This week, reporter Kristen Hinman wrote a feature-length story for the St. Louis Riverfront Times about the tussle between The HSUS and Big Agribusiness over confinement issues and other factory farming practices. That publication is one holding of Village Voice media, and the piece was published in the chain of weeklies serving large cities throughout the country.
The story included the standard overblown rhetoric from factory farmers, and even some non-factory farmers who have been misled by the typical scaremongering and are paranoid about the work of The HSUS. I’ve said it time and again: our campaigns are aimed at phasing out very specific practices that the vast majority of Americans oppose, such as confining animals in small cages barely larger than their bodies or mutilation procedures that cannot be considered medically necessary. One need only look at our ballot initiative campaigns or our undercover investigations at factory farms and slaughter plants to see that we focus on the excesses of agribusiness. We’ve always been open to sitting down and working on solutions with responsible members of the agriculture community, as we did in successful, industry-supported efforts to phase out certain confinement practices in Michigan and to ban the tail-docking of dairy cows in California.
Far from being doctrinaire, The HSUS brings a science-based and reasonable approach to these discussions. When agribusiness interests stonewall or demonize us, then we don’t just fold our tent. We consider the inhumane treatment of animals on factory farms a matter of moral urgency, and if we cannot reach a compromise, then we will push ahead through accepted pathways, such as legislative initiatives, corporate campaigns, or public awareness efforts. The caricature of The HSUS as dogmatic and orthodox couldn't be further from reality, and our day-to-day work demonstrates that fact.
I was pleased to see a sidebar that ran in the Broward/Palm Beach and Miami editions that spoke about the first ballot initiative concerning factory farming practices we worked on in Florida in 2002. It focused on the confinement of breeding sows in gestation crates, and when voters approved it, it was the first restriction on a severe confinement practice in the U.S. Now, eight year later, it has achieved its principal purpose: it kept giant hog factory farms from colonizing Florida, as they did three decades ago in North Carolina. What’s more, small farms where the animals have access to pasture and are allowed to engage in basic behaviors have flourished, just as we had hoped.
In our latest issue of All Animals, The HSUS membership magazine, there’s a story about our work in Ohio, and our work with small farmers and with the neighbors of factory farms whose lives have been turned upside down because of the waste generated by these massive operations. We are there in Ohio to help them in their fight, after the Ohio Farm Bureau and other factory farming trade associations failed to enter into good-faith discussions. When any animal-use industry deals with The HSUS, you’ll find a group with a definite moral perspective, but one that balances the many competing considerations and that is always willing to talk and to find solutions.