No excuse for you guys not being there last night.
I joined Farm Bureau because they were the lead dog in the fight against HSUS. They can’t explain away why they did not stand beside me on the front line last night.
The who’s who of Nebraska Cattlemen were only a few blocks away for the Executive VP’s farewell party. None of them showed up either. I find this tragic. Especially since only a couple months ago they pushed extremely hard for a new state beef checkoff, and said one of the reasons they needed the extra money was to fight HSUS. Again they can’t explain away why they were not on the front line beside me. Guess the comments about those of us that are not dues paying members being freeloaders just exited the state
AFAN, We Support Agriculture, and other groups that were created to promote, agvocate, and defend agriculture were not there. Why not? Did they not want to boost the head count that HSUS may have used to show as support? There were probably only 20 people there that were not staff or on the state Ag Council, or their family.
How can these groups claim to represent livestock raisers when they don’t show up?
I think a little confrontation is good. I’m not saying go there and pick a fight with Wayne. I am saying get out of your comfort zone.
One last thought. I learned about this meeting in a livestock publication I receive from South Dakota. Why did I not hear about it from any of the ag groups in Nebraska? If we pay money to these ag groups they have a duty to warn/inform us on what’s going on. Yet these same groups are talking openly about PETA coming to the state fair?