Before The Humane Society of the United States helped to pass laws in Arizona, Florida and Oregon to ban some of the most inhumane confinement methods on factory farms, there were virtually no legal standards to provide even the most minimal protections for animals raised for food while on the farm. Even the measures in these states addressed only the confinement of breeding sows in crates so small the animals were not even able to turn around, and the Arizona initiative also banned the confinement of calves in the notorious veal crate. The new laws ensure that the animals in these states will at least be able to lie down, turn around and extend their limbs.
Steve Kopperud, an agribusiness industry lobbyist, gave a lecture yesterday in Little Rock to the Arkansas Farm Bureau and said I and The HSUS are the greatest enemies farmers have (read the story here)—more menacing than drought, global warming, locusts or bird flu, competition from agribusiness conglomerates, trade with Brazil or Argentina, manure regulations, the migration of young people from farming to other occupations, and anything else you can think of.
It’s truly a fanciful and incredible statement—and an entirely false one. The HSUS has nothing against farmers—after all, every HSUS member is a food consumer and has a food budget as large as that of every other consumer. While we all support agriculture every time we sit down to eat, we do insist that farmers be more attentive to animals and the environment. We are particularly concerned about the harshest confinement systems, transport methods, and slaughter practices that are grossly inhumane and unacceptable.
Embedded in the age-old practice of animal husbandry was at least some concern for the well-being of animals. Now, increasingly, factory farmers and their allies in industry, government, and academia treat animals like mere meat-, milk- and egg-producing machines. They are thought of as commodities, or units of production, and not living beings who feel and suffer.
I guess for those who think of animals simply as things or commodities, we are something of an enemy, though I prefer to think of us as an adversary. But for those who care about animals, we are anything but an enemy or an adversary. The actual enemy more closely resembles industry lobbyists who demagogue the issues, who shill for giant agribusiness concerns, and who pull farmers away from a connection with the sensibilities of the American public and their demonstrable concern for the well-being of all animals, including those raised for food.